Sharp-shooting grannies in India inspire girls to new hobby

Sharp-shooting grandmothers Prakashi Tomar, left, and Chandro Tomar have unusual hobby for Indian women in their 70s. Photo from Hindustan Times/Caters News
Sharp-shooting grandmothers Prakashi Tomar, left, and Chandro Tomar have unusual hobby for Indian women in their 70s. Photo: Hindustan Times/Caters News

Two grandmothers in India are inspiring new generations of girls and young women with a particular hobby that isn’t knitting, as one might expect.

It isn’t even close.

Prakashi Tomar, 74, and her sister-in-law Chandro Tomar, 79, are members of an all-female shooting team in Uttar Pradesh. But they aren’t just members, they’re award-winning sharp-shooters, and they’re prompting girls as young as 11 years old to join the sport usually reserved for males.

“A few years ago, not many of the 25 girls training at the Johri Rifle Club range today would have been allowed to step out of [the] home,” Neetu Sheoran, a shooting coach at the Johri Rifle Club, told Caters News.

“Girls who have trained at the range have got jobs with the Army, the Air Force and the Border Security Force. This has reassured the men; they understand finding employment for their children is easier because of shooting.

“So, they no longer insist that they should just stay at home.”

Sharp-shooting grannies have inspired girls to join the sport of shooting. Coach Neetu Sheoran instructs girl trainees at a Johri shooting club. Photo from Hindustan/Caters News
Sharp-shooting grannies have inspired girls to join the sport of shooting. Coach Neetu Sheoran instructs girl trainees at a Johri shooting club. Photo: Hindustan/Caters News

Interestingly, it wasn’t until they were in their 60s that Prakashi and Chandro started shooting. Prakashi was first, one day joining granddaughter Shefali at a shooting range in Johri. Prompted by curiosity, she took a shot, and was hooked.

“Out of sheer boredom I borrowed my granddaughter’s pistol and let fly,” Prakashi told Caters. “I pulled the trigger and the pellet hit the target.”

She was told she’d do well in shooting and was urged to form a team. In the meantime, Prakashi trained in secret and introduced Chandro to shooting.

“When everybody had gone off to sleep, I used to hold a jug of water in a closed room to enhance my grip and strengthen my wrists,” Prakashi said. “The men used to make fun of me and joke that I should go to Kargil [a three-month armed conflict between India and Pakistan in 1999] and send my army-man son home.

“But after [someone] gave us two Pardini pistols worth one lakh rupees each [$2,230], they began to take us seriously.”

They did eventually start a team at the Johri Rifle Club, a club launched in 1998, and soon the club was inundated with girls wanting to join. No doubt, they were inspired by the team and the sharp-shooting grannies winning major shooting competitions, sometimes outshooting male competitors.

Once, a police officer was so embarrassed by losing to Prakashi, he refused to attend the award ceremony.

Sharp-shooting grandmother Chandro Tomar gives instruction to youth. Photo from Hindustan/Caters News
Sharp-shooting grandmother Chandro Tomar gives instruction to youth. Photo from Hindustan/Caters News

In 2001, Prakashi won the national championships in the veteran category and the following year Chandro took second in the North India Shooting Competition.

Seema Tomar, Prakashi’s daughter, is a champion shooter in her own right, winning nearly 40 gold medals for her shooting skills. A member of the Indian Army, Seema became the first female shotgun shooter from India to clinch a medal at the International Shooting Sport Federation World Cup, held in Dorset, U.K., in 2010.

“Until my mother began shooting in her 60s, I wasn’t encouraged to learn shooting,” Seema told Caters. “But I persuaded my parents to allow me to compete. Even after I got married in 2011, although I was competing at the international stage, my in-laws took time adjusting to my routine.

“I wish I had received more support from them. But then, most families share the same thought: women should stay home and do the housework. They want them to earn but still don’t want them to step out of the house. Shooting is helping change these mind-sets.”

Thanks in large part to a pair of sharp-shooting grannies.

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