The media were waiting outside the Karni Singh shooting range for close to two hours. Everyone was waiting for Manu Bhaker, the 16-year-old teenage shooting sensation to come out. Manu was caught in a war of words between her and the Haryana government over her Rs 2 crore cash price which she was promised after winning the Youth Olympics. When she came out, the questions regarding the controversy was directed at her father, Ram Kishan Bhaker. With every passing moment, Manu’s frustration grew and time was running out. However, in an exclusive chat with News Nation, Manu spoke about her life outside of the shooting range and opened up on her love for sports shoes, her family support, bunking classes and choosing a certain brand of phones over the other.
The amount of coverage Manu received on Saturday was in stark contrast to her earlier criticism of the media in which she had said the Indian media likes to primarily cover only cricket. When asked about that question, the teenager sheepishly smiled and said, “I thought cricket isi liye hoga because this game is played everywhere and by everybody and that is the reason there is so much of coverage. There are a lot of cricket fans. I think shooting has come up with cricket,” Manu replied with a sparkle.
It has been a sensational year for Manu in which she won the gold in the World Cup, Commonwealth Games and Youth Olympics. Normally, when an individual wins an event, in Bollywood style, there are tributes pouring in, either full of joy or emotion. What was her father’s reaction the first time when she won the event? Was it emotional? Joyous? Manu replied, “Chalo, very good. Now, focus on the next event.” It seems Ram Kishan had pulled a leaf out of Aamir Khan’s book in Dangal when he replied with a mixture of joy and soberness. At the end of the movie, he approaches his daughter with a big smile and says, “Sabhash (well done)”.
Read More | Every event, every medal memorable: Manu Bhaker
The 16-year-old teenager said her father and mother were very liberal and supported her at every step of the way, so much so that she had the confidence to tell her parents that she could bunk classes and pursue the sport of her dreams. “I was a very good player in Karate but I did not see much scope in that so I left it. I still love Karate. When I left Karate, my dad said, “Karate nahin karna hain? Shooting karna hain? Teekh hain (You don’t wan’t to pursue Karate. You want to pursue shooting. Go ahead)”, Manu said in a casual manner
Bunked class but got good grades
Manu is not the normal 16-year-old teenager, whose life is dictated by school, studies, tuitions and exams. Her fundamental principle of life is simple. “I used to bunk a lot of classes. No, I actually had fun with my friends and hangout with them inside the school. When there were Tests, we would make an excuse and go to the shooting range,” Manu replied.
When pointed out that potential success meant bunking a lot of classes, Manu quickly chose to correct herself embarrassingly. “No, no, no. You must not bunk classes. You must get good grades. I got good grades,” Manu said.
Shooting not easy
In a country obsessed with cricket and with other sports making gradual progress to popularity, choosing shooting was risky. Manu added that she got a bit of patriotism from Bollywood movies which fuelled her passion. “We get inspiration from movies like Dangal, Mary Kom. Everybody in their childhood goes through that feeling. We often see movies where the British have ruled over us. We get aggressive that we should do something for the country. Mann mein his kehte hain, “Aao Britishers, ab hum tumhe maarenge”
She also dispelled the notion that shooting is an easy game. “More than running, the most difficult thing to do is stand in one place and practice shooting. Many people think shooting is a very simple sport. We keep standing in the range for hours and it demands concentration, which is tough,” Manu added.
The youngster said she took this sport to relive a particular moment that she had dreamed about. “The feeling when I hear the national anthem with people standing for it and screaming “Bharat Mata ki Jai” at the end when the flag is right at the top, that feeling and moment is the best ever,” Manu said with pride
Clarity of mind, brands
Manu is pretty conscious and clear about the brands she chooses. “I absolutely hate sports shoes,” she declared. What was her choice? “I love sneakers,” she said. When pointed out that whether her favorite brand is Adidas, she was gobsmacked. When it came to phones, she declared with pride, “I love my Samsung galaxy S9. I hate Apple.”
For a 16-year-old, the sporting maturity and clarity of thought puts even adults and sports ‘fans’ to shame. Manu had a simple message, “When I stand on the lane for shooting, in the firing line, I have to give my best. If we do not do it, there is always next time. It is not that you can keep on winning and losing. You can win and lose in equal measure,” Manu said.
It is this maturity and clarity which will enhance Manu, who has acquired the reputation of being Queen Midas after her exploits in 2018 where majority of what she touched turned gold.