A Swimmer, Scuba Diver, Gynaecologist, Pilot, Runner, Cyclist, Lawn Tennis Player and much more.
This is Dr. Bhagwati Oza. A woman who seems to have done every single thing on earth for her age. 81 years and counting Dr. Bhagwati Oza who is famously known as Dr. Sport has many medals in her kitty. Extensively covered and talked about by almost all the major dailies and publications, Dr. Bhagwati Oza is sheer inspiration for anyone who reads her story.
Secretly learning to cycle in her college days, the affinity towards sports came since childhood.
“When I was a small kid I used to see my Grandpa playing Lawn Tennis in the evening every day. Even all my uncles were active in sports and used to swim in the Macchu River. To make themselves fit, they used to go to Akhadas as in those times there was no concept of a professional gym. Being active in sports runs in the family and this is how i got inspired too.”
At 64 years of age Dr. Bhagwati Oza went to her first athletic meet and then participated in district, state, national and also international level competitions. A licensed pilot she has over 170 hours of flying experience. She has also won 5 gold medals in national championships.
Dr. Bhagwati Oza has a very interesting mantra in life. She likes learning new things first, then likes mastering it and eventually likes winning medals in it. Also every three years you will find her learning new stuff.
No wonder this year Dr. Bhagwati Oza won the National Award for older persons in sports and adventure category presented by Government of India. Let’s have a look at what her journey has been like all through these years.
1. How did you get inspired to take up sports at such an old age?
I am an avid reader and I always got my inspiration to pursue sports by reading and also while watching athletes like Martina play Lawn tennis later on in her life. In my times ours was an orthodox society so I never got a chance to openly pursue any sport activity. In Schools Saree was a compulsory uniform and it was required to cover one’s face with the pallu, so again that made it difficult to play.
It is in my college days that I finally got the exposure to do a sports activity. I learnt how to cycle and did not let my family know. When I was in L.D College in Morbi I started playing Badminton. Then I played table tennis, Lawn tennis and later on even enrolled for cricket coaching camp.
How I learnt swimming is an interesting story. I was practicing in Morbi but in that city there was no swimming pool. The only swimming pool I could go was 500 kms away in Ahmedabad and it took me 10 hours to and fro to travel all the way there. Earlier I took a four day leave and then I used to travel every Sunday for the training.
At the age of 40 I joined a mountaineering course. I was working in a government hospital and it was difficult to get a long leave so ultimately i resigned and enrolled in the course. Usually people think of retiring from any adventure activity at this age, but for me age has never been a bar. Nothing can stop me once I take a decision.
2. What is your daily schedule like?
It’s a family tradition to go early to bed and wake up early in the morning.
Wake up at 5 and do some back exercises
I have had a lumbar spine fracture three times.Actually these fractures are common with me and the last fracture that I had was on 29th July 2016.
Have a glass of milk and eat a Banana
Start with my training for the competition I participate in.
Have breakfast which includes a glass of milk again, roti and Jaggery.
Since last 5 years I have stopped going to my clinic in the mornings so that I get time for my hobbies like practising music.
I go for social visit in schools and also do counselling sessions regarding physical fitness.
Primary lunch prep with the cook.
Laundry and dusting
Have yoghurt and fruits
Visit the clinic
Do some shopping
Go to sleep
3. How do you manage your profession and hobby at the same time?
The first preference always goes to my profession. I accept only registered cases and since last 5 years I only do consultation. For my hobby I devote ample time.
It’s my belief that to achieve something great one has to sacrifice a little. I have readily sacrificed my sleep, leisure to achieve what I want.
I have always been ready to give preference to events where my presence can make a difference. I help and counsel citizens like me on topics like how old age problems can be solved by exercises.
4. When did you decide to become a fitness enthusiast?
Not a hardcore fitness enthusiast but I love sports very much. And to pursue any sport some workout is necessary. Physical fitness is a byproduct of training for any sport.
5. What is your fitness regime like?
I have learnt that to get success in any field one of the most important thing is discipline. I talk about discipline in all aspects. In terms of fitness regime there should be discipline in diet ,time , work out , rest and also sleep
Easy digestible diet
Balance of protein, carbohydrate and fat
Take nearly 1.5 litre of milk, daily two banana, ground nut ,dates and all
I read about a female gynaecologist from Surat who learnt flying at her later age of life. I got inspired and thought if I ever get a chance I would like to learn flying too. It was just a dream. The dream came true in 1983 when I shifted to Vadodara. I was very much busy in my profession and yet i joined the flying club there. It took a lot of time but eventually I learnt flying and even got a license too.
7. When and why did you take training for Scuba Diving?
Old at age but young at heart, the underwater world always fascinated me. Reading my favorite magazine, The National Geographic and looking at those pictures it was as if they are inviting me to explore them. It gave me an immense amount of thrill. I got my first underwater experience in Mauritius where I did deep sea walking and just enjoyed watching all the colorful fishes.
In the Dwarka region of Gujarat, Scuba diving sessions started that’s when I decided to join those sessions. At the start I faced a little difficulties but it was worth an experience.
8. Cycling is the only mode of transport that you use, how does it help you in your day to day life?
I feel very proud as a responsible Indian that I can do a bit for my country. I feel lucky that I live here in Vadodara where one can reach anywhere on a cycle within 20 mins. This requires less time than a car as it gets stuck in traffic, parking problems and host of other problems. Also it is a very healthy thing to ride a bicycle so why not do that.
9. Any interesting incident you would like to share with our readers?
I had been to Kargil to work with the army under the Sadbhavna operation. Me and my friend were supposed to go to Drass and as it happens when new people come in a village, all the villagers, crowds of women and children came out together to see us. There was one 10 year old boy I particularly remember. Looking at him and it was obvious that he was mentally challenged. I told his mother to send him to school. But she was not ready to let him go.
Next there was a cultural program where the women of Ladakh were performing some folk music. Suddenly I see that the same small boy comes to me and gives me a warm hug.It was a divine intervention where the boy understood I meant good for him. His mother agreed to my request and from the next day he started going to school.
10. What is your message to the young generation who want to take up adventure sports?
Always live in harmony with nature. Give priority to mother land , own country. Give respect to women, children and elderly people. Have confidence. Think , you are the greatest person on earth and you are .
11. What are you planning to do next?
There is no plan as of now. I am a person who just grabs opportunities when they come my way. I love being adventurous and that helps in increasing my confidence. Life without adventure is like food without spices.
At the age of 12 Bhagwati Oza decided that she would not marry and rather live her life on her own terms.
We got an opportunity to interview her and it is commendable that even at this age she patiently replied to all the questions. It was a privilege to talk to someone so amazing as Dr.Bhagwati Oza