Who’s Ready to Take On These Badass Arm-Wrestlers of Delhi?

Who’s Ready to Take On These Badass Arm-Wrestlers of Delhi?

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Cameramen: Mukul Bhandari, Tridip K Mandal
Video Editor: Prashant Chauhan

Not many. I tried, and was beaten hands down!

At first glance, you don’t realise that the small rooftop barsati in West Delhi’s Punjabi Bagh area is actually one of Delhi’s most popular arm-wrestling club – the Royal Sports Club.

It is here that I met Karishma Kapoor... not the Bollywood starlet, but a 17-year-old arm-wrestler who gave me a tough lesson, pinning me down in three seconds flat.

Karishma Kapoor & her coach Laxman Singh Bhandari at the Royal Sports Club, Delhi. 
Karishma Kapoor & her coach Laxman Singh Bhandari at the Royal Sports Club, Delhi. 
(Photo: The Quint)

Karishma is among the twenty or so women arm-wrestlers who regularly train here. They are being mentored by Laxman Singh Bhandari, an international level arm-wrestler. He has been running the club since 1995, mostly coaching free of cost and at times putting in his own money to train talented arm-wrestlers.

“My focus is on women’s arm-wrestling and the aim is to empower them as well so that they can create their own identity. In today’s environment, we witness cases of rape and molestation. Sometimes the women can neither protect themselves nor protest. So when one gets into a sport which needs muscle power, they feel confident and they get the courage to oppose. You can strongly put your point forward. Sports like arm-wrestling keeps you mentally and physically fit and socially strong.”
Laxman Singh Bhandari, Arm-wrestler and founder, Royal SportsClub

Karishma is also an international Taekwondo, player but it’s in arm-wrestling that she found the healing that she was looking for. It helped her to cope with the death of her grandmother.

Arm-wrestling helped Karishma overcome her depression. 
Arm-wrestling helped Karishma overcome her depression. 
(Photo: The Quint)
“I suddenly sank into depression after I lost my grandmother. I started arm-wrestling after her death. She did everything for me that a father is supposed to do. Arm-wrestling gave me the inspiration and helped me to come out from depression. Initially I had no idea about professional arm-wrestling, but as a hobby I used to arm-wrestle.”
Karishma Kapoor, Professional Arm-Wrestler

Arm-wrestling is played in various categories. Though weight is the primary criteria, sometimes the players are also categorised according to age. Junior wrestlers are normally between 14 to 18 years old, those from 18 to 21 fight in the youth category, and for wrestlers above 40 there’s the masters category.

Dr Poonam Tariq, who’s in her 40s, ideally should have fought in the masters category but due to her weight, she ends up wrestling with girls much younger than her. A mathematics professor in Jamia MIlia Islamia university and a mother of three young boys, it’s her son Taha who initiated her into professional arm-wrestling.

Dr Poonam Tariq arm-wrestling with her son Taha.
Dr Poonam Tariq arm-wrestling with her son Taha.
(Photo: The Quint)
“Actually Taha had a match. When he saw that a women’s competition was also happening, he told to me to participate, because he used to practice with me.”
Dr Poonam Tariq, Mathematics Professor and Arm-Wrestler

Most arm-wrestlers are like Poonam and coach Laxman, they also have a day job to sustain themselves. Laxman is an international-level arm-wrestler but he works in the marketing department of a media organisation.

“A player can’t earn his livelihood only through it. But after getting into arm-wrestling, people do get several opportunities like jobs, recognition and respect in society.”
Laxman Singh Bhandari, Arm-Wrestler and Founder, Royal SportsClub

And it is this respect and the hope of a better life that young arm-wrestlers like Karishma are striving for, one bout at a time.

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