The ordinary life of Kathmandu’s South Asia champion ‘Karate Kid’
Rupa Maharjan was in the sixth grade when she first heard of ‘karate’. Gyani Maharjan, a neighbour three years older than her, had just won a big tournament in Kathmandu.
Gyanai had become the talk of her entire neighbourhood, and she was the ‘coolest’ kid in the neighbourhood. Rupa wanted to become just like her.
Born to a family of traditional Newari farmers on the outskirts of Kathmandu, Rupa faced many hurdles to become the South Asian Budokai-Do champion in her weight category.
My mom and brothers were not encouraging me to take up the sport in the early days, remembers Rupa, who is pursuing her bachelor degree, honing her kicks by training and helping her mom in household chores.
If someone were to visit her home in Phutung, she could easily pass as one of the young women who want to stay home and help their mom. Although the 20-year-old has no qualms about helping her mom, she does not want to stay home. She says she wants to go out, train and earn that Olympic Gold she has always dreamt of.
She lost her dad at an early age. When her dad passed away, many people wrote her off, and that left a deep impression on her.. “I wanted to show the world that women can also play karate and win medals,” says Rupa as she eats her dal-bhat with her proud mother Nanimaiya.
“I did not want her to play karate. I wanted her to learn household chores so that she could get married,” shares Nanimaiya. “But after she started winning medals, I felt proud of her and wanted her to continue. She’s managed the household chores, her studies and her passion for karate pretty well,” she shares as the duo works on their kitchen garden.
After her household chores are taken care of, she puts on her training gear and walks around 15 minutes to get to her training centre in the neighbouring village.
When she puts on her outfit, Rupa is no longer the shy and reserved girl she was at home. She is aggressive and does not hesitate to land those flying kicks on her opponent for the day. She also helps out her trainers train other youngsters.
But when she’s back home, Rupa transforms herself into one of the youngest kids in the family. The family sits down together to watch tv.
Rupa wants her family to watch her win the Olympic Gold on the same TV.
Photos by : Kabin Adhikari