Saturday Showcase Season 1
This week on Saturday Showcase, we are so so proud to feature a world class sportsman who is putting India on the world map. The man with a “never quit“ attitude. Meet, read and get to know Ajai Appachu, Eklavya Award Winner, in his exclusive interview for Leadhers. Only on Saturday Showcase.
Leadhers: Hi, tell us about yourself.
Ajai: My name is Ajai Appachu and I am an Equestrian. I have Evented and Showjumped for India. I represented India in Eventing at the Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea and finished 6th in the individual category. However, I am a passionate Showjumper and am pursuing it. I won the FEI World Show Jumping Championship 3 times in a row on 3 different horses.
I was selected to represent India in Seoul, South Korea for Show Jumping in an International CSI 1*. The Indian team won silver and I won the individual gold for India.
I also got selected twice to represent India for the World Show Jumping Finals in both Venezuela, South America and Kyalami, South Africa. I was awarded the Eklavya Award. This was just a good start to a new beginning.
Another prestigious event I qualified for and representing India was the ‘World Championship for Young Horses’ in Lanaken, Belgium. I not only qualified on three different horses but was the only rider to have ever qualified.
Leadhers: In India, where there is so much emphasis given on education, how did you get into an offbeat sport like Equestrian?
Ajai: My father , Maj Gen CJ Appachu, AVSM (Retd) gave me an insight into a lot of sports at a very young age, that has held me in good stead in everything I pursued. Starting from football where I captained the West Zone Team and also played for the East Zone Team whilst still in school.
Side by side I also swam for SAI (Sports Authority of India)Talkatora Stadium, New Delhi. I also learnt a fair bit of gymnastics there. Thereafter, when I was in Senior School I was selected to play cricket for CAB (Cricket Association of Bengal). It was clearly evident by then that my talent and interest was in sports.
My life took a complete turn when my father introduced me to Horse Riding- that was when I fell in love with the sport and there was no going back from that point on.
Equestrian sports is an extremely popular sport world wide. It is a highly recognised Olympic sport as well. Unfortunately in India most sports apart from cricket are not recognised. This would hopefully change in the near future.
Leadhers : How would you encourage girls to take up Equestrian as a sport?
Ajai: Equestrian is the only sport which has no distinction between men and women , horses and mares. Girls and boys compete and train in equal terms. There is no difference between them and and in every category / level they compete together against one another and also as team mates.
Leadhers : What keeps you motivated ?
Ajai: I am passionate about horses. My love for this sport and horses is what keeps me motivated.
Leadhers: If you were to look back at your story and pick up a message. What would it be?
Ajai: Follow your dreams ... do what you love most provided you are willing and motivated enough to do so. There is ALWAYS light at the end of the tunnel... Be positive ! 🙏👍
In this edition of Saturday Showcase, we are so so proud to present an International level athlete to represent India at Asian Grand Prix twice, Asian Star meet, SAARC games and SAF GAMES. A national level medal holder who is known for her brilliant performance on track. A woman with a "never give up" attitude and whose roller coaster journey is only going to leave you with a feeling of high.
Meet and get to know International athlete, Golden Girl of Mangalore, Heptathlon, 100m hurdles , 4X100m, 4X400m relay race and discuss throw champion -
Shreema is winner of many many accolades and medals, some of her distinguished honours are:
Kannada Rajyothsava award
Republic Day award
Independence Day award
Kreeda Bharathi Award
Winner of Rani Abbakka Award in March 2020- a prestigious award given to distinguished women.
Leadhers: Hi Shreema. Really proud to have you at Leadhers. Could you tell us about your journey into sports.
Shreema: My journey into sports started in the year 2000. My mom was a national athlete and it was her dream to see me as an athlete at international level, which pushed me into the track. I was rejected as an athlete in class 7. When I developed interest towards 100mts hurdles in the year 1998, my teacher told me I cannot win medal even at cluster level competitions and kept me back in school on the event day. This hurt me deeply and I stopped training. Later at high school, my mom met my coach and requested him to take me under his guidance. But my heart was not into it.
On my 13th birthday, I did not go to the stadium to train as I thought my Mom will not say anything and would agree to let me be at home and eventually see that I did not want to get into sports. But when she came home after work, she dragged me to the main door and told me go practice at the stadium and come back home after finishing my coaching. From that day on I did not look back .. my 13th birthday was the day when my actual journey into sports started.
I trained day and night just to win one national medal.
