In Aug 2016, during my master’s course, at DAIICT, when I was asked about my plans for the final thesis project, I at once expressed my affinity towards sports. Being a state and university Table Tennis player, deep down, I always wanted to contribute and design for the sports ecosystem of India. To start with, I choose Chhattisgarh, my home state. I was a little familiar with the sports scenario there and had been following it up for quite some time. Through this, I got aware of relevance of Archery in the state and its practice in the tribal pockets of Chattisgarh. There have also been some players from the state who have gained prominence on the national and international level. Thus, I pinned down these areas for research.
In the introductory phase, I tried to gain perspective on - different schemes for sports individual, talent scouting programs, governance, the performance of Chhattisgarh at the national and international levels, etc aspects of sports in general. It wasn't very difficult to point, that for potential players to reach a prominent level, the training and awareness should have a grassroot approach. The talent identification should begin from primary schools; necessary education, assistance should be provided continually right from the school days to children. Due to the absence of these factors, students have not been considering sports as a lucrative career option.
In the introductory phase, I tried to gain perspective on — different schemes for sports individual, talent scouting programs, governance, the performance of Chhattisgarh at the national and international levels, etc aspects of sports in general. It wasn’t very difficult to point, that for potential players to reach a prominent level, the training and awareness should have a grassroot approach. The talent identification should begin from primary schools; necessary education, assistance should be provided continually right from the school days to children. Due to the absence of these factors, students have not been considering sports as a lucrative career option.
Further, while interrogating about tribal culture of Chhattisgarh, I discovered that Archery is a traditional practice for many communities. I probed into the lifestyle of one of the communities known as the Kamar. The Kamar is a scheduled tribe and is found in hills of Bindranawagarh, Nawalgarh, and Manipur, Chhattisgarh tract. They practice Archery in a very traditional and ritualistic fashion. This caught my interest and that it is then when I decided that Kulhadighat (a home to more than 14,000 Kamars, in the Gariaband district) would be my location to conduct the field research.
The Kamars are experts at hunting. They worship arrows, bows and consider it as a blessing by Buddha Raja (an Indian deity). Their bows and arrows are crafted organically using whatever is available in the forest. Every Kamar boy starts training from the age of 8 and that is how they develop superior aiming and shooting skills.The bow and arrow are seen as an extension of their cultural, religious beliefs and not just as mere artifacts or a legacy left by ancestors. However, in a situation like this, the biggest challenge for me was to make the Kamars understand about the modern game of Archery and not just that, but also to motivate them to pursue it for a better quality of life.
In resource-constrained areas like Kulhadighat, Due to nonavalaibility of fitness coaches the only way to teach Kamar children or to promote archery is through their school teachers who are the most qualified personnel present there at the moment.The Kamar tribe people are shy; they relish the forest life and are not very acceptable to modern methods of learning like an illustrative book or a flip book or any digital medium. These things are alien to their culture. Thus, keeping that in mind I started ideating a user centered method for them.
After my visits to Kulhadighat and Sports Authority of India (SAI), Raipur Center, I observed that with the constant use of tools like axe, bow, and arrows in the forest, the Kulhadighat children had built a suitable muscle shape for Archery. The Kamars have the basic physique that could benefit them during the practice of archery, however, they do require more information about modern archery and its training. Thus, an added aim of this research was to make the SAI aware about Kulhadhighat and other Kamar tribe regions that could be potential places for talent scouting.
During my visits, I came across information that the state government provides school children with a yoga book as a supplementary reading material. Every school has a 30 minute games period, hence, I decided to create an additional book on archery for Kamar children. The book would be similar to their textbook, written in Hindi and would to regularised in their games period to make these students aware of the untapped opportunities they could bank on.
I worked on this project and came up with a book that has a systemic progression of content regarding Archery. It covers all the necessary topics related to the sport for children to learn over a period of time. The crux of having a pattern like this is to get students interested in Archery and make them feel connected or relatable to it. The book also covers the vertical of how sports can be an opportunity to build a career.
To aid my finding the archery coach Hiru Sahu and national archery player Rashmi Sahu conducted the one-day training session at Kulhadighat, and after physical test and matches. They concluded that Kamar children have good physical strength and can become players like that of Shivtarai if they get a master like Itwari Raj.
To document the whole process, I have made the making of this project “Kya Kulhadighat Shivtarai Ban Sakta Hai?”. This making uncovers all the design decision I have taken and unraveled my entire journey.
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Shivtarai people are fortunate that they got a master like Itwari Raj, but there are still many people at places like Kulhadighat who need a mentor like Itwari Raj. Sports can be used as a medium for the upliftment of tribes. They have now entered a transitional phase, wherein their community development has influences of both tribal life and urban life. I strongly believe that sports could be used as one of the tools for the development of these tribes as it is a more palatable amalgamation of the rural and urban way of living for communities like these.