This Burqa-Clad Girl Teaches Yoga To Women Amid Stares & Lewd Remarks

Haldwani: She is 17 years old, a state-level boxer and she is in a burqa. Rehnuma Mikrani of Nainital district is defying all odds to teach yoga to about 40 women of her community.

Rehnuma’s father drives an autorickshaw while her mother works at a local Anganwadi centre. A state-level boxer, Rehnuma decided to teach yoga and other exercises to the women in her community during the lockdown.

Only four women responded. Now, the batch has swelled to forty women who gather in the local playground every morning.

The journey from four to forty was not an easy one as she and the other women who joined had to face all sorts of offending comments and lewd remarks from the local boys.

“It all started in July when my mother and few other women asked me to teach them yoga and other exercises as being a sportsperson, I was trained in such things,” said Rehnuma, who has been training at Sports Authority of India’s day-boarding extension centre for boxing in Uttarakhand’s Pithoragarh district told Hindustan Times (HT).

“I was at home during the lockdown but I tried to continue my regular workout at a nearby sports ground. There, I saw a few Muslim women doing some basic exercises near their houses but not in a proper way. I discussed it with my mother who then said asked me to teach it to teach them since I am trained in it. I agreed and then five of us, my mother, three other women and I, started practising in the playground where I used to go,” Rehnuma was quoted as saying by HT.

There was no escaping the stares even at 5.30 in the morning. “Not only they (men) would stop to see what we are doing but some also used to pass lewd comments and body shame us, saying, “Look at these ladies… what they are doing? They rather sit at home”. Initially, we didn’t pay heed to them but when it crossed a limit, my mother and I confronted them after which they stopped passing comments,” she told HT.

“Not only random people at the ground but some local Muslim scholars also objected,” said the teenager’s mother Shabnam.

“After seeing us, more women started joining us later and the number reached forty. However, this also drew an objection from some local Muslim scholars. They didn’t confront us directly but would raise their objection before the men of our community that we should not do this in public, rather sit at home as it is against the customs and all…,” said Shabnam.

“However, we didn’t stop going there to practise yoga as we knew we would face such hurdles. And we were doing all this for our health and fitness,” she added.

“Among 40 women, some are as young as 14 while some are over 45. We gather every morning as a family and practise yoga with full dedication. In fact, we have also bought a small speaker after pooling money to play music during yoga. We all really enjoy it and don’t bother about criticism now,” Shabnam told HT.

“Many of them suffered from health issues like blood pressure or joint pain and didn’t know what to do. Now, after joining our group, they have learnt many yoga asanas and exercises which are helping them improve their health,” said Samreen.

The initiative has been appreciated by many prominent members of the community such as Dehradun-based social activist and a political expert SMA Kazmi and Haldwani-based Tanuja Joshi.

“What she is doing is beneficial for the health of these women. Yoga is above any religion and keeps people fit,” Joshi told HT.

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