First year I did a taluk (district)level record in discuss throw. For the next 3 years I represented my state but did not win any medal at any national event. I came back without winning a single medal at six national events. Although I gave up at that point but my coach persisted and never gave up on me. With every defeat, he encouraged me more. Eventually, I started putting in more efforts from 5 hours of training to 7 hours of intense training.
Finally, in 2004, I won my 1st medal in nationals and to my surprise it was a gold medal in the same event my teacher told me I'm not good at. So yes, my 1st National medal was gold in 100mts hurdles and National gold in discuss throw and a Silver medal in the same Nationals in heptathlon.
My coach had a dream to make me a heptathlete because till date there was no heptathlete from Mangalore. So, I transitioned into heptathlon and started breaking records in state competition. This is how, I had made my record in discuss throw, heptathlon.
My proud moment came when I created history in Mangalore University competition winning 6 gold medal in 100mts, heptathlon, discuss throw, 100mts hurdles, 4*100 mts relay, 4*400mts relay. Other than the relay, I created a new meet record in four events, which no girl had created in a single competition. From 2004 to 2011 I won continuous medals at nationals. I have a total of 18 national medals with me. As well as record in 100mts hurdles state dasara is also in my name created in the year 2008
Leadhers: What a story of perseverance. Was there any turning point in your journey?
Shreema: Yes, there are many. I got married in the year 2009 and I took only 2 days break for my marriage. When I got back to the stadium, people criticised me for wearing shorts (as I was married). My reaction would be just a smile. Internally, it made me tougher and more determined to prove them wrong by winning national medal even after my marriage.
In the year 2011 October I did my last state competition where I won 3 gold medal and also I presented the best athlete title. After I got back from this competition I went for my check up and that's when I got to know I was 2 months pregnant🙊
I had a premature son born in 2012. So I took a two year break to take care of my son. I came back to my training in 2013 after I had gained a body weight of 26 kilos.
I faced a lot of criticism during that time. It was during that time Mrs PT Usha came to Mangalore and offered to help me. She is my mentor and also my senior officer in the railways. She recruited me to Indian Railways in 2007, after seeing my performance at All India Inter University athletic meet.
Usha Ma'am's work outs were really tough. Her supervision made me tougher mentally. I set a vision and a goal to prove myself as an athlete even after being a mother.
I wanted women around me to know that we (women) are not done after marriage and kids. We still have a life and we still have dreams. We have goals that we want to achieve and we can still achieve them. Age and body is not a barrier.
I was back at track and field in 2014, with better shape, better body, better speed, better strength mentally and physically.
I won 3 gold medals in the Divisional Railway Meet. Continued my sport till 2017 and I had to stop due to severe back injury. I had a slip disc and doctors advised me to stop sports.
I went under deep depression in the year 2018 because everything was falling apart in my life. I did not know a life outside sports. I started hating myself, everything came like a volcano in my life I started smoking, drinking heavily and all I wanted to was to end my life. Sadly a strong will powered girl like me attempted to commit suicide during the lowest phase of my life. Luckily, I was saved by God's grace and I took medical help for recovery and also to end my bad habits.
In the year 2019 I did my 1st pageant at Mrs Mangalore. I had to unlearn and learn a lot of new things for my second career at the ramp. I had put in a lot of hard work for my second career into modelling.
In 2019, I won my First pageant Mrs Mangalore title
This year I competed in Mrs KARNATAKA and won the 1st runner up title. I also got selected for Mrs South India which will be held this June. I took this decision of shifting my field from sports to modelling as I had earned a lot of good name in the field of sports for which people call me the "Golden Girl of Mangalore".
What pulled me out of my lowest days of depression was a vision of me standing strong no matter how much others try to put me down. A woman is always stronger the more she gets hit on her back.
Schools and colleges started inviting me as guest to encourage their students to share my personal experience. I do it to give back to the society.
I am so determined to continue my journey, but I am taking one step at a time.
Leadhers: What would be your message to our community of Leadhers ?
Shreema: The only message I want to convey to Leadhers is dare to live the life you have dreamt of. Never give up on your dreams. Explore your talents and give your best through hard work. End of the day, the certificate you earn does not count but the lessons you learnt do. There maybe ups and downs in life but always remember you only get stronger if you deal with them and not run away from failure. Either we win or we learn, there is no failure.
Life is beautiful.
Be good and do good.
This one is a very special story of a firebrand Leadher Jyoti Dhawale...better known as Jodha..!
Meet the star herself as she shares her inspirational story!!
Leadhers:. Tell us about yourself:
In short : Divorcee, mother of teenage boy, HIVpositive since 2005, in her journey to life, love and living. Standing proud, tall, badass Queen.
