She studies in class VIII, badly misses her mom, has fallen in love with chicken tikka and naan, and she wants a medal — not any, but one at the Oct 3-14 Commonwealth Games. Meet Khaaliqa Nimji, all of 12 years, from Kenya, one of the youngest competitors at the Games.
It is a dream come true for Khaaliqa as she marks her arrival on the international stage in India, a country about which she knows little but has taken a liking for its food. She is part of a four-member Kenyan squash unit comprising two men and two women.
“It feels great to represent Kenya. I know I am fairly young but walking around with the elder lot does not bother me. I am just thrilled to be here,” Khaaliqa said.
Khaaliqa is the number two squash player in Kenya and has defeated the higher ranked compatriot Safina Madhani on more occasions than one.
The young star inherited the sport from her father Sadri Nimji, who played for the country in international events in the 1990’s.
“I started playing when I was five and maybe my dad was also playing at that time,” she guessed.
“I don’t know whether squash is in my blood. All I know is that I love the sport,” she said.
“Khaaliqa started playing tennis at a training center in Nairobi,” her father Nimji revealed. “But now I have to force her to play that sport. She prefers playing squash all the time. It is so much fun for her.” he said.
The security for the Games scared her at first as the Village has been turned virtually into a fortress.
She almost panicked seeing police officials all around her as she entered the Village.
“It was crazy when I first landed. I was scared of the cops being everywhere but now I feel much better as I have started liking the Village. Everyone is so friendly here,” she said.
The little wonder that she is, Khaaliqa is sad at not being able to meet her father regularly as only players and officials are allowed to live in the village.
“I have met him only once since I came here. I can’t meet him at will, so I talk to him on the phone all the time. I badly miss my mom, brother and cousins and can’t wait to get back home,” she said.