Saturday, 15 January 2011

Blindness no barrier for Gatka devotees

Once believed to be a male bastion, Gatka— a traditional form of Sikh martial art is also being practiced by the fairer sex now. Determined to learn this form of self-defence, many Punjabi girls are also picking up the art.

On Guru Gobind Singh's birthday, the residents of City Beautiful were enthralled with breath-taking performances on Nagar Kirtan on Tuesday.

"We feel that it is tough for women to venture out these days and it is best if we learn to protect ourselves. Also, this is a traditional art form and we would love to carry on this heritage. Why should only men do it when a woman is doing everything that a man does," said a performer.

Not only are the able-bodied showing zest to become connoisseurs of this ancient art form but even those who are visually impaired are jumping onto the bandwagon.

For 31-year-old visually impaired Rashpal Kaur, maneuvering a Gatka is just like doing any other every day chore. "I always wanted to play Gatka. I heard so much about this art form whenever I saw my schoolmates (boys) participating in it but I lost my sight still I wanted to learn it. So one day I finally made up my mind. I think I was in class X when I started it," she said.

This mother of a four-year-old and her elder sister Kuldeep Kaur were the first two girls who joined Shaheed Baba Deep Singhji Gatka Akhara to learn the craft. "We were extremely delighted to have got this opportunity and we did our best," Rashpal said. Even though Rashpal lost her eyesight five years back after she was diagnosed with brain tumor she continued to practice the art form, given her passion for it.

"Initially, she used to attempt interactive fights using 'kirpan-dhal.' We soon realized she needs help and she started fighting with the help of sound signals. Rashpal is so dedicated to her passion that she wants to perform every possible event.

She practices even in harsh weather and has been one of my most consistent student," said Kuljit Singh, who has been coaching Rashpal since long. "Gatka is my passion and I will continue practicing it no matter what. I cannot let such situations affect me," said Rashpal.

CHANDIGARH:TNN, Jan 12, 2011.

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