Kabaddi Adda

‘Unstoppable‘ Payel Chowdhury inspired by Mary Kom and PV Sindhu, an athlete turned Kabaddi Star

Payel Chowdhury with her husband Prasanta Karmakar, father and sister (top to bottom)
Payel Chowdhury with her brother, Saikat Chowdhury father and sister (top to bottom)


The coronavirus pandemic has brought life to a standstill across the world. Especially in the Kabaddi world, a sport defined by contact between people is taking a break from the usual tours. The athletes are also bound by the rules of isolation as the rest of us. Kabaddi Adda talks to Kabaddi athletes, staying at homes or their academies, on their changed routines, with competitions on hold and plenty of time on hand.

Our conversations with Kabaddi players in the corona pandemic has been a revelation. The similarity between all of us and these athletes and the differences that set them apart. This celebration has been an eye-opening experience for me and Payel Chowdhury was another fantastic conversation. 

Payel Chowdhury is the current captain of the Indian Railways Team and a former captain of the Indian Kabaddi Team

Payel was so focused throughout the conversation it was so easy to just listen to her and forget about what we had in mind. Distilling such a free wheeling chat into an article just cannot do justice to the athlete, but we did try our best. We still did our rapid-fire and the responses were every bit as interesting as the person Payel is.

All the athletes we have spoken to from Pardeep Narwal to Ajay Thakur have had clear plans on how they stay fit, while still spending time with family.

Payel had such a specific diet and fitness plan it is instructive for any upcoming athlete to follow. 

  • Chole (chickpeas) : before morning practice
  • Milk, cornflakes and banana smoothie : Post practice
  • 1 – 2 roti : Lunch
  • Snack with few fruits : before evening practice
  • Greens & Dal with Salad : Dinner 


Kabaddi Adda (KA): For most of our readers and viewers on our Youtube channel – this is the most common question. How are you doing skills training at home?

Payel (PC): It is all about your mental makeup, in my evening skills training I imagine a few scenarios – like there are all 7 players on the opposition and I’m going in to raid. I then try to execute all my preferred skills – a toe touch, a running hand touch. Practicing the movements and training your mind on how / when to escape is key. You could also arrange four chairs and practice a kick if imagination is not your thing.


You are from West Bengal - Were you always a kabaddi player?

Ha Ha, no I wasn’t. But unlike everyone from Bengal I wasn’t a footballer like the rest of my family. I was into athletics – the 100 m, 200 m and high jump were my events. In fact I even came third in the Junior Nationals high jump back in 2006 while representing Bengal.

Kabaddi was a chance event, my friends at school nominated me to complete a team, I knew nothing about the sport but Mr. Sabur Ali Malita coach was there, he saw me and asked me to come by his academy. I went for a stroll with my parents and it was love at first sight for me.


Payel could have been an athletics star but chose to build a kabaddi career. Love at first sight!


What was it about kabaddi that attracted you?
My father was a footballer and so was my chacha Krishna Gopal Chowdhury, he was an international footballer who played for Mohun Bagan. In athletics, the only thing we used to do was run round and round. Kabaddi had pushing, pulling, escaping, blocking and most important teammates. I loved being unstoppable.

Oh so, you always wanted to be a defender
No, no – I do defend but I always wanted to be a raider. Being unstoppable has been something personal to me.

Tell us a bit about other sports persons you admire
What PV Sindhu has achieved and her determination is something I enjoy. But Mary Kom has to be my idol with everything she has done, as a mother, and having a supportive family is key. My family and husband have always supported me

Your husband Prasanta Karmakar is an Arjuna awardee, a Bhim awardee, Major Dhyan Chand awardee and 37 times international swimming medalist for the country. Your chacha is an international footballer? Does this put too much pressure on you at home?
My family has been heavily supportive of my career. Even after marriage, my husband has supported me on my journey. When I see the movie Panga I feel like I have a supportive family like that, and there is something of my life reflected in there. Diet, fitness and playing for Indian after marriage. I even want to start an academy soon along with Prasanta.


Payel has always been unstoppable. Her discipline as an early athlete just recruited into the railways- her day used to start with training at 5.30 am, so she could complete and get back to work in time. Then an evening session after 2 hours of travel before heading home. Her dream from the very beginning was that she wanted an India jersey with her name on it. She keeps that FIRST jersey safe even to today.


You told us about your love at first sight, but how did you go from there to India captain, can you tell us a bit about this journey and the turning point in your career

Mr. Sabur Ali Mallik has played a big role in my success from the beginning to this date. Not just on kabaddi, but on my diet, training. His wife was also an international kabaddi player.
For me, I played the Junior Nationals in 2008, just two years after I was an athlete and West Bengal put in a credible performance losing to Maharashtra (a traditional kabaddi powerhouse) by just 2 points in the quarter-finals. The confidence from there led me to believe that I could go to greater heights. Quickly graduating to Senior Nationals in 2010 and 2011, representing Bengal I was noticed and asked to come for trials with South Western Railway in early 2012.

And in her very first year on job, she helped her team Indian Railways finish third in the coveted Inter-Railway national tournament. From then on she has played the Senior Nationals every year for Railways. And they have won the championship from 2012 to 2020 for all but the painful 2017 loss.

The free-flowing chat also touched on her captaincy, the pressures and expectations that come along the journey and Payel was very forthright about these tough challenges and truly grateful to the kabaddi fraternity for giving her so much along this journey. But as always we couldn’t leave without our rapid-fire.


Rapid-Fire with Payel Chowdhury


Favourite Indian Kabaddi player : Tejaswini Bai. If I have to pick a men’s player - Vikas Kandola – what a fantastic raider despite his shorter height.

Foreign favourite player : Fazel Atrachali

Best friend in Kabaddi : I love my team - the whole Railways team. Ritu Negi and Pinki Roy have been around with me for so long that we discuss everything. 

Favorite sport : Athletics, not swimming!!!    

Favorite Sports person : PV Sindhu, Mary Kom

Hobbies : Dance and music

Movie : Panga is my recent favorite

Song : Songs from Chak de India

Actor : Priyanka Chopra