Yeh hai meri lambi introduction : Am known as JoDha in biking community and hence that name stuck. Why “JoDha” you may ask...
Well, it was quite a discovery and love from people of Rajasthan when I went there to receive an award. And am totally flattered when they gave me this name which is connected to their most beloved queen. You might know how NaMo got his name. How RaGa got his name. Now you know how I got mine 😇😇 (“y” is considered silent).
More about me : I am fauzi brat. Daughter as well as sister. Love travelling, reading, listening to music.
After I contracted HIV (on 2005) due to medical negligence, my whole life changed. That’s when my PURPOSE of life and living was defined.
I suffer from yet another chronic condition : Eosinophil Asthma.
I am hearing impaired too, with my hearing level declining every year (current loss percentage 92%). There is a big chance that I would lose my hearing completely - but till then I want to experience the joys of listening to every sound, every noise, every whispers and sweet-nothings.
Living with TWO chronic conditions (that has no cure) has totally ransacked my body- as every long term medicines have severe side effects. BUT I am defying all odds, worshipping my body as a temple, nourishing it, pampering it, and above all, respecting it. I love life. And I want to live every moment of it. To enjoy. To experience. To endure.
Life has been one long battle for me ever since I was born. And through my experience I share my living, inspiring and motivating people who are on brink of suicide - stating myself as an example - of how I was abandoned, ostracised, shunned and yet here I am, risen from the ashes!!
So what I mean to say, as sung in Bajrangi Bhaijaan :
Thodi Shiqaayat Karna Tu
Thodi Shiqayat Main Karun
Naraaz Bas Na Hona Tu,
Kuch To Bata Zindagi
Apna Pataa Zindagi..
Kuch Toh Bataa Zindagi
Apna Pataa Zindagi.. ❤️
Leadhers: What keeps you going?
Here, in India, HIV/AIDS is deeply stigmatised and discriminated. And those who are living with it are treated as “untouchables”. I want to reach out, through the powers of media, to even the remotest place, and extend my hands to those crying for love, care and acceptance. In a conservative country like ours, I want to expose myself to show that HIV is not related only to the poor, the downtrodden, prostitute or drug/sex addicts. Even your well-do-to neighbour could be one! We need to reach out, speak up and be heard!
Leadhers: If there is a message for Leadhers, what would it be ?
In the world full of darkness, be the #LIGHT
(Tamso ma jyotirgamay)
Just like my name "Jyoti" - a ray of light, the ray of hope
Stop putting your hopes into hands of human beings. They make the same mistakes as we do. Stop caring so much about so and so person. If they are meant to be in your life, they will.
Failed business? Love gone sour? Divorced? Its okay. Just move on. Learn from your own mistakes instead of blaming the other or fate. Pave your own path. The world is big. Beginning is ALWAYS difficult, but unless one struggles, how will one know the true meaning of success?? (I say it because I hve gone through it. Experienced it. Cried buckets. But moved on.)
I remember #inspirational dialogue from the movie "Anand"
Babumoshai…..zindagi lambi nahi badi honi chahiye...
(Sir…..Life need not be long it should be big)
"Babu moshai, hum aane waale dukh ko kheench taan kar is pal main lee aate hain. Aisa kyon?"
(Sir, why do we always pull the sadness that is yet to come all the way to this moment that we are living)
'Anand mara nahi. Anand marte nahi'
(Joy is not dead. Joy doesn't die)
Stop thinking of suicide. It is NOT worth it.
Stop searching for love. Let love come to you.
Stop hoarding on materialistic things.
Stop "collecting" a lot of money. Or gold. Or antique items. Or property. Or etc etc etc. keep only how much you need or require for future.
In the end, none of those things matter. Not one single bit. What matters is your soul. Please, do not neglect your soul. Your soul is who you are, always. Be good to your soul. Love it. Give it a grace. Never forget where you came from.
You are an example for so many people. Never forget that. Never stop striving for that greatness that you were made for. Never stop trying to pursue your dreams.
There is darkness inside each one of us. Sometimes, the darkness never seems to lighten. We surround ourselves with the dark things of this world and convince ourselves that this is who we are. We forget that there is an abundance of light inside each and every one of us. We forget that darkness is TEMPORARY.
Be that light.
Never dim your sparkle.
Thanks and Regards,
Brand Ambassador/Spokesperson- Being Positive Foundation (Bangalore, India)
Community Advisory Board - The Well Project (USA)
International Steering Committee - Prevention Access Campaign (USA)
*Into making the world a better place for People Living With HIV - Stigma and Discrimination free ; Free from Hate, Free from Fear*
On today's edition of Saturday Showcase, we feature the very dynamic Jui Banerjee telling us about her amazing journey of transition, one of not slotting oneself into one role for life.
