Women in Karnataka have been doing very well in the sport though money and recognition are hard to come by
The Karnataka State Billiards Association (KSBA) has a long list of champions. From the days of Dronacharya awardee Arvind Savur, a host of players have made the State and country proud. In the 1980's, Usha Rao and Asha Vaswani had set the trend for the present lot to pick the cue. Winning the very first Nationals for women held at Bangalore in 1987, Usha set the ball in motion before the likes of Farah Khan emerged in the late 90s. Recently, Chitra Magimairaj, Umadevi Nagaraj and Varsha Sanjeev have won awards and accolades.
Chitra and Umadevi have bagged trophies at the world stage. Chitra won the World Ladies Billiards crown in 2006 and 2007, was the runner-up in 2008 and 2009, and bagged a semi final berth in the 2010-12 season.
Umadevi conjured a magical run in the 2012 edition by winning the Senior Snooker event and the World Billiards crown a day later in Cambridge this summer.
At the national level, 15-year-old Varsha Sanjeev has bagged five trophies in the last couple of years. Usha Rao says, “KSBA has become the nursery for the sport and has been producing champions at all levels.
“The infrastructure has improved. During the 80s and early 90s, not many facilities or opportunities were available.”
She adds, “We used to practice hard to find a strong footing in the sport and set a good base for the generations to follow. It did not happen overnight.” The game has evolved over the years. Today, women can participate in many championships and tournaments to showcase their talent on the big stage.
The likes of Vidya Pillai, Chitra, Meenal Thakkar, Anuja Chandra have all been hitting the big straps very often and coming good too . Aradhana Naik and Indira Gowda are making waves in the 9 Ball and 10 Ball pool nationals but have not gained much headway thus far. Indira has even been part of the Indian contingent for the Asian Games in Guangzhou (China) and at the Daegu and Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam) for the Asian Indoor Games and the World 10 Ball pool championships at Shanghai and Manila in the past few years.
Asha Vaswani, a 60-year-old plays once a week at the Bangalore Club and contends, “Our indulgence in the sport was more for fun although I did participate in the Jamshedpur Nationals. We had members like Anita Rao, Elaine, Pamela Mandre, and Jyoti Makhija and really enjoyed those sessions".
Judy Walia, who was a regular at the Catholic Club won the State and national titles in billiards and snooker for almost a decade, before vanishing from the scene. She participated in this year's State championship though.
The achievements of the present lot, both at the national and international events, has brought in a clutch of young players from schools onto the billiards tables but only time will tell on how well they would adapt and focus on the game.
Chitra says, “These girls are not going to make this as a career option. There is not enough money on offer and we play for sheer pride and satisfaction.”