It was in 2017 when Indian ace sprinter Dutee Chand met Monalisa during the Khudurkuni puja in her village Chaka Gopalpur in Odisha. Dutee had no idea about queer relationships until she met Monalisa. However, when she revealed her relationship to the world, she learned about gay and lesbian relationships.
In a candid conversation with NewsMeter's Anusha Puppala, Dutee talked about her relationship.
The start of a friendship
Dutee and Monalisa exchanged numbers after their first meeting and remained friends for the first two years. It was Monalisa who always called Dutee to express her feelings. After being friends for two years, they expressed their love for each other. They have been together since then. Monalisa would come to cheer Dutee on at all her races which really motivated Dutee to perform even better. Whenever Dutee gets time off from racing, she tries to spend time with Monalisa. They love travelling and spending time with each other. They have already explored many places in Odisha together. They have also visited the Taj Mahal, India Gate, and Charminar.
"Monalisa is a very supportive partner. She understands that my job requires me to travel frequently, which keeps me constantly busy and away from her. Initially, the long-distance relationship felt difficult, but slowly it became better as she is very understanding. She always tells me that my country and my sport should come first. She loves to cook for me and whenever we are together, she cooks my favourite dishes," says Dutee.
She adds, "Monalisa always tells me 'You just focus on your races. I will always be there for you and will be waiting for you'."
Dutee says, "Love has no regard for gender, age, race, or religion. It doesn't matter if your partner is of another gender, religion, age, race, or caste because love is all about companionship. I have seen many opposite-gender couples who are not happy with each other. If love is meant only for opposite genders, then why are so many couples of opposite genders getting separated or divorced? We are really happy with each other and understand each other well, and that's what matters most for a happy relationship."
On coming out
Like any other queer couple, they also found it difficult to open up about their relationship with their family and the world. "A year before our relationship became public, I confided in my mother and elder sister about my love for a girl and my desire to marry her. They were shocked and told me that same-sex relationship is not natural. Initially, everyone was against me, but later they became normal. However, I had to reveal this to the public when my sister threatened to break the news about my relationship to the media. She even shared the news with a few press reporters due to which I had to speak up about my relationship. Now both our families have accepted our relationship and asked me to concentrate on my career first."
More than society, Dutee was worried about the impact of her relationship on her career. However, she was happy and surprised by the support she received from everyone, mainly from other athletes and sportspersons. Dutee spoke to her academy and coaches before making her relationship public. They assured her of their complete support.
"I was really worried about my career after all that I faced due to my hyperandrogenism case. However, it came as a surprise when everyone came forward to support me. My coach, Nagapuri Ramesh, and the Federation of India president Adille Sumariwala assured me their full support and told me that my career would never be affected by my personal matters," Dutee says.
Dutee had never revealed her partner's details as she was still in college. Now that she has completed her studies, they have decided to share their photos as a couple on Valentine's Day.
Dutee, who is currently training at the Gopichand Academy in Hyderabad for her upcoming championships, plans to concentrate on her career till 2024.
She is participating in the first Indian Open Throws Competition on 26 February 2022 in Delhi and the first Indian Open Jumps Competition on 1 March in Trivandrum, Kerala. She will also participate in the Indian Grand Prix-1 and Indian Grand Prix-2 on 13 and 23 March in Trivandrum. "We definitely have marriage plans but only after 2024. Until then, I will completely concentrate on my career. Monalisa supports me and says she will wait for me," the national champion adds.
While speaking about facilities provided for Indian sports, she says they have improved a lot over the last few years. "The Sports Authority of India's training centres and boarding facilities are good and the diet we get has also improved a lot. Earlier, the training camps were temporary, but now they are conducted 365 days a year. The government of India is supporting the young athletes financially for their training, due to which they are also able to get trained abroad," she says.
"The Khelo India Games, Fit India Campaign, and Olympic Podium Schemes have really helped Indian athletes and sportspersons to showcase their talent," says Dutee.