Thailand Open doubles winner Chirag Shetty rises in Malad
mid-day visits Thailand Open doubles winner Chirag Shetty's residence and discovers his decision to take up badminton attracted contrasting reactions from his now over-the-moon parents
The Shetty household in Malad's Evershine Nagar is buzzing with excitement as shuttler Chirag Shetty, 22, son of hotelier Chandrashekhar and Sujata, has returned home after winning a historic men's doubles title at the Thailand Open (on August 4) with partner Satwiksairaj Rankireddy. The duo became the first Indian pair to win a Super Series 300 title. They have jumped to World No. 9 in the latest Badminton World Federation (BWF) rankings.
As the accolades pour in, there is a sense of vindication too for Chirag, who always struggled to convince his mother that sport too could be a viable career option.
Inclined towards science
"My mother was always apprehensive about me playing badminton professionally. She did not believe that I could take up sports as a career and wanted me to pursue science. My parents are science graduates [father an engineer and mother MSc in Chemistry]. At some point, even I wanted to be an engineer," Chirag, 22, tells mid-day.
However, Sujata today is extremely proud of her son, even more than she was when he won the silver medal at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia. It's the first time she's being interviewed by a media house, so Sujata excuses herself to go in and change into something better than her regular home clothes. She emerges with a smile and a little warning: "Mai joh bhi bolungi, usmein se se sirf acchi baatein hi likhna [write only the good things that I say]." We agree; she continues: "I always wanted Chirag to have a good education because that leads to a good life. Initially, I did not like him playing badminton professionally because I felt it would affect his studies. He was a very good student. His favourite subjects were Mathematics and Science and I always felt that he too would be an engineer like his father. But he always wanted to play and would even threaten to not study if I didn't let him play. My primary reason for not wanting him to take up badminton as a career was that I didn't feel that India has a strong sporting culture."
Chirag Shetty's mother Sujata (extreme left), Chirag with his medal, sister Arya and his dad Chandrashekhar at their Malad residence earlier this week. Pics /Sayyed Sameer Abedi
Dad Chandrashekhar says it was tough juggling between his ihotel business and accompanying his children (Chirag has a younger sister Arya, 17, who also plays badminton) to training and matches.
"Though my wife was not too keen on Chirag becoming a professional sportsperson initially, she's been a great help with the kids' sporting activities. Whenever I was busy at work, she ensured that the kids didn't miss out on their training and then came back home and supervised their studies. I never thought Chirag would be an international player. As a kid, he was hyperactive and I wanted him to play to channelise his energy. When he accompanied me to the club as a kid to play badminton, I always felt that it would be a recreational activity, but slowly he began winning at school [Ryan International, Malad] and then state and national levels. I would always tell him that when I was studying engineering, the students who represented our college in sports, were most popular. That probably inspired him," says Chandrashekhar.
Meanwhile, sister Arya is happy that Chirag's success paved the way for her to take up sport professionally.
"Chirag has always been my friend and guide, but in the last couple of years, he has also become my badminton mentor. I follow all his matches. I'm over the moon whenever he wins and cry helplessly when he loses. The best part though is that now I don't have to convince my mother about me wanting to be a professional player like my brother. His success has inspired me to do well too," said Arya, a junior national-level doubles shuttler.
Mohan Nair (left) and Renu Agarwal, who are Chirag's neighbours at Snehsadan in Malad
There's high activity at the Shetty residence on the sixth floor of Snehsadan CHS with many people walking in and out to congratulate Chirag and the family. Ground floor neighbours Mohan and Irene Nair are among the visitors as is Renu Agarwal, who lives on the fourth floor. "We've seen Chirag carrying his huge kit bag and head for practice or matches right from the time he was a school kid. He's a very sincere boy. Full credit to his parents who have worked hard to help him excel in badminton," says Mohan. Renu recalls how the building residents celebrated when Chirag won the CWG silver last year. "We all contributed and prepared huge banners, celebrating Chirag's achievement. He's like my son," says Renu.
The badminton stalwart's success is not lost on the building security force as well. They now realise what Chirag was up to when they watched him leave the building for training. They relished the sweets he offered them after his latest success.
Chirag thanks coaches
Chirag was equally grateful to his coaches Manish Hadkar and Uday Pawar at the Goregaon Sports Club (GSC). "Manish sir spotted me when I was seven, and later Uday sir worked on me as a professional. Hadkar is training Arya now. The GSC members gave me a warm welcome when I landed at Mumbai airport on Thursday," says Chirag, who by now is quite hungry. It is past 4pm and he's been so busy meeting people all day that his lunch time has lapsed.
Sujata tells us that she has prepared some of his favourite Mangalorean dishes. "He's only here for four days before he leaves for Hyderabad on Monday to train for the World Championships in Basel, Switzerland [August 19-25], so I've prepared his favourite food. There is fish fry, Kori Rotti or Mangalorean Chicken Curry. I hope he finds the time to eat," she smiles and heads back to the kitchen. Chirag sure must have had his fill but one thing he won't want to do on the badminton court is to allow his opponents eating out of his hand.
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Thailand Open winners Rankireddy-Shetty make the nation proud by winning Super Series 300 title