Its not just about badminton…

Badminton is not just my game, it’s what defines me. It’s what makes me who I am.
I started playing in Mumbai when I was 9 years old. My dad was an active player in our colony and would play outdoor badminton with his friends. (I would often join him for a game or two.)He was the one who introduced me to the game. After I started beating him and his friends, he entered me in my first ever school tournament where I secured the third place. In the following summer, I joined a summer coaching camp under Santosh Kshatriya and in exactly two months I won my first under 10 state tournament. From there on my romance with badminton began and and is still going very strong. We haven’t given up on each other.

Playing a sport is a great leveller. Like any other profession you are only as good as your form on the given day. It’s a very tough life. You work harder than ever before and there is still no guarantee that you will get the desired result. You might still lose. The only thing you have to do is get up the next day and stretch your limit of hard work. And the same logic applies to your victories. Even if you are the champion, to stay there you have to work twice as hard as your opponents. Everyone out there wants to beat you and you have to be strong enough to defend the champion tag. My sport has made me a very tough person. In all of the 14 years spent on the court I have done everything short of killing myself to achieve my goals. I have achieved a little and am trying to achieve the rest.
The life of a badminton player is a life of discipline. Your life becomes a time table. You get up at 6.30 in the morning do your meditation, you have your milk and fruits, you get to the court train there for about three hours, get back home write your journal, have lunch, then take a nap for an hour, get ready for your next session, train again for two hours ,come back have and dinner, write your journal (if you’re into writing like I am), have your milk, sleep by 10.30. You do this day in day out, six days a week. You get one Sunday to be normal, to watch a movie, to meet your friends. I have never seen this lifestyle as a sacrifice. To say the least this is the only life I know and I have no complaints. The court is my place of peace.

For me, sports is not about winning and losing. I have had my share of victories and losses and after years of experience in the sport, I have learnt to deal with that. What I find the tough to handle is the injuries that you have to face. India is not a sports-oriented country. We are slowly getting there. We still don’t have professional centres to deal with injuries. Sports injuries are totally different from the normal injuries and they have to be dealt with differently. The diagnosis and the operations may be the same but the rehabilitation and the treatment is totally different. The awareness to this kind of sports rehabilitation facility is still lacking. It’s very difficult to find personal trainers with a real knowledge about sports injuries. The very few that we might have are very difficult to spot or extremely expensive to afford, especially for a middle-class girl like me.

So when six years back I had my first major fall and broke my right knee (to be specific I had an anterior cruciate ligament tear and a completely raptured cartilage ),it was a major setback. At that point it was uncertain if I would ever compete again. I was 17years old then. I think my parents were the one who suffered much more than me. They never thought that I would play again. To tell you the truth, I never ever thought that I would let this stop me from achieving my dream of being the best I could be. When I lay on my bed on the night of the fall, I had already planned how I was going to deal with the situation. I found myself a doctor – Dr.Sundresh from the Ramaih hospital in Bangalore. I still remember our first meeting. He looked at my knee and sat down on his chair. I had gone to meet him with one of my friend’s mother as my parents were home in Pune. The first thing he said was that its pretty bad and ill need an operation. I asked him when will I play again he said it would at least take me a year to get back on the courts. I wasn’t expecting a year and I was silent for a while. He said if you really want it bad, a year would be nothing. I looked at him and I told myself just to believe him.

I got my operation done the next day. My rehab started after a week. I got my program from him and the doctors helped me till I could walk without my crutches. The real test started from there. i got back to pune and I had no idea of how to go about my rehab. I started gathering information from the doctors I knew and the internet. I also tried to speak to the senior players who had undergone such problems. I tried to find personal trainers but I couldn’t really find anyone and people I did find were too expensive. I couldn’t really burden my parents with that kind of expense, neither did I have any sponsors. It was very clear I had to find my own way out by myself.
Even though, as an outsider, this period of my life could be seen as unfortunate, it was in reality a blessing in disguise. This period of my life made me independent, It pushed my limits and showed me what I’m capable of. It made me understand how important this game is to me, and made me humble enough to realize the importance of living life for its each and every moment. the best thing that happened to me was the people I had around me. All my coaches never ever gave or showed me any sympathy. They never consoled me neither did they question my future. They told me that self pity and sympathies help no one. The only thing you have to do is ask for is solutions. You find your solutions and start working on the problems with the belief that anything done with honesty will always take you to your goal.
I followed my path and came out with flying colors. I achieved my goals of being the national champion in all the age groups and being the world no 27 in 2008 (presently im 102) and never used my injuries as an excuse. My game has taught me that if you believe in something then you just go ahead and get it. Nothing is impossible if you really want it.

