Home Armed with doctorate degree, Muskan Bhanwala ready for second stint in shooting

    Armed with doctorate degree, Muskan Bhanwala ready for second stint in shooting

    By Robin Bose
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    Muskan Bhanwala

    Even before she took to shooting in 2015, Muskan Bhanwala wanted to be a doctor.

    At 23, she considers herself lucky to have made more than a mark in the two fields that have come to define her.

    In the final phase of her MBBS at the Kasturba Medical College in Manipal, Muskan will pass out early next year, but even in the midst of the academic rigor, she is contemplating a return to the shooting range.

    Like the early phase of her life, when balancing shooting and academics required a lot of will power and time management, Muskan will have to rely on the same traits again.

    Specializing in Dermatology or Radiology in her post-graduation and making a comeback in shooting will call upon a streak of resilience, but Bhanwalas have it in them to come out on top when it comes to beating the odds.

    If one were to talk of inspiration, Muskan doesn’t need to look beyond the family. On the back of a glorious career, younger brother Anish is set to add another chapter by seeming worthy of a medal in 25m rapid fire pistol at the upcoming Paris Olympics.

    Muskan with her brother Anish Bhanwala.

    A source of constant encouragement, Anish’s achievements and the talk of excellence in sport within the family have played a part in reigniting Muskan’s urge to excel on the shooting range again.

    In the brief span she was part of the national squad, Muskan’s crowning glory came at the 2018 ISSF Junior World Cup in Sydney, where she beat a fancied field to win gold in 25m pistol.

    Making the choice

    After taking up shooting as an extra-curricular activity and without a thought of excelling in it, mounting the podium left Muskan in a dilemma. Academics was just as important, and the months following the Sydney high were demanding.

    Making a choice between shooting and a career in medicine was extremely tough, and with the end of school days fast approaching, a call had to be taken fast.

    It was a collective decision with the family rallying around their girl.

    But appearing for the national entrance exam (NEET) to be eligible for a seat in a top medical college extracted a lot out of Muskan.

    Muskan at the Kasturba Medical College in Manipal.

    The balance between practice at the range in the morning and pre-medical coaching classes in the evening left her exhausted, often making the going tough.

    Muskan kept at it, and after competing at the National Championships in December 2018, she decided it was time to press the pause button. The exam scheduled in May, Muskan astounded those around her at what she was trying to achieve in five months.

    “Giving my 100 per cent” in the short span, Muskan sailed through, and with it validated what she had believed in throughout. “Making a choice was essential as one couldn’t excelled in both spheres,” said Muskan.

    A career in medicine it was, but even after being among the 250 students to gain entry in Manipal, Muskan’s rank meant she had a lot of ground to cover.

    Not one to shy away from hard work, she worked her way up, and can now take pride at where she is vis-à-vis her fellow students.

    Down memory lane

    While on good vibes, Sydney 2018, Muskan’s last international outing, still evokes a lot of nostalgia. Her event almost coincided with younger brother Anish’s competition, both competing in 25m pistol junior.

    Muskan during the ISSF Junior World Cup in 2018.

    “Anish shot a day earlier, and his final (where he struck gold, Score: 585; Final: 29), coincided with my PET. As soon as I was done, I rushed to watch him. The final was half done, but I got to watch him win,” reminisced Muskan.

    After she shot 573 in qualification, sibling bonding came into play on Muskan’s all-important day as Anish gave her a pep talk in between the precision and dueling rounds. It had nothing to do with technicalities, just encouragement.

    The words worked like magic as Muskan overcame a slow start in the first series to leave her competitors, which included two other Indian shooters, behind with a final score of 35.

    “I had told myself that I wouldn’t do anything different (in the final), and the tactic paid off. When it was over, I looked back and Anish was there, smiling. The team members and coaches in celebration, it was very satisfying to watch them rejoice,” said Muskan.

    The road back

    Despite staying away from the shooting range, the competitive urge kept Muskan looking for an opportunity to for another shot at bullseye.

    The 2021 Nationals at the Karni Singh Ranges was just the opportunity she was looking for in the midst of a hectic schedule.

    Time was short, and with an insistent Anish ensuring that he filled in her entry form, Muskan landed in Delhi with less than two days to competition.

    She hadn’t touched her pistol in two years, and she took aim amid voices around her that it was ‘mission impossible’.

    Muskan astounded herself and those who doubted her by shooting 565 in qualification in the junior ranks. This stoked the fire that had flickered right through her MBBS.

    Certain that it will be a hard shot at shooting once she commences her post-graduation, Muskan is drawing up plans in a way that her second innings as a markswoman will be more fulfilling than the first stint with the pistol.