‘Kashmir Ki Kali’ has conquered the world with her flying kicks

Abhijit Sen Gupta
Abhijit Sen Gupta

The generation that was in colleges in the 1960s will easily recall a super hit film named Kashmir Ki Kali starring Shammi Kapoor and Sharmila Tagore. Briefly put, the story was about the rich and spoiled son of a wealthy woman (Shammi Kapoor) who, while on a trip to Kashmir, falls in love with a girl who sells flowers (Sharmila Tagore). After the usual song and dance sequences and fight with the villain (Pran) everything ends happily. The film also had Nazir Hussain as the father of the heroine. What added to the value of the film were the superb songs sung in the mellifluous voice of Mohammed Rafi and Asha Bhosle.

Kashmir then was truly a beautiful place which enjoyed a period of peace and prosperity. Many Bollywood film makers chose the scenic valleys, the Dal Lake and the Shalimar Bagh to shoot scenes of their films. Shammi Kapoor who was then known as the Elvis Presley of Bollywood featured in many of them. Unfortunately in later years violence and strife rocked the land and peace and prosperity disappeared.

But Kashmir has continued to produce some extraordinarily talented persons in different spheres. One such gifted person is a young lass named Tajamul Islam who at the tender age of 13 has already established herself twice as the world kickboxing champion. The first time she did it was in 2016 and repeated her feat again in October 2021.

Unlike the character of the famous film, this new Kashmir Ki Kali does not sell flowers. Instead with her flying kicks and lightning fists, she finishes off her opponents – be they from the USA, Europe, Australia, Africa or Asia. Her mastery of the different aspects of martial arts at such a young age clearly indicates that she has an inborn talent.

She is the third of five children of her parents. Her father Ghulam Mohammad Lone is a businessman and the family hails from Bandipora. Tajamul was only five years old when she saw kickboxers in action inside a stadium and got hooked on the sport. She decided right then and there that her future lay in this sport. She too wanted to wear the red gloves and practice the kicks and punches that she saw the others throwing.

At first her parents were against her idea. They did not want their tender little child to take up this violent game. She told her parents that her friends were playing different sports like badminton and table tennis. She had decided on kickboxing. Why were they against her sport? But they flatly refused and Tajamul was sorely disappointed. For a few days she stayed in her room and wept. She refused to eat even when her parents offered her favourite foods.

Seeing her so sorrowful, her mother’s heart melted and she persuaded the father to let Tajamul try it out. Her father agreed reluctantly. When she won her first medal in a local event, her father still was not satisfied. “What is the value of this medal? I can buy a medal like this from any shop. Get a medal at a state level championship and then I will support you,” he thundered.

So Tajamul got a gold medal at a state level meet. Then her father’s attitude softened a little but still he was not convinced. “Let us see if you can get a national gold medal,” he said. So she went for the national championship and brought home a national Gold medal after defeating strong rivals from Punjab and Haryana.

At last her father began to realise that she has extraordinary talent. Her coaches too were impressed. By now she was 9 years old and they decided to send her for the world championship. She was given a jacket with the India emblem on her chest. Then at long last, her parents, brothers, sisters and neighbours were overawed when they saw her wearing the India uniform.

Her first trip abroad was to Italy for the world championship. It was the first time she boarded an airplane. She was excited but nervous too. What the world championship would be like? No doubt her opponents would be tough. But she was determined to do her best. When she reached the venue, the sight of the Indian flag there filled her with pride. She wanted to make it fly above all the rest.

She admits that she was very scared. For the first time she would be facing opponents from China and Africa and Europe. All the rivals were taller and stronger than her. But she fought with great resolve and fortitude every time she stepped on to the mat. “I was determined that I must win. Be it China or any other rival, I must win for India,” she said later.

One by one she began winning her bouts. The final was against a rival from the USA. This time she knew that her rival was more experienced and cunning than her. Her old fears returned in her mind and when she began fighting she was nowhere near her best. When her coach saw her hesitant and scared, he realised that she would lose unless something drastic was done.

During the break he called her aside and scolded her sharply. Then he gave her a slap. Unknown to her, this was all play acting by the coach to make her angry. And the trick worked perfectly.

Stung by her coach’s rebuke, Tajamul resumed the bout in an angry mood. She executed her punches with great ferocity and kicked with telling accuracy and power. It took the American girl by surprise. The Indian who seemed to be on the verge of losing tamely, had suddenly transformed into a tigress. The hesitancy had disappeared. Fiercely, Tajamul attacked the American on her weak side. All these tactics paid off and Tajamul won the bout and the Gold medal.

As she stepped on the victory stand and the gold medal was put around her neck, the Indian national anthem reverberated around the stadium. Then little Tajamul could no longer hold back her tears. She was overcome with emotion.

All these events happened in her life when she was less than nine years old. She became a national hero at that tender age but it did not make her arrogant. After she returned to her hometown, she continued with her studies and practice. She is also a very good student and almost always comes first in class. Her parents do not want her to neglect her studies.

Now, in 2021, again she is standing on top of the world as the world champion kickboxer. She defeated two girls from Egypt, one from France and one from Argentina. Once again she has returned home with a gold medal and has been hailed as a conqueror. She is as confident and fluent with her words in front of a camera as she is with her kicks on the fighting mat. Her aim is to be a doctor when she grows up.

When asked why she will choose the medical profession instead of any other, she says with an impish smile: “Kyun ki main haddi thodna bhi chahti hoon aur haddi jodna bhi chahti hoon (because I want to break bones and join them too).”

Abhijit Sen Gupta is a seasoned journalist who writes on Sports and various other subjects.