This story is made of dreams. One that of turning one's dream and passion into reality. One that of breaking barriers. Of bringing the very essence of womanhood which is nurturing, caring and that of preserving.
Read this very inspirational story and be inspired.
In her own words “Life is an adventure. An epic one “.
Leadhers: Tell us about yourself.
Jui : My story is that of a middle-aged lady who gets to live her dream, a wild one quite literally, after completing all the worldly responsibilities. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve absolutely loved the first phase of my life. I’ve been a homemaker and a mother and have drawn immense pride and satisfaction from both the roles. You immerse yourself heartily and fulfil the roles to the best of your capability.
Then there comes a time when you’re all done and it’s time to do a little something for yourself. Just when I was contemplating about how I would deal with my empty nest, my best friend and husband came up with this brilliant idea where I could indulge my two passions in life, meeting new people and working on wildlife conservation.
At this stage I should probably retrace my steps and give you a background and context to what I’ve just said. We came to Kenya as a family in 2010 with my husband’s job. Kenya is a beautiful country with friendly, courteous people and very rich wildlife. The settling down process was quite easy.
Having done that, we set about doing what most people do…going on safaris. We have always been nature lovers as a family, but I have this extra love for animals. In school, my best memories were of projects we did with World Wildlife Fund on ‘Project Tiger’. Here in Kenya, I was able to rekindle that passion for wildlife and get my whole family involved as well. We soon became members of a voluntary organization called Friends of Nairobi National Park. Through them we had immersed ourselves in various projects for the conservation of wildlife and mitigation of human-wildlife conflict. Once our son left for college, we decided that we would quit our ‘regular life’ and embark on an epic adventure. That is when our camp came into existence.
Our camp is a small eco camp in Masai Mara, situated in a private conservancy. A private conservancy is a very different concept here in Kenya. It is an initiative to create new habitat for wildlife by leasing the land from the Masai tribe, who would have otherwise used it for grazing their cattle. In return, they get an assured lease rental and jobs to work in camps like ours. By bringing them on board, they automatically start playing an integral role in the endeavour to protect the wildlife and their habitat. My husband and I live in our camp and try to make it commercially viable.
My role here is really an extension of what I have done all my life as a housewife. I continuously draw from the skill set that I have acquired over the years. Here, I would like to point out that the multiple roles that a homemaker plays all add up to a rich accumulation of life skills. So, all you homemakers out there, please be very very proud of your contribution to society. You are a chef, a nurse, an interior designer, a manager, a hostess, a socialite…. the list goes on and on. My team comprises of Masai men. My primary job is to be the bridge between the Masai and the world. We have clients from all over the world and delivering our product to an international clientele using the simple resources at hand is challenging at times. But life would have become boring had it not been for such obstacles. It has forced me to push my own boundaries, change the norms and immerse myself in a continuous learning process. Being the only woman in this work environment brings its own set of problems. But I guess, every woman knows how to function in a patriarchal society. It’s a long road to walk but walk we definitely will.
Leadhers : Would you tell us something about working with the locals especially the Masai tribe please. How is it working with a native tribe?
Jui : Very little is known about the Masai tribe. Till date, they remain a mystery to most. I believe the wildlife is still existent in such abundance here, only because of their ability to coexist with nature. They don’t hunt the wildlife for consumptive use. Their existence in this environment leaves behind a very low footprint. And that in today’s context has become a very important role indeed. So, we find ourselves talking extensively about them to our clients.
So, here I am, living in a tent, in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by the African wilderness. My school friends remind me that I have finally achieved my dream of living in the jungle. That dream, I’ve definitely achieved. But I have achieved so much more. I’ve been given the opportunity to live in a completely foreign environment with a tribe that was unfamiliar to me. As I have said before, I keep learning everyday, gaining an insight into various cultures and have the opportunity to be close to my favourite living beings….the animals. Living in Masai Mara gives me the access to various people whose sole goal is wildlife conservation. Through such organizations I’ve been able to participate in rescue missions of an orphaned baby elephant and a lion. The experiences of those two days will remain with me forever.
Leadhers : We can only wonder in wow...your journey and your story is an inspiration to all of us. Is there a message to Leadhers?
Jui : Dream big, push yourself outside of your comfort zone and then bask in the joy of accomplishing something that might have seemed impossible at first.
Leadhers : Thank you Jui for sharing your story with us for giving us a glimpse of your life.