By Mahima Dayal

I used to watch her juggle a football like it was second nature to her. There were boys in college who would think twice before going to play on the grounds because they knew she would get the better of them. Perhaps it was best they kept their swagger rolling elsewhere.

Three years down the line, Facebook—which probably knows people better than they know themselves—informs me that Jyoti had been studying Sports and Health Science at the University of Exeter, where she was the first Indian woman to be selected for the revered Tottenham Hotspurs Football Club in England. My first thought of course is – that’s the epitome of cool!

Back in college, if you met Jyoti Burrett off the field, she was anything but intimidating. She would cycle to class each day, comfortably and confidently clad in loose blue denims and clima cool shirts, sporting smartly cropped hair. Jyoti and I were both a part of a trek that made it to Nandi Kund Ghiya Vinayak Pass {Madhymaheshwar Kalpeshwar Trek, 4800mts} where Jyoti, unlike most trekkers I have met, preferred to trek uphill rather than downhill. A year after the trek, she graduated from St. Stephens and we lost touch the old fashioned way.

Just when I thought that the memories from that epic trek were forgotten, newspapers were abuzz with news about a 23 year old woman striker who ‘burst into the scene,’ making it to the final 23-member squad for the coveted AFC Women’s Asian Cup {Qualifiers}. On the pretext of writing this article, I met Jyoti after three years, only to find that there was so much more to catch up on since we had left the hills. And I was glad to find that despite all the accolades that had come her way, she was still as cool and collected as she had been in college.

We know that India is definitely not bursting with opportunities for aspiring footballers, let alone female football players. But unlike most other women on her team who have taken up the clerical jobs that the AIFF offered, Jyoti prefers to be a personal trainer at a studio in Panchsheel. Given her masters in sports and health, she makes sure that she stays most fit and active during off season. “I use this time to apply what I studied, and being a personal trainer keeps me going before the season starts.” In fact, it was her training at Tottenham Hotspurs that gave her a sound insight into teamwork and physical training.

She may be strict with clients when it comes to their eating habits, but for someone who plays for the senior national team, Jyoti is least fussy when it comes to her own eating habits. Yet, with a workout routine more vigorous than most, I can safely claim that she has the best abs in the city. She spoke fondly of her training days in London. “I used to love partying when I was studying in London because there no one really gives a shit about you dancing or simply having a good time. But I have stopped partying as much in Delhi, because there is no pub culture here.”

Talking about drinking and dancing, Jyoti and I began to discuss our bucket list for 2014. Much to my surprise, the first thing on hers was a trek through the Annapurna mountain range of central Nepal. But it was the second wish on her list that left a lasting smile on her face – playing at the much awaited Asian Games being held this year.