For this Mizo girl, hockey was the only way to a decent future

Her parents are poor ‘jhum (slash-and-burn) cultivators, living hand-to-mouth.

But since her hockey skills blossomed and fetched her a place in the national squad, the family fortunes of Lalremsiami Hmar — a proud member of the Indian women’s team that scripted history on Monday by making it to the semifinals of the Olympic Games in Tokyo for the first time — have looked up.

They live in a decent house and are looking up to a better one.

Mizoram government’s Rs 25 lakh grant to Lalremsiami after she made it to India’s World Cup squad in 2018 has helped the family buy new land and build a new house, part of which may be rented out for a safe line of income.

At the Asian Games that followed, she became the first sportsperson from Mizoram to win an Asian medal after India won the silver.

For states in India’s northeast, where there is no tradition of cricket and so no chance of instant big money, the only way to ensure a decent future is to slog it out in sports like football and hockey, boxing or weightlifting.

Mizoram is already a football powerhouse and one remembers the state’s great boxer Zoramthanga (the Chief Minister’s namesake).

But Lalremsiami, who turned 21 in March, is the first hockey star to make it big on the national stage.

“We are so tensedÂ… we hope India gets a gold in this Olympics,” said Lalremsiami’s sister Lalhmunsiami, as her mother chopped vegetables for dinner.

The family had just finished watching India’s quarterfinal match on TV, in which the team scraped past a powerful Australia by a solitary goal.

“I hope my sister scores in the semifinal or the final if the team makes it. It would be great to have an Olympic medal in this house,” Lalhmunsiami told IANS.