It started as a form of exercise for the kids, but soon the parents joined in.
Sucheta Kundu was always conscious of equipping her two daughters with tools to defend themselves. But that wasn't quite the intention to join a martial arts class in 'Choi-Kwang-Do', a form derived from Tai-Kwang-Do but less taxing on the joints. Varnika and sister Satvika started their training about 10 years ago when the parents also joined in and soon all finished their black belts in the form.
'This form focuses on self-defence. Its philosophy is the same as other martial arts — only use it to protect yourself and never to hurt someone else,' says Varnika, the 29-year old DJ who was stalked, chased and harassed by Vikas Barala and friend in Chandigarh in the widely covered case. Since then, attempt-to-abduct charges have been slapped on the accused.
'It's easy to learn and enjoyable. You learn various kicks, punches and blocks. Thanks to the training I never felt that I can't take on a man. I never wanted to be in a situation where I have to use it and I'm lucky I didn't have to, but we realise it's important to know some form of self-defense.'
Varnika has been lauded not only for showing presence-of-mind during her stalking in the middle of the night but also being brave in taking on the fight against an influential man. She says she can't emphasise enough how women need to be aware while out. 'I can't say if my training in self-defence helped, but I have always been observant and alert. And that always gives me confidence that I can handle myself.'
Her family has become a symbol of the support women in all families deserve to get, especially when it comes to fighting crimes — breaking the barriers of the differential treatment boys and girls get. But it is never a question of just one event. It is a matter of upbringing. Varnika was brought up to think on her own but also learn to fight for herself.
'We never used to worry about our daughters being out alone as we knew they can fight back. Even otherwise, we would discuss what they should do in all kinds of situations so they are never caught in the headlights and can think quickly. Contingency and emergency plans were gone over,' says Sucheta, Varnika's mother.