The evenings in the slums of Hallomajra, Panchkula in Haryana are way different than one would think. The streets that are supposed to be filled with children are almost empty in the evening. Why, you ask? Every evening as soon as the clock turns 5:30, most of the children run towards the Hallomajra Government school for their daily taekwondo classes. “It is not just a taekwondo class for them, but also their dream for a better future,” says their mentor-cum-teacher- Amita Marwah.
“It is a privilege for some to learn Taekwondo”
Amita Marwah (44) started the free slum taekwondo classes in 2011 for the underprivileged kids. A Bachelor of Science graduate in Medical lab tech began to learn martial arts when she was in school. After getting married, she continued doing so and soon, became a black belt in taekwondo. She started her class by the name of ‘Amita Marwah activity society’.
“As a kid, I was very fond of martial arts. I always thought there should be more people teaching this art. Back then, there were times when some kids who were talented did not get a chance to play national or international matches as they were not from a very well to do family. Sometimes these kids even had to drop out of taekwondo classes because of their financial conditions. So, a free Taekwondo class in the slum was a planned implementation for me,” said Amita while talking to The Logical Indian.
The classes started as a 15-day camp, but the overwhelming response made Amita expand her classes. Soon, Amita decided to take the classes on a daily basis. In 2016, The ‘Amita Marwah activity society’ became a registered society for the underprivileged kids.
Now, 450 kids come every day to learn taekwondo from her. From the age of five to 24, there are almost 60% of boys and 40% girls in her classes. The Taekwondo class starts with meditation and then Amita, their mentor asks the kids to take their positions.
She told us that out of these 450 students, almost 20 have gone for international matches. Many others have played for state and district level matches.
Talking about the challenges these kids face, she says “It was not just difficult for me to run the classes but it was difficult for these kids to attend these classes. The kids do not come from any privileged family, where they can just come to the classes and go home. Most of these children work and take out time from their livelihood is a challenging task for them. These kids usually come after a day of work and go home to cook their own food.”
“Two of my students, Parmod Kumar and Suraj Kumar have played 3rd Heroes Taekwondo International Championship and Para-Taekwondo 2017. They are part-time waiters,” said Amita.
Help came from sponsors too
A few Taekwondo kits that are available are shared among the kids. As the society is registered, these slum kids get a discount while applying in competitions, which they have to manage from their own pocket money. “If the competition fee is RS 700, then probably the kid would have to pay Rs 150-200. We are not a profit making organisation so a lot of time we also take sponsor’s help to take the children for international or national matches,” she said.
Amita sometime puts an advertisement in the newspaper or sometimes asks people in her circle. “A few sports players and other NGO’s have helped our children. Media has also got us help,” she adds.
Counselling is important
Every day, the one and the half-hour Taekwondo class ends with Amita taking queries from the children. When we asked her what sort of queries she gets, she said that “I get all sorts of question from doing Taekwondo in periods to problem girls face while doing this exercise. Boys also have their complaints.”
She says that it is not just a Taekwondo class now, we try counselling sessions for these kids. “On Sundays, there is art and craft class, which is conducted by my elder daughter and one more teacher. There are kathak classes as well for these kids,” says Amita who is in her 4th years of kathak (classical dance form) training.
“Some called me a child lifter.”
“When I started Taekwondo classes, I got a lot of criticism from not just the society but also from many male Taekwondo teachers in the area. For them, It was difficult to digest the fact that there can be a female Taekwondo teacher as well,” she said. She says, initially parents of Hallomajra slum did not allow their daughters to attend classes. If some did send their girls to class, then they would not allow Amita to take the girls out for the matches.
“Some thought I would take their kids and would not come back. It took me more than a year to make the people of Hallomajra believe that I am a genuine teacher,” she added. Luckily, Amita’s hard word not just made her a successful taekwondo teacher, but it turned out to be a “useful channel for the children” as well.
“At this point, all girls should know some self-defence technique. It makes them empowered and also helps in their growth,” adding to that she says, Taekwondo is as important for boys as it is it for girls. At this young age, children have so much energy. There is a need to chanalise their energy, which Taekwondo does. Amita herself has won 13 medals in international matches and 40 in both state and national matches. She is proud that she can pursue her hobby as her career and can help others.
“My husband and my kids have supported me a lot, they have been my backbone all these years. My family always use to donate 10% of the income to some trust now that 10% is being donated to my society, because of which I can help more children,’ she said.