In the backyard of the picturesque Sheri Kashmir Stadium ground in north Kashmir, a small patch is left vacant by the stadium authorities.
But on any day, it is on this leftover land that the best of all sports activities take place.
Faisal Ali, 26, has been training young boys and girls in martial arts, particularly in kickboxing, for almost eight years now – on the vacant space behind the stadium, charging a nominal fee of Rs 50 each.
His years of struggle seem to be finally bearing results with seven-year-old Tajamul Islam becoming the first Kashmiri girl to represent India (sub-junior category) in the World Kickboxing Championship, due to be held in Andria, Italy in November.
‘I want to be a doctor. I want to break the bones of rowdies with my kickboxing so that I can cure them with my medical knowledge,’ Tajamul laughs.
Ali says he has never asked Tajamul to be calm when in the ring.
Tajamul doesn’t fear height, age or weight of her opponents. Gender doesn’t bother this seven-year-old girl either.
‘I can take on anyone. And when I beat anyone, I beat ruthlessly,’ Tajamul says as her friends nod in agreement – clearly having witnessed her skill every day during the training sessions.
After an hour of training, Tajamul was seen rushing straight to a water tap to quench her thirst.
‘We don’t have provision of bottled water here, so this is how we drink,’ she says.
Tajamul, who hails from the Tarkpora village of Bandipora, joined Ali’s Sports Academy in 2014.
She practises every day in the morning and after school. ‘I am good at studies. I am the class representative. I also fight with my sisters and brothers at home when they tease me or question my fighting prowess,’ she says.
Her elder sister, 12-year-old Raziul Mehmood, however, says she is the best among all of them. It was Raziul, who got her enrolled in the Academy.
‘Tajamul wanted to join kickboxing classes with me so I brought her here. I didn’t know she will surpass me. I am proud of her,’ Raziul says.
Tajamul’s father, Ghulam Mohammad, who is a driver, says he comes to see how his children are doing. ‘I feel relieved to see them winning medals,’ he says.