Gouramangi Singh and Poonam Rani among athletes farming during lockdown

Shooter Shagun Chowdhary has also turned the coronavirus-induced lockdown into an opportunity by employing eight women at her farm.

By Subhayan Dutta

Indian athletes have traded training grounds for farming fields amid the lockdown, either as a new hobby or to lend a helping hand at the agricultural lands.

Former defender and India football captain Gouramangi Singh, who returned to his family in Imphal, has taken into growing varieties of vegetables in his kitchen garden.

“We have a small patch of land, less than an acre. It is some walking distance from our house,” Gourmangi Singh told AIFF website admitting that organic farming has kept him mentally and physically fresh during these difficult times.

“It has been a really positive experience and I have enjoyed it a lot. Working on the garden is always fun,” winner of the National Football League, Federation Cup and multiple I-League titles said.

“We try to spend a few hours there every day. Laying the beds, planting the seeds, watering the plants, and plucking the vegetables — it is all so satisfying, especially when our hard work bears fruit.

“It also ensures that we are eating healthy and also allows us to spend quality time with family,” added the 2010 AIFF Player of the Year.

Back to their roots

Despite having grown up in a farming family, Indian hockey forward Poonam Rani Malik’s sporting commitments meant she never took to the fields.

Now back in her village in Haryana during the harvest season, the Rio Olympian has opted to help her parents and brother on the farms to make up for the shortage of labour.

“This is the first time I have contributed in harvesting,” Poonam Rani Malik told the Hindustan Times. “Farmers in most villages have avoided calling unknown farm labour and most of the known ones have gone back to their respective states.

“So, to make up for the absence of farm labour, I joined the harvest,” added the Haryana captain who has over 200 caps for the Indian hockey team.

Generating employment during lockdown

Stuck in Jaipur, India’s trap shooter at the 2012 Olympic Games, Shagun Chowdhary has found time to explore her interest in organic farming.

And the shooter has taken a step further, by employing as many as eight women farmers to work on her land. She intends to bring in more as she plans to venture out into organic farming in future.

“Since I was always busy shooting or travelling; spending time here was never possible,” Shagun Chowdhary told the Times of India. “Staying here gave me an idea of growing organic crops.

“I want to make it a women-centric farm. They will stay here, work and be independent,” the 36-year-old shooter added.

Indian boxers hit the fields

Top-ranked flyweight boxer Amit Panghal, two-time Olympian Manoj Kumar, and Tokyo-bound Satish Kumar have taken their gloves off as well, literally.

Son of a farmer, Amit Panghal has joined his family in harvesting and packing wheat for the market while Satish Kumar and Manoj Kumar have been tending to the fields to aid their parents.

“I have been watching the elders doing harvesting since I was a child,” Manoj Kumar said. “Back then, I used to accompany my father and uncle to the farms just for fun. This time, I am actually cutting the crop.”