“Which sport do you like the most? Athletics or hockey?”
The question seems to confuse Namita Karmarkar. Tucking the hair behind her ear, she said, "Actually hockey attracts me more now. All of my dreams revolve around the game. "
Namita was talking to the Prothom Alo, standing on the blue turf of Moulana Bhasani Stadium in Paltan.
Namita enjoyed games like any other child in the village. She often took part in football matches or athletics in the school competitions and this led to her participation in inter-school football tournaments. She took part in the national level junior athletics competition in Dhaka. However, putting her interests for football and athletics aside, she is now one of the finest of national women’s hockey team.
Namita Karmakar recently passed SSC exam from Lohagara Government Pilot High School. She is better known in her locality for her incredible performances in sports and athletics.
Namita’s father, Makhan Karmakar, is a landless farmer who used to work on others land for earnings. He is 60 now, struggling with eyesight and hearing. He is no longer able to earn for his family due old age ailments. Namita is third among his five children.
Namita’s two elder sisters were married off and the younger sister is a class-VI student while his younger brother is in class-II.
Namita’s mother China Karmakar is a domestic worker and the only earning member of the family.
Namita wanted to ease her mother’s hardship. Sports is her passion. Now she thinks of it as her profession as well, a way of earning besides being fun.
Namita has been taking part in athletics competitions since 2014. The once shot put participant Namita’s favourite event was javelin throwing. Namita put all her attention on the javelin and in 2017 won the silver in the junior national javelin event. She threw the javelin 33 meters. She won gold last year making a record of throwing it 36.36 meters.
Namita, however, had no professional training earlier. Bangladesh Jute Mills Corporation (BJMC) gave her a job two years ago after her fantastic performance in athletics. Her job at BJMC is now the biggest support for her family.
Namita, very happy to be able to earn for her family, said, “The money I get is not much. But that's a lot for our family.”
She never thought of being a hockey player. Her sports teacher in school, Dilip Chakrabarty, entered her name on the list for the women's hockey team. In 2012, Namita first played hockey in the girls' national school hockey championship. She has been playing the national women's hockey championship since then.
Bangladesh Hockey Federation formed a women hockey team, Dhaka Eleven. Namita was on the team. The national women’s team, for the first time, got the chance to play against a foreign team. In the first match of the three-match series with Kolkata Warriors in Dhaka, Bangladesh won 2-0. Namita scored both the goals. Bangladesh won the series by 2-1. She became the player of the match in the series.
There were times when one player could participate in different sports at a time in Bangladesh. Now the federations have objections to that. Therefore Namita chose hockey.
"I dream more about hockey now,” Namita said.
The AHF (Asian Hockey Federation) Cup Youth Women's Hockey Tournament will be held in Singapore in September. Bangladesh Under-21 women's hockey team will take part in the tournament. A national women's team has been formed for the first time in Bangladesh. Namita in one of the 35 member players of that team.
"When we see Maria playing football or Romana playing cricket on TV, we wish we could play hockey that way," said Namita.
Namita learned the rudimentaries of sports from her teacher Dilip Chakrabarty.
“Namita has no training in hockey. She did everything on her own. Girls like Namita could be assets for the country with proper training,” Dilip told Prothom Alo.
Namita, coming from a remote area, is representing the country at a global level. She may bring big honour for Bangladesh one day.
*The piece appeared in Prothom Alo print edition has been rewritten in English by Farjana Liakat