Ety Khatun has become a household name in Bangladesh after she managed to win three gold medals in Archery at the 13th South Asian (SA) Games at Nepal. Her success story spilled over to fill front pages of major dailies.
Ety's story, however, cannot be summed up by the three gold medals she has won for her country. The golds won in women's single recurve, women's team recurve and mixed recurve event created history for sure. But to tell her story one needs to take into account her humble beginning from a small town and her ascent to the national level player.
The 14-year old proved that age is just a number which did not matter when it came to prove her might. But her story does not begin here, it begins from a village named Belgachhi in Chuadanga.
Ety is the second daughter of Ebadat Ali, a man enveloped in poverty and is forced to lead a subsistent lifestyle. Ebadat works at a hotel for a daily remuneration of Tk200 and live in a house built on a small piece of land. Ebadat's family consisted of five members – his wife, their three daughters and himself. As the bread earner of the family, the very thought that his daughters would go through education seemed like a luxury.
And so, when Ety passed her PSC examinations in 2015, which is equivalent to level five, Ebadat decided to marry her off like her elder sister Ivy Khatun. Ety was all set to embrace a conjugal life which would have been illegal according to the current law. Additionally, it seemed like an impossible destiny for the 11-year old Ety to leave her father's home at an age when she should be going to school. But, Ety refused to get married as she wanted to pursue her studies.
So, she decided to leave her home and move in with her uncle's family.
Her determination to pursue her studies finally lead her parents to decide to call off the wedding.
Ety returned home to get admission into class six at Chuadanga Jhinuk Secondary Girl's School. She was a regular participant in her school sporting events and her bouts of winning begun there.
Ety's big break came in December 2016 when she participated in the Archery Talent Hunt in Chuadanga. Some 10 archers were selected from a total of 40 participants, and five of them were sent to Dhaka for higher training, and Ety was one of them. But the problem arosed when her family refused to let her go to Dhaka.
Two of her rescuers stepped in at this point. They were – Naim Hasan Joardar, general secretary of Chuadanga District Sports Association and Sohel Akram, a founding member of Bangladesh Archery Federation. They met with Ety's father who was asked to visit at Chuadanga stadium and after rounds of heated arguments, they managed to convince Ebadat to send Ety to Dhaka.
And here came the setback. Ety failed to demonstrate her prowess while in Dhaka, during training, and was sent back to Chuadanga.
However, Ety did not give up hope, she came back and met Sohel Akram, who took her under his wing and told Ebadat that it was his duty to ensure that Ety succeeded in her pursuit. Sohel ensured that Ety was sent back to Dhaka for further training, and since then Ety did not have look back and think twice regarding her future course.
Sohel Akram ensured everything Ety needed for her progress, her education, her archery training and whatnot. Ety qualified for the Tokyo Olympics 2020 earlier and now, she has created history after winning three gold medals in Nepal.
Sohel Akram is surely a proud man as he had been the pivotal person in Ety's career.
Looking back at the early days, Sohel said, "When the sports teacher of her school brought her to me, he had said that Ety was a talented girl. She is also a very humble girl. Since the day she went to Dhaka, I had been treating her as my daughter. I told her that she would clinch gold for Bangladesh one day."
Sohel Akram hoped against all odds and he kept dreaming about Ety winning golds for Bangladesh. He still dreams of Ety winning golds in the Olympics.
"I wish that Ety will one day participate in the Olympics and win gold for Bangladesh trumping all the big stars," he declared.
Naim Hasan Joardar, another man who was influential in ensuring Ety's progress, was also immensely proud with her success. He said, "Ety is our golden girl. She has hoisted the national flag in foreign lands on our behalf. She will participate in bigger events from now on and we will help her in every way possible."
Ebadat Ali, Ety's father, who almost married her off before the Bangladeshi pocket Hawkeye could bloom to her fullest, was very proud of her daughter's achievement. He said, "I have raised my daughter while under duress. Poverty had forced me to decide in favour of her early marriage because I did not have the ability to send her school. I did not have the capability to meet her desires."
Ebadat was thankful to Naim and Sohel as they had shouldered the responsibility of helping Ety to achieve her dreams.
Rebeka Khatun, head mistress of Chuadanga Jhinuk Secondary Girl's School was also visibly delighted with Ety's achievement. She said, "Ety was a gifted girl. The teachers of the school helped her in all manners with her studies. We are delighted that she has won the gold medals."
Chuadanga District Commissioner Nazrul Islam Sarker promised that Ety's family will be provided with financial help following her success. He said, "I have heard that Ety has won three gold medals. She has brought honour for her district, her family will be helped in every manner possible."
Ety Khatun, a brave girl from an unknown village managed to bring glory for her country. Her resolve to pursue her desire kept her from veering away into a life she would have regretted all her life. If she had not dreamt big, Bangladesh would have missed out on a gifted girl who brought glory to her motherland.
The story of Ety Khatun is not of a talented archer who clean swept for Bangladesh at the SA Games in Nepal. It is of a bold girl who defied age and social norms to meet her dreams. The Olympics are right around coroner, and Ety, the pocket Hawkeye of Bangladesh, has surely aimed her bow at that.