Her humble background did not stop Aruna of Vizag from dreaming big, as she made her place in the circuit of chess boxing.
Born into a modest background in Vizag, to a mother who earns her living as a domestic worker and a day labourer father, 21-year-old Korukonda Aruna was meant for greater things. At school, she started playing Kabaddi and was the only girl selected from the State for the Kabaddi Nationals. However, issues with her coach and financial problems at home led her to withdraw from the sport. Instead, she dropped out of school and learnt beauty parlour work in Vizag to help her family. She worked for 2 years as a beautician and played a principal role in elevating her family’s finances and saving up for her elder sister’s marriage and dowry. However throughout this period, her love for sports never left her, and she kept feeling that there was more to life than this.
In 2016, she met some of her friends who were learning boxing near her house. She was attracted to the sport because it taught self-defence and as a young girl, she felt it was needed to navigate the world around her. After 2 weeks of training when she defeated those same friends while sparring, she realised she had a flair for boxing. Her talent was also recognised by her coaches, Dhronacharya Award winner I. Venkateshwar Rao and S.V. Ramana. After training for a month she was selected for a State Level Boxing Tournament where she won a silver medal. Following this win, she went to Assam for the Senior Nationals and won a bronze medal there.
Since then Aruna has won many awards and medals. She has also participated in Chess Boxing Tournaments, a hybrid sport that combines chess and boxing. She took part in 4 National Chess Boxing Tournaments winning 2 silver and 2 gold medals. She also participated in the Chess Boxing Amateur World Championship in 2017 and came away with a silver medal. She has been selected for this year’s World Championship too.
Though her journey has been incredible, it has not been without its challenges. Aruna has had to struggle to find sponsorship. She has had trouble buying basic equipment like gloves and shoes and has had to rely on her own hard earned money or the benevolence of some well-wishers. Tournament fees too are expensive and added to this she faces opposition from her family who feel she is wasting time when she should be trying to supplement the family’s income. They are also concerned about whether anyone would marry her because of the ‘manly’ sport she is participating in. The family’s misgivings have been exacerbated by the community talking about her going out of the house every day for training.
Despite all setbacks, Aruna remains passionate about her sport and wants to do well in the upcoming World Championship. She hopes that she will be able to earn some money from this so that she can give it to her parents in the hope of earning their approval and blessings. “I dream of getting a job in the Army or the Police because these are two professions where you can help people the most”, she says.