This is a story of a girl from Karbi Anglong, whose fate took a new turn after she started learning rifle shooting. A few months after joining Indian police services, she was chosen by the unit (of Police Department) to acquire a new skill i.e. Rifle Shooting. Initially, she hesitated to pursue it as a sports hobby, but now she can't live without it. Introducing Reshmi Thaosen, National Level Rifle Shooter; the pride of the Northeast; and a mother of 13 year old.
Police Services has made her tougher, smarter, and determined, and shooting has taught her to aim and focus better. Currently, she is practicing at Assam Rifle and Shooting Association (ARSA) - 4th Assam Police Battalion, Guwahati, the second best range in India. South Asian Games were also held there. ARSA, which has produced many national level players, has been rendering immense support to Reshmi in polishing her skills. Now, she aims to perform in the international games and train her daughter also. This gold medalist narrated her story clearly and with a lot of hand gestures (with golden nails) like a teacher, and with excitement that will let you know how enthused she is about rifle shooting.
Tell us about yourself.
I was born on 1st September, 1984 in Karbi Anglong. My father, Rajkumar Thaosen is a former army person.
I was, mostly, brought up by my aunt and uncle, who lived in Haflong.
When I was in the 8th standard, they took me with them to pursue studies there. My entire education; schooling and college took place in Haflong. I studied in Sengya Sambudhan, Haflong. Before, I could complete my studies, I got married.
After getting married, I couldn't idle away time at home, so I thought about getting a job. I considered getting into the police services. It was the first time in my life that I had tried something like that, which led me to success. I was interviewed and summoned to service where I got basic training. I have a 13-year old daughter and she wants to learn shooting in Pistol category.
How did it all begin?
I'm currently posted as Constable, in Police Commissionerate, Guwahati. Almost five years ago, every unit was asked to chose and nominate two female members. After undergoing training, the shooting range selected a few from the nominated, & luckily,I was one of them.
Thereafter, we participated in the State Games in 2011, for the first time, and bagged the second position. I was in the Assam Police Department, after undergoing the basic training program of 12-13 months. This game took place 2-3 months after I joined the Police Department. I was happy about the award, but I did not understand what significance it held for me, that time. At that point of time, neither I had any understanding about this new skill & the competitions, nor did I have any interest in sports or relevant knowledge.
We were there for 21 days. It was a new stage for us, and we were eager to participate next time with a huge preparation.
Our senior encouraged us by saying that we will get ample opportunities of participation even in national level championships, apart from civil games. After nine months, one day, our names were mentioned in the participation list of 2012 State Games, district level championship held at the 4th APBN, Indoor Shooting Range, in Assam. I won a gold medal there.
By then, nobody in my family or acquaintances knew that I was shooting & even I didn't want them to know as I was very apprehensive about it. Somehow, I thought of calling quits. I went and spoke to the DSP of my department and gave him numerous excuses of quitting. He said he can't do anything then, as a part of his work and protocol. However, he assured that he will send me back if I had any problems in the range or didn't get selected. Now, it all depended on me.
During my first finale, I prayed God to not to get me selected. It was a mixed feeling. On one hand, I wanted to go back; on the other hand I was also feeling glad about shooting good shots. And, I won the gold medal, wondering whether I should smile or mourn. I was getting stirred in the soup of dilemma; that by then my senior came to inform me about my selection for the national level game at GV Mavalankar Shooting Championship, in Delhi. The idea of visiting Delhi lured me. I participated there, and got qualified.
Then, I was sent to play in NSCC (National Shooting Championship Competition), and that time I didn't know what it was. All I knew about the games were: how to load ammunition, firing & getting qualified, without knowing how these would affect my score. I took part in that too and got qualified.
Then followed AIPC (All India Police Championship) game organised by our department, in Pune, which was compulsory for us to participate. There, I watched how the shooters from other states flaunted those huge trophies and gold medals, that they had won. Then I looked at our team from Assam who had nothing in their hands. I felt sad for coming back empty handed, without even bagging a bronze medal.
On return, I told one of my Gurujis "Let's see who wins the next year's competition." The following year, in Pune in 2013, we went through the same NSCC process, and then the AIPC game. We built a team under the guidance of Shri Rajen Singh, who is currently serving as SP, Kokrajhar. He suggested us about a possibility of winning in the 3P (position) category of shooting if we try a bit harder, as the other states haven't been able to.
There were two categories: Prone and 3P. We played Prone first and then the next one. One of the girls who played with me scored 570. Just then around the last series, I had scored a 577, the other girl with me scored 571, with that, and we won the Gold Medal. I was overjoyed. Then in the 3P, we bagged a Bronze medal. During the prize ceremony, when they announced Assam's name, I felt immensely proud of representing the state there. I still get goose bumps, thinking of it. This was my first gold medal in the national championship. I had never even dreamt of it before.
I played in NSCC again, followed by the 2015 National Games, in Kerala, to understand the process and rules of the national games.
I look forward to bagging a medal in the National Games in 2018, which is scheduled to be held in Goa (in February).
How do you manage your budget for purchasing arms & ammunitions?
From my experience in Kerala Games, I learnt that we are lacking at availing weapons for practice because we have only two old rifles. A lot of people come here to practice with that adjustable rifle & turn the metal, which ruins the handling of the entire rifle. As a result, the rifle stops working in the middle of the match. We are also falling short of ammunitions. We buy them with our own money (from the salary), which doesn't count sufficient.
