SANIA A SUB- CONTINENTAL LOVE STORY
Our tennis star drops her shield and sets the record straight on matters of the heart and other subjects that touch a raw nerve
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.
IN THE ZONE
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