Billie Jean King and Dipika Pallikal. They play different sports. One was born over four decades before the other. While one loves the pure Wimbledon turf, the other plays inside a tin box. Then why have we placed the two names together? For Dipika Pallikal is the new combatant in a battle King had waged, and won, over 30 years ago.
Last week, Pallikal snubbed the purse bearers of the Squash Racquets Federation of India (SRFI) by opting out of the ongoing National Squash Championship, citing disproportionate prize rewards for male and female champions. Her ire is due to the fact that the women’s champion goes home with less than half the prize money of the men’s champion (Men’s champion: Rs 120,000, Women’s Champion: 50,000).
Pallikal, who has an array of ‘first-Indian-woman-to’ tags to her credit, had stayed out of the last three championships too. However, this is the first time she has made public her reasons.
“I feel we deserve equal pay like most of the tournaments which are becoming equal prize money on the PSA professional circuit. I don’t see why there should be a difference between men and women”
Breaking the glass ceiling is no child’s play. Pallikal might not have Herculean shoulders. What she does have, is the will to fight for what is right. Lamentably, though, the burden seems to be her’s alone to bear. Many have lashed out against the player, citing the good old ‘playing-for-the-country‘ adage. The common sense required to realise that this is an issue that transcends by many degrees all considerations merely national, seems to be missing from the Indian psyche. Our indifference has seen parity and rationality being shoved into the back burner. Perhaps it is about time we stopped playing the role of the fly on the wall, and stepped in to fight with Pallikal.