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From Baidyabati to Youth Olympics: Mehuli Ghosh has learnt to shoot for the stars

From Baidyabati to Youth Olympics: Mehuli Ghosh has learnt to shoot for the stars

Sohinee Basu

Published: 8 Oct 2018 3:48 AM GMT
The ascending sound of din in the air was enough to reveal that the travelling fair had come to town. The gigantic Ferris wheel and the adrenaline-pumping Pirate Ship could not do their best to impress the little Mehuli Ghosh who made it a point to aim the gun and shoot the balloons in the tiny makeshift stall which was her key reason to come to the fair. Her fingers entwined in her parent's hands; she showed strains of her talent from such a tender age. Mehuli Ghosh, all of 18 now and supported by Mallcom India, has gone on to conquer the hearts of the masses when she shot silver in her maiden outing at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games. With rave achievements in her tally which include being the youngest Indian to win two ISSF bronze World Cup medals, Mehuli has soared from being the girl shooting balloons at the fair to the girl shooting gold at tournaments far and wide, ranked number 7 in the world now. As the sound of 'dhaak' resonates in the City of Joy announcing the festive season, Mehuli's parents fret and pine for their daughter who is away at Buenos Aires, her second visit to the South American continent to compete in the prestigious Summer Youth Olympics Games 2018. For any family hailing from Bengal, Durga Puja is an emotion that binds them together tightly.
"She was hoping to spend the Puja with us this time and was excited about it. She didn't take any of the new clothes she had bought for the occasion, and now we aren't sure when Mehuli be flying back home,"
rues Mitali Ghosh, her mother and someone whose life has revolved around her daughter ever since she was born. It was 2017, when Mitali and Nemai were in Chennai while their daughter was away at Japan competing in the Asian Air Gun Championships which would give her slot in the Youth Olympics, both their hearts were running wild races as their eyes never dared to leave the phone screen where the match was being broadcast live.
As Mehuli's name hoisted up to the second position, Mitali and Nemai clung onto each other in a moment of unwarranted joy as tears streamed down their faces when Mehuli's present coach, the Olympian Joydeep Karmakar called to assure that Mehuli Ghosh had just bought herself a ticket to the Summer Youth Olympics scheduled for  October 2018!
The mentor and the protege- Mehuli Ghosh and Joydeep Karmakar The restless and energetic girl from Baidyabati, a small town in the hinterland of West Bengal, Mehuli had always been a person of explosive delight, her parents fondly recalled when The Bridge caught up with them settling in their new surroundings close to Mehuli's practice arena, The New Town School. Seated in the spacious new abode of the Ghosh family in New Town, whose walls are all adorned with the exploits of their little girl from far and wide, one cannot help but feel impressed. Mitali Ghosh, with her ever-smiling face, does not know how to react to her daughter's success and with nervous laughter conveys,
"You know she is going all over the world and sometimes she is even travelling alone! Imagine my tension when on her way back from Germany alone she was stranded for 24 hours at the Istanbul airport as she missed her connecting flight! I cannot believe she is doing all of it on her own!"
As Mitali sat confusing where it was Mehuli had missed her flight, Nemai Ghosh, Mehuli's father kept correcting her urging "Germany, Germany, you don't remember. You should make a note of where she is going now!". One thing was sure; their life has been transformed for the better ever since Mehuli started honing her talent for shooting under the Joydeep Karmakar Shooting Academy and began collecting the laurels.

