JALANDHAR —World Wrestling Entertainment fights may be flashy, hard and violent, but the first Indian woman to enter the WWE ring at the international level has beaten greater odds at home to reach there.
Kavita Devi, who is better known in the WWE international circles as "Hard KD," is currently training and wrestling in the United States in Orlando, Florida, as part of her three-year contract with the WWE.
Devi, the first Indian woman to reach the international level in WWE, is no ordinary sportswoman.
Even while being a professional WWE wrestler, Devi makes sure she dresses traditionally, the Indian way. When she fights in the ring, she is always dressed in a salwar kameez, a popular dress for Indian women.
"I am proud that I enter the ring wearing a salwar suit. It is part of our Indian culture. I am the only one at the international level to be doing so. Many girls in India avoid getting into WWE wrestling seeing the clothes that most women in this sport wear inside the ring. I have broken that image and more girls in my country are getting inspired," Devi told IANS in an interview, pointing out that wearing the salwar kameez was no impediment to her performance in the ring.
Being married in a conventional family in 2009 and mother of a six-year-old son, Devi has tackled several odds, including coming from a humble farming background, growing up among five siblings and facing difficult times economically.
Hailing from Malvi village in Haryana's Jind district, this determined Haryanvi Jat girl is out to prove her mettle in WWE circles.
She is full of praise for her mentors – "The Great Khali" (Dalip Singh Rana) and Jinder Mahal, both former WWE champions.
"Khali sir got me to the (WWE) ring. He has a big contribution in shaping my career. Jinder Mahal is a big star in WWE. He has earned a big name for India at the international level," said Devi, who has trained in Khali's wrestling academy in Jalandhar.
Devi, 34, who wrestled for over 15 years before switching to WWE in 2016, won a gold medal at the 2016 South Asian Games for India.
Weighing 75 kgs and standing 5 feet, 9 inches tall, Devi has been part of the Continental Wrestling Entertainment and participated in the Mae Young Classic WWE championship event in Florida in June 2017 – the first Indian woman in this professional circuit.
Even though she is fully focused on her training at the WWE Performance Center in Orlando and her upcoming fights, Devi misses her son whom she had to leave behind in India.
"I had never thought of entering WWE. I was only interested in wrestling. But I wanted to do something different. This is a very good field that I have found. Here, I can do a lot for our country. I have reached this level after going through very hard times and tough training and testing," Devi said.
Asked if the WWE is a real fight or just an entertainment show, Devi said: "WWE has the word entertainment in it but let me tell you that the fight is real. The athletes make big jumps, hit each other and get hurt. All of this is real."
Confident about where she has reached and what she is doing, Devi is modest when she says: "I feel proud that I am able to motivate girls to get into this field where Indian women have not ventured at all. It is heartening to see that girls are getting inspired by me."
(The weekly feature series is part of a positive-journalism project of IANS and the Frank Islam Foundation.)