Since yesterday, I have watched the incredible race that Hima Das of India ran in Tampere in Finland in July 2018, on loop. It gives me goosebumps every time I see that moment when she breaks away from the other sprinters in lane 4 and owns the finish line. Her gesture to the crowd after her victory in the 400 metres world championship race, urging it to cheer for her, is the sign of a rockstar champion. One with fantastic attitude, self-belief and confidence.
Hima Das has repeated the feat this year as well, winning five gold medals in July in events held in Poland and Czech Republic. The 19-year-old is truly a star in every sense of the word.
In that video, another lump in the throat moment comes when her coach puts the Assamese stole around her neck and the Indian tricolour on her back. In one go, Hima flashes her national and regional identity, underlining to everyone that both define her. The farmer’s daughter who practised running on the water-logged muddy paddy fields in Dhing in Assam’s Nagaon district and now is India’s Golden Girl.
Not only is Hima the true ambassador of Assam, she is also a role model for young girls and boys. She wasn’t born with a silver spoon in her mouth, she spent her childhood carrying sacks of paddy from the field. Her life so far is a lesson in what grit, determination and the right mentoring can do.
Hima’s feats this month come at a time when Assam has been struggling. One, the controversy over the National Registry and the struggle for many to prove they are bonafide citizens of India. The second is the state’s annual tryst with a swollen Brahmaputra.
Hima has her heart in the right place and it beats for Assam. Even while running in faraway Europe and experiencing a gold rush, her mind is on her flood-ravaged home. The athlete has been urging people to donate to the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund. Leading by example, she has donated half her month’s salary that she draws as an HR officer at the Indian Oil Corporation, to the Relief Fund.
“Flood situation in our state Assam is very critical, 30 out of 33 districts are currently affected. So I would like to request big corporates and individuals to kindly come forward and help our state in this difficult situation,” Hima tweeted.
Hima Das is proof that despite our system’s notoriety for nepotism, corruption and red-tape, it does manage to unearth gems from far and wide. The challenge is to tap the interest generated by Hima’s Midas touch and use it to unearth many more Himas.