BENGALURU, APR 11
Lalremsiami’s manner may be menacing. The aqua blue mouthguard coupled with the you-don’t-want-to-mess-with-me look stand out as she makes inroads into the striking circle. The 17-year-old, who has turned out to be the surprise package of the Indian women’s team, however, lets her stick to do the talking.Off the pitch, the teenager says very little. Battling a language barrier, she smiles in response to most queries. Siami, as she’s known, hails from Kolasib, a scenic town three hours away from Mizoram’s capital Aizawl. Siami was a member of the India U-18 Asia Cup team in 2016. She wni and drafted into the senior camp the following year. Her elation at making the national team was somewhat doused by her inability to communicate in a language other than Mizo. The youngest member of the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games women’s hockey squad found help and solace in a Mizo-Hindi-English dictionary. But that wasn’t enough. During India’s Asia Cup challenge last year, she was benched by chief coach Harendra Singh after failing to respond to his queries on why she wasn’t following instructions. As a teary-eyed Siami sat on the bench, the other team members explained her plight to the coach.Harendra explained, “I use hockey terminology and practically show her what those words mean. For example, baseline, forehand and inside close are words we use on the pitch and she now knows what they mean and what is expected of her when we say that.”
Harendra harked back on his time in Europe. “Most of the clubs have players from across the world who speak different languages, yet play together as a team. One of the things we did was make skipper Rani her roommate. We haven’t asked her to join any language class because teammates are the best teachers,” he said.Siami now converses in broken Hindi. Her favourite word is ‘bahut accha’. “Initially when I came into the team, I didn’t know any other language, but for Mizo. So, I would find it difficult to communicate and that would sometimes leave me in tears. But my teammates showed a lot of patience. During practice, I used to ask around on what the coaches meant when they shouted out instructions, but now I have picked up key words. In case they speak fast, I don’t hesitate to ask them to repeat,” said Siami, who comes from a family of agriculturists.
Siami believes if she hadn’t found support from her teammates she would have long returned home. One of the biggest factors which influenced her to stay is her roommate and skipper Rani.
BENGALURU, APR 11