86-year-old Chandro Tomar pulls her pallu over her forehead, straightens her baggy pink shirt. Holding a pistol firmly in her hand, she aims at the target and it hits the bull’s eye. For Tomar, who had her first brush with the sport of pistol-shooting at 65, shooting is just another thing to excel. “More than anything one needs to have passion. Even at an age when most people retire, it was my passion and unflinching determination that got me here”
The walls of her drawing room are adorned with scores of medals and accolades- these range from ‘Outstanding woman in sports’ awards from government of India to the image of superstar Aamir Khan in awe of her shooting skills.”
Despite all the accolades, the octogenerian has no illusions of grandeur. Life in Indian villages, especially for women, is a great leveler. Chandro still tends to household chores, milks the cows and takes care of the mounds of cow dung at her Haveli’s courtyard.
Tomar discovered her talent for shooting accidentally while accompanying her grand daughter to a shooting school.
“It all started when I took my grandaughter Shefali to a shooting range. After hearing the bullet shots, she got frightened. I told her there is nothing to be afraid of . I am with you. It gave her courage. I started accompanying her to the shooting school and it soon became my passion as well.
However, the journey to become world’s oldest sharp shooter has not been an easy one.
A woman coming from a Baghpat’s Johri village where patriarchy runs deep, Tomar had her own share of battles. In the beginning, her new-found passion for shooting was kept secret from her family.
“I started practising at night after my family slept. To improve the firmness of hand. I used to hold a jug of water for nearly an hour in our hay house. In the morning, at the shooting school, my bullets hit the bulls eye, ” said the mother of five and grandmother of fifteen.
After the initial hiccups, Tomar’s family supported her but some members of her extended family mocked her .
” I was made fun of but I turned deaf. I endured all the mockery and concentrated on my game. Soon my medals shut their mouth”.
In her nearly two-decades career, Tomar has won dozens of medals drawing praise from celebs and politicians alike for her extra-ordinary passion for the sport.
Retired from the active shooting, she spends time mentoring students, addressing gatherings and convincing people from her region to let girls take up what they believe in.
18-year-old Doli Khokhar, a student at a shooting academy near Johri village, said Dadiji was instrumental in convincing her parents to let her join the academy.
“When I started learning, my family was against this sports. They thought shooting is not meant for girls. It was due to Dadijee persuasion they agreed. I was the only one from my village but now there are many girls who have joined shooting classes.”
Soon, director Anurag Kashyap will mentor a biopic on Chandro and her sister-in-law Prakashi Tomar. who also made a career out of shooting apparently drawing inspiration from her.