Swapna Barman. hitherto little-known 22-year old girl from Jalpaiguri Dt. of West Bengal, created history in August last year by winning the Gold Medal in Heptathlon (a seven-event discipline) at the Asian Games held at Jakarta. Swapna Barman is the first Indian athlete to win a Heptathlon gold medal in any national or international event so far.
THE WEEK, the national weekly magazine of the Malayala Manorama group, called her the “Dream Girl” (interestingly her name given by her mother means just that) choosing her as their Athlete of the Year.
THE TEENAGER TODAY chose her as our cover girl, this month, not merely for the reasons stated above, though they are valid reasons for choosing someone to be on our cover. We have done that in the case of the reigning Miss India Anukreeti Vas (August 2018); Hima Das, India’s Newest Golden Girl (September 2018); Avani Chaturvedi, India’s First Female Fighter Pilot (October 2018); and 19-year-old cricketer Prithvi Shaw (December 2018).
Swapna Barman is on our cover this month, above all, for the grit and determination she has shown in pursuing her dream of winning gold in one of the very difficult events, in the Asian Games which makes her a role model for our young and not-so young readers. She seems to have said to her parents that she wouldn’t return home if she didn’t win gold at Jakarta. Gp. Capt Achchyut Kumar titles his cover story on her: Determination, Thy Name Is Swapna!
Her journey to the victory stand wasn’t at all easy and on an even path. Her parents were extremely poor, her father being a rickshaw puller and mother a daily wage earner with four children to fend for. And to add to the family’s woes, the father suffered a stroke, making it impossible for him to work. As he was bedridden, Basana, her mother, couldn’t go to work either, as her 24×7 presence was necessary at his side.
However, Basana had great dreams for her first daughter and she named her Swapna (dream), and she kept communicating her dreams to her in spite of all the hardships she had to undergo. Basana recalls Swapna’s childhood days: “Starchy rice at home and only water in school.” With such a diet, though, Swapna completed her studies. The rest dropped out.
There is more to the challenges that Swapna had to face. She was born with six toes (like her mother) on each of her feet, a handicap that makes it extremely difficult for one to run or jump like other athletes. Ordinary sports shoes wouldn’t fit her feet, either. But, none of the above would stop her from realising her dream. Her goal now is to win gold in her event for India in the next Olympics! All the best, Swapna, THE TEENAGER TODAY is with you.