Halfway through this book, T Sudhir illustrates Saina’s obedience through an anecdote. In 2005, she turned non-vegetarian midway through the course of a meal in China only because coach Pullela Gopichand asked her to. I laughed in reminiscence. The same trait made an impression on me while interviewing Saina in 2009.
My interview with her, for a national women’s magazine, was scheduled in between her shoot for a commercial and a flight to Hyderabad that same evening. We met in the green room, accompanied by her father, Harvir Singh. An hour after she patiently answered all my questions, the studio shooed us out.
Panicking, my photographer suggested she come to our South Mumbai office for the shoot. It took under a minute for her to look at her father in acquiescence and hop into our car — fuss, frills, and an impending flight be damned.
Clearly, success rests lightly on her shoulders. That’s a point made frequently through the book, as Sudhir illustrates Saina’s ambitious, yet compliant approach to success. Pushed by her badminton-loving father and a mother who Singh acknowledges as superior to her in skill, but lacking in stamina, she impressed people with her aggressive attitude early in life.
The book moves back and forth from her present-day challenges to her birth (her grandmother was upset that she was the second daughter in the family) and subsequent upbringing, schooling and coaching. And yes — there is a chapter on the much-talked-about rift with Gopi, and her friendship with P Kashyap.
By the time you read this, we will know if Saina has won India its third medal at the London Olympics — a bronze. No matter what the result, though, we can be sure she will try her very best. She knows little else. As she told the author when asked about the worth of her brand equity —“I don’t really know. My only job is to play.”