Mona Meshram with her family members.
By Mahesh S Kale ;
THE only way to get your way out of difficult times is through hard work. India’s ace all-rounder and Orange City’s very own Mona Meshram, who struggled with extreme destitution during her childhood phase knew how expensive it was to be poor. Overcoming extreme penury and other personal issues by sheer hard work, the all-rounder went on to represent India in the ICC Women’s World Cup 2017 where the team finished runners-up. The right-handed batswoman, who made her ODI debut against Ireland Women at Loughborough in 2012, faced several hardships during her childhood. “Mona must have been five and Sapna (her younger sister) was two when my husband left us all for another woman. I was left with nothing but debt and responsibility of two daughters.
In order to feed my daughter and myself, I started working as a cook at several places. But I wasn’t able to pay attention towards my daughters, so after working as a cook for two years I started my own mess (tiffin service). Mona being the elder sister understood our family’s condition at a very young age and soon started assisting me in my business. In the morning she used to attend her school and in the afternoon she used to assist me in cutting and washing vegetables. Mona also helped me in packing tiffin boxes. From 3.30 to 7 pm she used to go for cricket and volleyball practice and after coming home she used to look after Sapna and her own studies,” said her mother Chhaya while interacting with ‘The Hitavada’.
Chhaya went on, “Mona even used to put food stalls during the Ganpati and Navratri festivals so that she could earn some money for us.” The right-arm medium pacer, who has played 11 T20 Internationals till date, initially didn’t have money to purchase a pair of cricketing shoes. “Mona knew our financial conditions very well. She knew we were not in a position to afford cricket shoes which came at a price tag of around 80-100 rupees at that time. So instead of cricket shoes, she used to wear her school’s black shoes while practicing at the WCL ground.
At times her feet used to bleed but that never stopped her from playing cricket. Mona also had only one pair of white T-shirt and a lower. On top of it she didn’t even had a proper kit bag in which she could carry her water bottle and other cricketing equipment. She would carry her gloves, water bottle and other things in a bora (jute sack). It was her coach Baba Rocque who, gifted Mona a big travelling bag so that she wouldn’t have to carry things in that rugged torn sack anymore. I think the dream of playing for the Indian team and a strong desire to come of the poverty kept her going,” said Chhaya. The all-rounder, who now plays for the Indian Railways, actually comes from a family having sporting background. “Most of us in our family have either played volleyball or any other sport.
Her cousins Mayur, Meghna, Neha and Ami all have played volleyball at national level. The ANKM volleyball ground, Abhyankar Nagar was right in front of our home, so both Mona and Sapna tried their hands at volleyball but eventually settled for cricket,” Chhaya said. The mother stated, “It was her school coach Shrivastava Sir who asked Mona to try her hand at cricket. Mona in her first tennis ball inter-school tournament scored a half century. Seeing Mona’s fearless ability to play strokes he then introduced her to actual leather ball cricket. Mona in her very first Under-16 match scored some 70 odd runs at the Karnewar ground and that was probably the beginning of her actual cricketing journey.” The hard-hitting batswoman, who scored a double ton during the inter-zonal three-day match in 2015-16 season, also received help from Satish Paradkar Sir.
“Paradkar sir guided her very well. He not only trained Mona but also made sure that she had a proper diet and schedule. Paradkar sir played a very crucial role in keeping Mona fit and competition ready,” stated Chhaya. During the interaction Chhaya said, “I have always told Mona that work is work and that no work is small or demeaning. You just have to work hard with utmost sincerity and dignity. Mona started from scratch and has earned everything through hard work and perseverance. Her struggles were extraordinary. Even today when I think of her struggles I get very emotional. After 2017 World Cup, things have gotten better for all of us. Now, Mona is working as a senior clerk at the DRM Office, Nagpur. I am also thankful to the almighty for looking after us,” she concluded.