Noorena Shams was born on June 18, 1997, in Timergara, Lower District, Pakistan. She raised the money to buy her first squash racket and shoes by selling her cartoons to the local newspaper. She lived in Lower Dir with her mother during the war, and her house was struck twice. At the age of 15, Noorena Shams disguised as a boy to play cricket and played for a whole year on the national junior team, and then ended up in the girls’ team when her identity was revealed. She played for a short while on the cricket team before moving onto squash.
I used to wear an abaya over my tracksuit in Peshawar. I used to walk a mile to get a seat on the local bus. Meanwhile, the only visible things were my face and the racket that used to be out of the bag. At some points, I did have an encounter with people who used to appreciate me a lot like taxi drivers and even bus drivers but most of the time I used to hear comments like “ hamaray sath kehlna hai? “ “ mai better kehlaunga” etc.
Many times they used to pass by so near that either they would touch my hand or my shoulder with theirs while leaving a huge road on the other side. I would sit on the bus and every single of them would not even bother to take away their eyes even for once. The disturbing thing used to be when I used to go to a grocery shop that way one of the shop members used to smile at me in a very odd manner which I have never liked. At times the solider on duty outside my squash court used to make me wait a little more while checking my card and asking very stupid questions ( I know what is normally asked at the check posts) until I complained about it.
It’s not Pakistan only. I was abroad for my matches and my plane landed in Salt Lake City in Utah America. It was 12:45 am in the morning while I was waiting for my host to come and pick me. I was all covered because it was freezing. A guy came and asked, “what was my price?” I thought he is asking about taxi charges and then he said: “per night?” And I looked at him a little weirdly until he asked the last question “who is your lucky guest tonight”? I stayed numb for a while then I answered “why do not you cut off your thing and hang at the top of your taxi along with the rate you need. Desirable people will come”. All this was happening in an airport.
Fortunately, sometimes there are men who turn out to be the most supportive ones and then mostly even women around would not spear you for what you do.
Noorena Shams added to it. My mother is the sole female contractor in DIR. She has constructed multiple bridges and roads. She owns my father’s reputed companies after his death. She even gets stupid comments like “phone apnay baitay ko dai hum aurat sy baat nahe kartay” and at times she does feel hurdles just because she does the bigger projects and not many are fortunate enough to get them.
I understand that there is respect for women in many hearts but then underestimating her skills and her strength just because of her gender and saying sexist comments is no solution at all.
I do appreciate and would want to mention how the traffic police help me get through traffic when I am training for my cycle races on roads of Peshawar. Or taxi drivers who pick me from the airport staying outside my house as long as until someone opens the door. At times the waiters come and say they have seen me on TV and they are proud. I do appreciate it all but again just because we do get this kind of appreciation doesn’t really mean that we will be staying silent on all the negative that happens. Only if women start doing the same like passing comments or staring like that or touching like that then men of our society can say that “tum log bhi toh kartay ho” jo nahe karta or jo nahe hota wo seehko. Har shikayat ka jawab shikayat nahe hota.
Noorena Shams won 62 Gold medals, 24 Silver medals, and 5 browns. She made her country proud around the world.
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