March 30, 2012
Indian Grandmother Oldest Competitive Shooting Champion at 78
By Phil Bourjaily
The story of Chandro Tomar, India’s oldest competitive shooting champion, came to my attention thanks to Chad Love, and it’s a great story that gets better the more I find out about it. At 78, Tomar has been winning air rifle and pistol competitions in India for a decade after accompanying her daughter to the local outdoor shooting club in her poor village.
There Chandro tried a pistol for the first time and immediately attracted the attention of the coach, who encouraged her to shoot. She went on, practicing weekly and working on her hand-eye coordination by throwing rocks at bottles when she wasn’t shooting. She has gone on to win 25 national championships.
It turns out Chandro is just one of the two shooting “Dadis” (grandmothers) in the village. Her sister-in-law, Prakasho Tomar, started shooting with her and has won competitions throughout India, too. Beginning their shooting careers as 68 and 60-year-old grandmothers, Chandro and Prokasho had to fight for acceptance. Prokasho recalls hiding behind walls and cars in the village to practice so she would not be seen and ridiculed. And, when that practice paid off, men sometimes refused to share the awards podium with the Dadis, and some wouldn’t shoot against them at all. The two are slowing down with age and don’t shoot as much as they used to, and their only regret is that they started late in life.
The story keeps getting better, because the village gun club where the Dadis began shooting is one of about 20 in Uttar Pradesh, the heart of India’s “gun country.” In 1998, Dr. Rajpal Singh, a doctor in Delhi, started the shooting club with the idea of getting kids away from crime and into a constructive activity: target shooting. Clubs spread throughout Utter Pradesh. Many of the shooters find jobs in politics and the military, and the region now produces India’s best shooters, including Seema Tomar, Prokasho’s daughter and India’s top international trapshooter.