It was 3:30 am India time on Thursday night, when Amrita’s phone whirred to life in Delhi’s Tagore Garden. It wasn’t a startle, the assistant sub-inspector (ASI) with the Delhi Police was expecting it. What she didn’t expect were the sniffles at the other end.
Daughter Tulika’s voice was trembling and the only utterance which her mother could hear properly was, ‘Maaf kar dena, gold nahi la payi (Forgive me for not bringing the gold).’
“I can’t watch my child crying. She is the love of my life. All I told her was that her sacrifices since childhood haven’t gone waste,” said Amrita later. As she narrated the incident to TOI, she was already checked in, in her control room at the Tees Hazari courts, where she was busy profiling the fingerprint of an undertrial. The wee hours of Thursday had morphed into working day Thursday. It was already a new day for the ASI, currently posted in the crime branch, Kamla Market, Fingerprint Bureau.
“I know she was devastated after losing out on gold. But the silver is also a good-enough achievement,” she said. Tulika, 23, was leading Scotland’s Sarah Adlington for most part of her +78kg final, before the Scottish landed the Indian with an ‘Ippon’ move to end matters.
It left Tulika distraught, but this was nothing for Amrita, who had braved ‘Ippons’ of her own, right from when Tulika was barely three. In 2001, Amrita packed her bags and – with little Tulika in tow – walked out of her in-laws’ home in Najafgarh. It was to escape her violent husband, the late Satbir Singh.
It was a brave act, but one that would prove a quite demanding one for Amrita, balancing her 24×7 police duty and bringing up Tulika as a single parent. “I haven’t discussed my personal life with anyone. But after Tulika’s brave performance at the CWG, I think I can open up a bit about it,” Amrita said with a sigh, of her as at the Police Training Centre (PTC) in Delhi’s Jharoda Kalan.
“My late husband’s real name was Satbir Singh, not Deepak Kumar as is mentioned in her birth certificate and in other government IDs. I married him in 1996 and Tulika was born two years later. It was a wrong decision to marry him and we both got separated in 2001.”
Tulika wasn’t even three and doesn’t recall anything about her father, says the mother, adding, “I never wanted that man in our life, so I didn’t tell her anything about him till she became an adult. All I have told her is that Satbir, who ran a transport business in Najafgarh, was murdered in 2005 due to personal enmity.”
She put her child in Yaduvanshi Convent School’s Residential academy in Saharanwas in Rewari in 2001, today known as the Sunglow International School. “When I was asked about her father’s name in Rewari, I told the admission department to put anyone’s name in the form. I was so certain that I didn’t want even his shadow in Tulika’s life,” she reveals, adding, “The name of the hostel owner’s younger brother was Deepak Kumar (Yadav), so he put his name there as her father. Since then, all her government ids have the name of Deepak as her father.”
“We haven’t made efforts to change it since then,” she informed.
Tulika’s first brush with judo happened at the age of five when Amrita was allotted a police quarter in the capital’s Tagore Garden Extension and she brought her daughter home from Rewari.
Judo is the art of defence, maybe that’s why Amrita thought it would be good life education for her daughter. There Tulika enrolled herself with the Tachi Judo Club, while continuing her studies at a private school.
“For two years, from 2001 to 2003, it was quite a struggle, riding my police bike to Saharanwas from Jharoda Kalan every day to meet Tulika at her academy after completing my duty hours and then returning back to the quarter,” remembers Amrita .
“For days, I would go sleepless juggling between the police station and academy. In 2005, things streamlined a bit when we moved to Tagore Gardens. After returning from school, Tulika would spend hours practicing judo at the club. Initially, like all kids, it was a timepass for her, but she developed serious interest in it after winning the junior Nationals in 2013,” says Amrita.
For Tulika herself, a South Asian Games gold medallist in 2019 and a four-time national champion, the road to CWG success was riddled with many challenges. She wasn’t originally selected in the squad after her weight category was dropped by now-derecognised Judo Federation of India (JFI) in favour of other divisions (48kg, 57kg and 63kg).
An angry Tulika then shot off a letter to the authorities demanding her inclusion in the squad. It was only after the Sports Authority of India (SAI) formed an expert committee on judo in April this year and mooted selection trials for the CWG team, that Tulika found herself in the list in her preferred 78kg class. For the Tokyo Olympics as well, she was left out of the qualifiers by the JFI despite her impressive performances in the Commonwealth championships.