When we go to play, we meet the shooters from the other teams like BSF and Survey, having 26 or 27 shooters, issued with 6 or 7 rifles, and, we have so many shooters with just one rifle.
At present, we are purchasing ammunition at a subsidized rate as arranged by Assam Rifle & Shooting Association. Thanks to the association that we are saving a lot of money. But, this game requires a lot of practice, and we have to spend 100 rounds for it, in addition to performing in an event. The association orders the ammunition from outside, so we keep a stock of 100-200 for use.
For 10 days, we take 10 or 20 shots, while keeping the expensive type of ammunitions for the final shot; else the stock will get over easily. We keep our hands tight to manage the budget. For the final match, rounds might reach 36 shots too. It needs a lot of expenditure.
Nobody has ever sponsored me fully, but keeping my hardwork and consistence in view, my home district has collectively provided me funds to purchase rifles. The students' union there, has also put me in focus several times.
My senior, Rajen sir had written an application to Debojit Thousen, Ex-CP, Dimasa, for Rifle provision, who granted 2 lakhs for the same. Rajen Sir has been instrumental in my shooting career. I am immensely grateful to him for being the guiding star for us.
The rifle we use now is of ANSHUITZ's, made in Germany, which costs above 3 lakhs. There are many advanced models of the rifles available in the market, which we will use in future, hopefully, if we get sponsored or so.
Do you follow any particular diet or specific exercises?
No, I don't follow any particular diet. The tribal food we cook here is something I can't live without. Plus, we don't need huge energy or strength to lift up rifles like the one in services, but practice, so we don't need to be so focused on the diet.
However, we need to exercise regularly, which are different from the gym ones, but free hand exercises.
Was your family supportive of your decision to practice Rifle shooting, both as a career and hobby?
My family was supportive. My husband didn't mind when I was selected for rifle shooting because he knew how rifles are handled and that rifle was safe for me.
My husband and I are in the same police department. I wouldn't have reached here today if it wasn't for my family's constant support.
Even when I was selected for the job of police, after marriage, my family did not object, rather encouraged me. When I won my first gold medal, my father was full of praises.
Which type of arms and ammunitions, you find convenient to use?
As far as ammunitions are concerned, I like the "Elly Tenx". It is made in Germany and is very expensive. I love using it because it is has a perfect range; never misfires, & takes an accurate aim and shoots with accuracy too.
The other ammunitions are not as handy, they change directions while aiming & shooting.
Elly Tenx lets me focus on the aim.
I trust it more. Last year in the South Asian games, the Sri Lankans were given the same artillery. Today, Olympians are also using these ammunitions.
In what ways have you changed during your 5 years of service in the Police department?
Before I got my job, I was like a simple and shy girl, who hesitated talking to anyone, but now I'm aware and confident. The Police environment is different and incorporates different elements of reality and skills in your personality.
Moreover, after I chose sports, life took a different turn for me.
Any valuable lesson(s) that shooting has taught you?
Shooting has taught me how to control my mind. It is naturally difficult to control one's mind.
Initially, we used to get nervous while taking a shot. Thinking, “I have to fire" and "bang", I used to take a shot with an impulsive yet alert feeling. I felt that if one is unable to take the aim, then one should not take the shot at all.
I have learnt how to aim, remain calm & keep the mind clear. If your mind is all around, then you can never shoot. It is actually like gaining a power that would be helpful to you in the other situations of life.
What provisions will push your shooting potential to a greater extent?
The first kind of support that anyone can provide me is, equipping me with the rifle & ammunitions (advanced technology). It is important for all the national level players to own a rifle, to excel in this career.
The students you were teaching before working, how do they feel when they see you now?
I haven't met them yet since they are staying in Haflong. But I have heard from the people that when those little kids, back home, see me in the newspapers and T.V., they feel inspired and say, 'I also want to become like Reshmi Thaosen.'
They take toy air guns, pick targets and shoot, exclaiming, 'Look I've also become a shooter like Reshmi Thaosen!' This is so overwhelming.
When you look at other competitors & interact with them, how do you feel?
I have interacted with many senior competitors of the Indian Team Olympians, Gagan Narang and Jitu Rai. Among the women shooters, I have interacted with Apurvi Chandela. Those people are like legends who have participated in so many international games. There is a lot to learn from them. Many of them seem to have a strong financial support too.
With such a low salary, we get worried about our future in the games.
With every bit of responsibility moving around you, and the budget crunch topping it, it becomes very difficult to focus on the practice.
Where do you see yourself in 3 years?
I dream of playing in the International diaspora, and I'll need 3 years to prepare for it (break mental blockages, polishing aiming tactics, etc.)
Rapid fire :
. Your favourite actor: Kajol.
. Favourite movie: I love movies with morals like 'Manjhi: The Mountain Man' and 'Laaga Chunari Mein Daag'.
. Your hobbies: I used to teach children before I got married. I love teaching.
. Favourite colour: It keeps changing, but I love the Golden hue.
. Favourite place: Darjeeling
If you are left alone on an island, what are the three things you would take with you?
I would take a Matchbox, knife and clothes. I can't take my rifle as it would run out.
Any message for the women who want to pursue their dreams, but are unable to do so due to unavoidable circumstances?
Being a woman, I have also faced many problems like others. In cases of confusions and problems, one should do as one of my seniors tells me, “When a river is flooded, stop at the banks to let the currents pass before you move on."
If you have talent in you and a strong will to pursue it, then take a leap to reach your goals without overthinking about it.
Talk to someone to relieve that pressure from your heart then move forward, but don't stop.