Being a player you have to travel around a lot. I have today at 23years of age seen 30 to 40 nations at least . To a lot of them I have travelled alone without a team or my parents. I have explored a whole lot of countries and places. seen the culture, the food, the different languages, etc. I have always loved travelling and my game helps me do that. I am today very confident and well equipped than most of the girls my age, and my game is solely responsible for that. I can live in any condition and survive. You don’t have a choice in a foreign land. However scared you are you put up a brave face and deal with it. Nobody has the time neither the need to calm your fears.

Throughout my journey the greatest gift that my game has given me is the people I have met because of it. I have worked under Prakash Padukone, Vimal Kumar,Hemant Hardikar,and so many more .I have seen them live their lives with extreme humility and integrity. They have never let their achievements change the people they are. They have always taught me to play the game for the love of it, not really for the money or the fame. The money and the fame have always been secondary. They have dedicated their lives for the game and continue to do so even today. People like them have always raised the bar for me, not just on the court but off it too. It sometimes gets very difficult to be as good as them, but its always good to have people like them around. It has a very humbling effect on you.

I have infinite reasons to thank badminton. All I want to say is that every young kid in India has to get an opportunity to pursue a sport. Sport should be as important as academics. It builds your character, it teaches you to lose with as much grace as you do when you win. It makes you independent and helps you believe in your abilities. It makes you realize that life is not only about the glory its more about the way you chose to attain it. Its the path, the time, the sacrifices you have made to reach your goals. Its shows you the importance of a honest days work and the satisfaction you have before you sleep at night because of it. Its about those moments where everything goes against you but you don’t give up,and stand up for your dreams. Sports gives you reason to look back at your life and be really proud of it.

Today in India we have a lakh of engineers and doctors but we don’t see that kind of number in sports. We still tend to follow the easier path and follow the crowd. I am hoping after reading all that I have said I have given some of you good reasons to pick up a sport as your career.
If being good in studies gives you a good salary, being a sportsperson gets you the salary but also strengthens you to face life with all its drawbacks and sorrows .Lets help our children to choose the path less traveled and bring glory to our nation.


the aji-ajoba week!

i have always envied friends who live with their grandparents. i was never that lucky. aji-ajoba have been in gwalior since their birth. i remember going to gwalior when i was younger for my summer holidays. once i started playing i saw them less n less. i always miss my grandparents. with my busy life it almost becomes impossible to spend time with them. though this time when they came to pune i promised myself that whatever free time i have i will only be with them. its been an amazing week.

aji-ajoba love to talk. rightly so, they have so many stories to tell. ajoba is 81 and aji is in her seventies. ajoba was the 12th kid of the family,and the youngest too. he says he doesnt really know his real birthdate. at that time there were no birth records. he says parents used to get confused about who was their kid and who wasnt. ajoba had 5
buffaloes in his backyard. he used to get 5 litres of milk from each one. milking them was his department. he said it was the hardest job he ever did. he said after a while the buffaloes had got so used to him that they would kick anybody else other than ajoba if they came near. the most funny story he loves to tell is about his swimming picnic.
he had taken a couple of younger kids to swim in a lake. they all finished and were drying themselves up. all of them were standing at a height of a 3 storey building. one of my mama was standing right on the edge and covering himself up. when suddenly from nowhere a bull came charging at him. mama panciked and jumped. due to his panic he jumped not in the water but on land on the opposite side. ajoba went running not towards mama but towards the farmer who left the bull free. mama was left unconscious. ajoba hammered the farmer and took mama to the hospital on the same bull that caused this. luckily for ajoba, mama miraculously escaped with just a few scratches. you have to listen to ajoba telling this story. he is at his animated best.

ajoba was a librarian all his life. aji was a school teacher for forty years. i know the aji-ajoba love story by heart by now but i still ask aji to narrate it to me. she blushes her way to glory and i love to see that. aji-ajoba’s was a arranged marriage. aji was from kalyan and one of her mama knew ajoba and was impressed by him. aji went to meet ajoba with her mother and mama at dabra. ajoba at that time worked there. ajoba had no clue that aji was coming to visit. when aji reached the house ajoba was not home. there was a watchman who led them in. aji says the first thing she checked was for cigrattes or alcohol she didnt find any. the next thing on agenda was the kitchen. she says more than ajoba it was the kitchen that impressed her the most. she says it was as clean as a woman would keep it. when ajoba came in he was surprised to see them. he asked them the purpose of their visit,mama took him aside and told him. ajoba always makes fun of aji,” its usually women who comes in with poha and chai for the man,but in our case it was me who got the poha and chai.” aji ate the poha and instantly agreed, ajoba on the other hand was surprised that a beautiful woman like her wanted to marry him. when mama asked ajoba did he like aji ajoba said, “if she likes me who am i to say no.”

