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Fifteen-year-old Diya Tapan Trivedi does something unique every summer, and this year, she’s chosen to carry forth her family’s legacy by engaging in a sport originally played only by white men.
Sharply wielding her MRF bat and hitting balls out of the park, she is learning to play cricket.
Just like Diya, cricket belongs to both Canada and India. The sport has seen immense popularity in Canada and was declared as the country’s first official sport by John A. Macdonald.
Transitioning from a sport limited by colour to a sport that binds a kaleidoscope of cultures around the world, cricket enjoys a distinct space in the homes and hearts of people from the Indian subcontinent. To put this in perspective, according to Bell Media, 15.9 million Canadians tuned in at some point of Game 6 to watch the Raptors decimate the Warriors. When India and Pakistan clashed for a seventh time during the ICC World Cup 2019, 206 million individuals tuned in from India alone.
“I started playing cricket at the age of eight,” says Tapan Trivedi, Diya’s father, who speaks fondly about his childhood memories of playing gully cricket. “And the number of bats I’ve broken, I tell you, I don’t think anyone has broken in their life.”
As a left-handed batsman, Tapan became known not only for his game but also as a dependable player on any team he played.
But this isn’t the only reason why Tapan aced hitting fours and sixes. Turns out he had his eye on more than just the ball.
“We’re living in the same society [apartment],” says Kinjal Tridevi, Diya’s mother, with a glint in her eye.
Strategically placed opposite Kinjal’s home was a cricket field that Tapan would use to practise his game for hours.
“He’s liked me since Grade 9, but he proposed after college,” she adds, smiling coyly.
Diya listens with rapt attention, soaking in every detail as the story unfolds. This is the first time she’s hearing how her parents’ lives intertwined.
Once Tapan and Kinjal’s respective parents blessed their union, the rest became history! The couple moved here to Canada in 2009 with five-year-old Diya and have called it their home for more than a decade.
“When we came here, we started working on the second or third day. We worked (and continue to work) in the food industry taking shifts… and we wondered if we’d made the right decision settling here,” says Kinjal.
In addition to the long days and shift work, when the Trivedis arrived, multilingual Diya, proficient in Hindi and Gujarati, barely spoke English.
“We wondered if we should send Diya back to our parents until we stabilized … Then we spoke to her teacher about this and her teacher said no,” says Kinjal reminiscing about the struggles in making a foreign place home.
“(Her teacher said), ‘We’ll all put in efforts and she’ll be fine.’ ESL teachers really supported her.”
Diya’s grateful for the community she’s found on the island.
“My life in Newfoundland is nothing rather than amazing. I’ve got so much support from my teachers, from my friends. When I came here, I didn’t speak one word of English. I used to speak Hindi. But my teachers they saw potential in me and then they supported me.”
Today, Diya is the only girl of colour to be enrolled in cricket summer camp and adeptly play the sport in the province. But she’d like to see many more — something only possible if cricket is embraced by the larger community, much like soccer, basketball and baseball are.
“Cricket is not put out there. If you look into it, if you’re interested in it, you’ll get to see more. But, if you’re walking down the road, you won’t get to see a cricket poster, but you’ll see basketball, baseball, soccer tryouts,” says Diya, speaking candidly about why cricket hasn’t been put out there.
But it hasn’t stopped her.
“Don’t be afraid to do what you want to do. It doesn’t matter if you’re a girl or a boy. Just do what you want to do,” she says to other girls looking to break into the sport.
Watching Diya play cricket makes her parents swell with pride.
“I feel so proud of her… My dreams come true through her.” Kinjal enjoys the sport immensely but, growing up, didn’t get the same chances her daughter has today.
“I am older than my brother and had to support my family. In our culture, men are allowed to do whatever they want to, but girls have a lot of responsibility,” says Kinjal.
Perhaps this experience makes her support Diya unconditionally in any endeavour she chooses. Like any mother, her wish for her daughter is pure.
“The sky is the limit [for Diya],” she says with a big smile.
Prajwala Dixit is an Indian-Canadian engineer, journalist and writer in St. John’s, NL who writes a biweekly regional column for the SaltWire Network. When she isn't engineering ways to save the world, she can be found running behind her toddler, writing and volunteering. Follow her at @DixitPrajwala
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