Octogenarian shooter Chandro Tomar, who became the oldest woman sharp shooter in the world after taking up the sport in her 60s, died on Friday after battling COVID-19.
She was 89 and was being treated at a hospital in Meerut since April 26. "Mera saath chhoot gaya, Chandro kaha chali gayi (She has left me, Chandro where have you gone?)," her sister-in-law Prakashi Tomar, who is also one of the oldest female sharp shooters, wrote on her Twitter page.
Tomar, who was nicknamed 'Shooter Dadi' for her exploits, was hospitalised after complaining of difficulty in breathing. Tests revealed she had contracted the highly contagious virus that is causing over 3,000 deaths daily in the country.
Hailing from a village in Uttar Pradesh's Baghpat district, Tomar was 60-plus when she picked up the gun for the first time but went on to win many national competitions for veterans, her feats ultimately inspiring the award-winning Bollywood movie 'Saand ki Aankh'.
Well-known people from various walks of life condoled her death, including sports minister Kiren Rijiju and actor Bhumi Pednekar, who played her in the biopic. "I'm deeply saddened by tragic demise of our most lovable Dadi Chandro Tomar ji. She was inspiration for millions and will continue to inspire forever. May her soul rest in peace. Om Shanti," Rijiju said.
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"Devastated by the news of Chandro Dadi's demise. Feels like a part of me is gone. She made her own rules & paved the path for many girl to find their dream. Her legacy will live on in them. Condolences to the family. Am lucky I got to know and be her," Pednekar tweeted.
India's aviation minister Hardeep Singh Puri called her an "epitome of gender equality & champion of women's rights".
"The courage with which she challenged patriarchy & took up shooting as a sport will inspire generations to come. Condolences to her family," he said. Olympians — boxer Akhil Kumar, who personally knew Tomar, and shooter Joydeep Karmakar — also condoled her death.
"Is this corona or something else, I am having doubts now. God, please have mercy. One more tragic news.. Winner of many national awards, the free-spirited dadi 'Shooter Dadi' Chandro Tomar has lost her battle with corona. My heartfelt condolences and tributes," Akhil wrote.
Karmakar said, "Unconsolable loss! Our beloved "Shooter Dadi" is no more! Chandro Tomar, the epitome of courage and determination for many (Sand Ki Ankh fame) breathed her last fighting Corona. May her undying spirit inspire 1000 of girls to take up sports from the remotest parts!"
Paralympic Committee of India (PCI) president Deepa Malik also expressed her anguish at the tragic development. "Your courage, deeds and life inspire many. You have taught generations to live life on your own terms with hard work & passion, may we all uphold your legacy. My deepest condolences to the family and near & dear ones of 'Shooter Dadi'," Malik said.
Considered a feminist icon, Tomar was all of 15 when she got married and took to shooting after she was well over 65. It all started with a chance visit to a shooting club when her grand-daughter expressed a desire to pursue the sport. Tomar picked up the gun and took a shot while at the club and hit the bull's eye, impressing the club coach.
"I am deeply saddened and again shocked after listening that we lost our another gem. Dadi Chandro Tomar was Inspiration for many youngsters. You will be missed Dadi. RIP Dadi," tweeted double Olympic-medallist Sushil Kumar, who knew her closely. Tomar went on to take part in several competitions along with her sister-in-law Prakashi, who was also depicted in the movie inspired by their lives. The two broke all kinds of stereotypes, including battling patriarchy.
While the men at home objected to their shooting, they were helped by their sons, daughters-in-law, granddaughters and daughters, including active trap shooter Seema Tomar, as they would quietly sneak out of the house to practice the sport at a nearby range. Once she got hooked on to the sport, there was no looking back as she went on to win medals at numerous national competitions for veterans."The courage with which she fought patriarchy and popularised shooting, will inspire generations to come. May god bless her soul and give strength to her family," said Olympic-bound shooter Sanjeev Rajput in his tribute. "Dadi Chandro Tomar was the coolest Dadi and an inspiration for many. My condolences to her family and well wishers. Om Shanti Dadi," tweeted cricket icon Virender Sehwag.