Srinagar, June 7: When Azra Qadir, 26 would move out of her house for practicing badminton some people would see her off with frowned eyes.
They talked about her attire, her career choice and her timing of leaving home in the early morning hours. Instead of paying any heed to her critics, Azra focused on her sport.
Today when she is an established badminton player of the valley, the same people bring their children to her to get them trained by her.
She has been the number one badminton female player of the Valley for the past five years. She attributes all her success to the hard work and her dedication towards badminton.
"Right now I am the number one ranked badminton player of Kashmir and I have been able to maintain that from the past five years."
"It took me years to reach where I am today. I have reached here with lots of patience and hard work," says the badminton player.
Azra was 15 when she started her sports career. Surprisingly it was not badminton, but cricket. However, two years later she changed to badminton. The choice of changing the game was due to lack of facilities in cricket.
"I was inclined towards cricket from the very childhood. I would stand and watch the cricketers for hours at Gani Memorial Stadium which is near my home. They would also let me play. This got more involved in it."
However, as she grew up she found it difficult to practice.
"We have limited places to practice cricket in the Valley. Whatever space is available that gets occupied by male cricketers making it difficult for female players to pursue the game."
Not able to maintain her fitness due to lack of practice Azra was finding it hard to make a mark. So she shifted to badminton as could practice at the Indoor Stadium.
"In 2015, I began to practice badminton at Indoor Stadium and my interest in the game developed to such an extent that I adopted it fully."
Then Azra started to participate in various badminton championships. She would take part in district, state and national tournaments and started winning them all. Azra so far has played eight nationals in badminton and two nationals in cricket.
After completing her graduation and bachelor’s degree in Physical Education, Azra has been able to secure a job in the Department of Youth Services and Sports and is working in NawaKadal Higher Secondary School as contractual physical education teacher.
So far she has trained scores of girls in badminton and fitness.
"I would impart fitness training to girls at Indoor Stadium, while some get trained for badminton.”
She would also train women in different gyms around the city. However due to lockdown the physical sessions are on halt these days.
Almost from last year, Azra has been holding online fitness sessions through her social media channels. "This way I maintain my fitness and people also are benefitted."
As far her future endeavors are concerned, Azra says she is mulling over a couple of options, which include either starting a Fitness Cum Training Centre or a Badminton Academy.
"I was seriously planning to go with these ideas, but due to the pandemic couldn't give a shape to my dreams. But as soon as things get normal I will surely start something."