aji-ajoba make a great couple. they both are loosing sight and vision slowly. to say the truth ajoba is a little more deaf than aji but he wont agree. when they have a conversation they usually are repeating the same thing over and over again to each other. but its often ajoba who struggles more. when both of them reached pune by bus they told me to pick them up from swargate. i reached swargate on time and waited. ajoba called me and told me they have reached. that day i ran ten rounds of swargate but couldnt find them. when i called them they couldnt here me at all. i told ajoba to ask a passerby if it was swargate or shivajinagar but throughout our conversation he kept repeating platform number 5.he just couldnt hear. i panicked and inquired at the window they told me there is no bus coming from jalgaon to swargate all buses went to shivajinagar. i rushed to shivajinagar and found them sipping on sugarcane juice they had taken it for granted that every bus comes to swargate only. that night we laughed our asses off on the whole incident. aji called ajoba deaf and vice versa.

god! i miss both of them so much when they are not around. my most favorite
sight is when a grandpa holds his grandsons hand and takes him for a walk. its the cutest sight ever. it also signifies to me the best times of our life. being old is our journey from innocence back to innocence. its a journey from developing our senses to loosing them back again.

what should i say i just love you both!…:):)


after my request of watching marathi movie deool(temple) got rejected by friends, i decided i will go and watch it alone. before you guys think i am crazy, let me clarify this was just the first time. though i dont regret watching it alone. i really enjoyed the whole experience. i had no idea what the movie was really about. i just knew that it had nana patekar, dilip prabhavalkar, and naseerudin shah and that was reason enough to watch it. also i had heard the movie had gone for various festivals abroad and had received nice reviews. to write i need an inspiration, deoul inspired me and made me think.

the movie is about a small typical village in maharashtra, which is struggling to get its daily dose of electricity and water. its about how the construction of a temple changes the whole course of the village. kesha one of the main characters of the movie happens to have a vision of god gurudutta in a tree. when he sees that vision he thinks that dutta is in it and so he goes all around the village telling everyone about his great finding. early on people dont believe him, nana patekar who plays the village politician brushes the whole story. nana patekar plays the typical politician who doesnt do any work for the development of the village. anna played by dilip prabhavalkar is an educated man retired from his job and has come down to the village to make a difference. when kesha comes running to anna to tell him about his vision. anna warns him to not tell it to many people will laugh at him or just not take it in the right spirit .he says that such occurrences do happen as god is nature and vice versa . he tells him that everyone should find his own god and even if someone doesnt want to find him it doesnt make him wrong. but its too late. some party workers and their friend in media put this news in the newspaper. slowly the news spread everywhere like wild fire and minister tells nana patekar to build a temple. before this occurrence anna has plans of making a hospital in the village and nana patekar(bhau) supports it. but as soon as he gets a call from his senior he builds the temple. building a temple turns this small silent village into a circus. school teachers vanish form the schools,everyone one gives up farming and put up shops ranging from flowers to movie are built in places of farms for the devotees to stay. dirty money flows from everywhere. they bring up a joker and call him and tell people that hes been sitting here for ages, to get that baba’s mantra people are ready to pay insane amounts of money. donations are taken from every villager in the name of god. basically a innocent man’s vision is transformed into a multi-crore business. meanwhile the educated anna who wants to build a hospital goes back to bangalore. he realises that the path this village has taken theres no way of coming back. he gives up.

the movie asks you some important questions. it leaves the finding of answers upto us. how should development be defined? is it just defined by money? or should it be defined by education, hospitals, great farming facilities,roads,etc.should god be a mere statue in a temple, and should going and touching his feet solve all our problems. does giving 10,000 rupees in donation to temple funds really ensure our growth in life. shouldnt we be responsible to where the money is really going? how does a educated man like anna bring about changes if he is always going to be run down by corrupted politicians? the movie covers a very broad spectrum. i think a 24yr old like me would be too inexperienced to answer these questions.

i wonder how if we ever decide to bring a change will we be able to do it. will we always be hit by a wall? will we give up like anna did? or will we fight the system and move ahead? my favorite line of the movie comes in a scene between nana patekar(bhau) and prabhavalkar (anna) , anna asks bhau, ” after 1000 years when archaeologists find our remains i wonder if they will be proud of what they find?” ( the opening scene of the movie starts with a archaeological site, they seemed to be doing a research as they find some remains of the harappa civilization)

its very difficult to keep sane in this tamasha of cricket,religon,media,bollywood,reality shows and what not. i just hope that as god is for sale now anyway will we be fools enough to sell happiness in a packet. i hope not.

watch deoul and find your own questions. i think i have found mine!

p.s. all my non marathi friends its a movie with english subtitles so you will enjoy it too. do watch it!!! ..:)