Also read: It’s not all a walk in the park for young shooters | By Joydeep Karmakar
Beaming with radiant pride, both her parents gushed with the joy that has flooded into their lives after overcoming the challenging years of strife and struggle. Having had held her hand ever since she was a toddler, Mehuli's father had always been the backbone behind her excellence, doing his best to fan every dream of hers. Right from the time she took to swimming from a very early age and left her parents awestruck to the time she went the karate instructor at school shocked at her precision and talent with the moves, Mehuli had always been the bundle of talent.
Apart from excelling in the sporting arena, Mehuli was quite the Kathak dancer, having been the recipient of several call shows in her brief stint with dance. That's not all when it comes to the fondly nicknamed 'Chhota packet, bada dhamaka' by the Indian shooting contingent members, who also has a rare talent with the paintbrush, often finding solace in creating impressionistic paintings from the vast expansion of colours. Back in 2013, when Mehuli was planning to take up shooting, the Ghosh trio travelled to Delhi where the National Games were being held to witness the grand spectacle which remains embedded as an inspiring moment in little Mehuli's life.
"Both of us were stunned when we reached the entrance of the Delhi shooting ranges. I told her that, 'This year you are seeing it but try and make sure that you play so well that in the following year you can come here as a strong participant' and believe me or not, in 2014 Mehuli did make it to the Nationals in Pune!"
, expressed her mother joyously. Ardently following the Olympic Games, Mehuli always loved to watch the likes of Abhinav Bindra on the television. Ever since she watched the iconic shooter bag gold in the 10m Air Rifle event in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, her interest in Shooting grew Exactly a decade later, Mehuli, now 18 is out there conquering the world by competing in the same category of her idol. Mitali remembers the time when she was in her 7th grade and had come running back after school,
"She had found out that Rifle Shooting is taught in a club at Serampore and had even gone to the extent of finding out the admission fees, the days of practice and the monthly fees there,"
her mother recalls. Hailing from the background of a middle-class Bengali family, modelling an elite shooter as Mehuli has now evolved to be is not the easiest of jobs as the financial constraint acted as a constant fetter for the Ghosh family who never had the luxury to fulfil every whim of their child however much they wanted to. Noticing Mehuli's persistence with her desire to learn shooting, they enrolled her into the Serampore club when she was all of 14, her training began immediately, and her talent with the air rifle got the space to bloom finally.
The smooth run there was short lived as a terrible accident took place at the Serampore club when Mehuli mistakenly hit an employee during her practice session and was banned from the club.
This automatically made Mehuli plunge into depression. It was Mitali who donned the role of the Messiah then, not being able to see her daughter so forlorn as she made inquiries far and wide to enrol Mehuli in another shooting academy. As fate would have it, though nothing short of divine intervention, Mehuli was shown the road to the London Olympian Joydeep Karmakar's Shooting Academy in Kolkata.

From depression to redemption and the mother who made it possible

Grooming a star: Mitali Ghosh with her daughter Mehuli Thoroughly excited at this immense opportunity to receive training under an Arjuna awardee, there was no looking back for Mehuli after that. What followed was the birth of a symbiotic relationship between the duo. Karmakar, who was restarting his career by donning the shoes of a coach this time while Mehuli who was praying to get her big break into the shooting circuit, worked like a magical pairing. With the right kind of guidance and training from Karmakar who recognised Mehuli's incredible precision with her shots, he knew that she had a long, long way ahead to traverse. It was perfect coordination and hours of dedication among the Ghosh trio that has finally led to the creation of a shooter Mehuli Ghosh, who the world now knows about. Several things had to be sacrificed by both Mitali and Nemai en route to seeing their daughter on this pedestal.
Staying in Baidyabati, which is 40km away
from the central city where Karmakar had set up his Shooting Academy, the primary pressing concern became the commute. Getting to the practice range exhausted the young Mehuli, but she showed no signs of fatigue and improved from strength to strength until the five hours of the journey became routine life for all three of them.  "There were days when she was running a high fever, and I asked her if she wanted to give the practice a miss that day. She didn't let her weakness get the better of her and announced that she can manage to go because it was important that she practices, "
recalls her mother who is always in awe of her spirited daughter. As the accolades came streaming in one after the other as with Karmakar's nurturing she not only grew in self confidence but also experienced victory at various Championships across the world. Ever since then, the entire Ghosh family had remain indebted to the Olympian who stepped in as the guiding angel for Mehuli and taught her to fly fearlessly and have faith in herself. The Ghosh trio Mitali Ghosh has been the powerhouse behind Mehuli's growth as an individual. "I am perhaps the first mother to ask their child to prioritise the sport, the country before their education. There will always be time to take your exams but if you miss out on a Commonwealth Games, know that it comes only once in four years. I believe that if you are being given
an opportunity, you should make the most of it," says Mitali who has taught Mehuli to be healthy and independent from a young age itself. In a country like India where most dreams die unnoticed deaths crushed under the burden of hefty books and the knell of a gruelling education system, it is essential to have mothers like a Mitali and fathers like Nemai who would never let their child's true talent stay cowering behind the pile of books. Had Mehuli's parents never dared to allow her to unbox her dreams in a stifling world of reality, we would never have a Mehuli Ghosh who grew up knowing that she is born to shoot for the stars and beyond.
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