Our ten­nis star drops her shield and sets the record straight on mat­ters of the heart and other sub­jects that touch a raw nerve

Hindustan Times - Brunch - - Cover Story - By Gau­rav Bhatt

You can’t use e ‘F’ ord in ten­nis ace Sania Mirz ’ ear­ing un­less ou’re beg­gin r an icy come­back. I arned th hen I be­gan to ask he if she’ fem­i­nist and got cut off idw y through my ques­tion. “ct that ‘fem­i­nist’ is a word m ns we live in a man’s ays Mirza. “Why do we need th t word? I don’t think I am a em­i­nis . I am a per­son who thinks he nor al way about equal­ity. It’s about h ving equal op­por­tu­ni­ties and rig ts. All ba­sic things and I n’ w I need to be a fem­i­nist to say these things.” I’m 29-year-old Mirza’s third me­dia in­ter­ac­tion of the day, a day that’s go­ing to be filled with many more Q&A ses­sions with jour­nal­ists in­ter­ested in her au­to­bi­og­ra­phy, Ace Against Odds. She’s just flown in from Mum­bai. She’s tired. She’s also hun­gry, hav­ing missed lunch, so per­haps that’s why the or­di­nar­ily guarded sportsper­son is so open about her life, loves, and be­liefs. She rages a lit­tle about the need for the ex­is­tence of the F word and then adds: “I am ac­tu­ally one of the most tra­di­tional peo­ple you will meet. I got mar­ried to Shoaib (Ma­lik) at 23 when peo­ple told me I was too young.” Sania Mirza is no stranger to con­tro­versy. But her mar­riage six years ago to Ma­lik, a Pak­istani, and a crick­eter at that, still has In­dia’s more jin­go­is­tic cit­i­zens ful­mi­nat­ing. Though Mirza’s par­ents were less con­cerned about their fu­ture son-in-law’s na­tion­al­ity than they were about their daugh­ter’s con­fi­dence that Shoaib was in­deed ‘the one’, most of the rest of the coun­try had an opin­ion on the mat­ter, and it wasn’t a good one.

And, after all, what’s a good sub-con­ti­nen­tal love story with­out mass hys­te­ria, in­va­sion of pri­vacy and an ‘un­pa­tri­otic’ pro­tag­o­nist? While Mirza ad­mits that both par­ties an­tic­i­pated a few ruf­fled feath­ers, they “were not ready for what came our way”.

Overzeal­ous me­dia per­son­nel thronged the Mirza house­hold, ren­der­ing the fam­ily mem­bers cap­tive for two weeks. Re­cap­ping the emo­tion­ally sap­ping episode, Mirza writes how she did not see sun­light for 10 days as the win­dows, even the small­est of vents and peep­holes, had to be cov­ered.

“Ev­ery few hours there was new stuff on TV, a soap opera. I was amazed by how the me­dia was be­hav­ing. A lot of peo­ple I knew were ready to do any­thing, to make news out of it. At that time they didn’t re­alise there were fam­i­lies in­volved and prob­a­bly two peo­ple in love and want­ing to get mar­ried. It was pretty sim­ple in our heads. It was amaz­ing that other peo­ple weren’t able to see it like that.”

The only con­cern Mirza would an­swer was her par­ents’ ques­tion. Yes, in­deed, she as­sured them. Shoaib is ‘the one’.

Their first en­counter at an In­dian restau­rant on the Ho­bart wa­ter­front (in Aus­tralia) with the then Pak­istan cricket cap­tain kicked off the ro­mance, and Mirza says “the de­ci­sion to get mar­ried came nat­u­rally to me”.

“As a girl, the first thing that at­tracts you to some­one is their looks. But it was also his sim­plic­ity. He was the cap­tain and God knows how big cricket is in this part of the world. But he re­mained ex­tremely down to earth,” she says.

Be­ing In­dia’s daugh­ter and Pak­istan’s daugh­ter-in-law was never go­ing to be easy for Mirza, so the cou­ple moved out of the sub-con­ti­nent al­to­gether to live in Dubai. “All’s well that ends well,” Mirza says with a smile.

Blame it on the movies. Hero ver­sus vil­lain. The good cop and the bad cop. A femme fa­tale as op­posed to the girl next door. Reel life is sim­ple. Real life, though, can­not be neatly clas­si­fied into bi­na­ries.


Though shades of grey are now be­ing in­cor­po­rated in cel­lu­loid nar­ra­tives, it is hard to as­sign a shade to Sania Mirza. If it were up to the me­dia, she would prob­a­bly be gun­metal grey rather than sil­ver, thanks to an oft-tur­bu­lent re­la­tion­ship that has been a whole lot about love, but a lot more about hate. It’s why she has learnt to al­ways keep her guard up.

But an au­to­bi­og­ra­phy might be dif­fer­ent, I think. So I ask her about writ­ing Ace Against Odds. “I’m tired of an­swer­ing who’s next and I’m tired of say­ing I don’t know,” Mirza says. “Hope­fully, this is the base for a par­ent to say, ‘well she has done it like this, so hope­fully we can get our kid to do it as well’.”

To pass on the knowl­edge

“I am ac­tu­ally one of the most tra­di­tional peo­ple you will meet. I got mar­ried to Shoaib (Ma­lik) at 23 when peo­ple told me I was too young.”


CRE­AT­ING A RAC­QUET Shoaib Ma­lik and Sania Mirza did not an­tic­i­pate the frenz their wed­ding would gen­er­ate

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