YUVI’S LAST BACH­E­LOR PARTY

All set to tie the knot in just a few weeks, Yu­vraj Singh, cricket’s most colour­ful star and one of In­dia’s most el­i­gi­ble bach­e­lors, tells Brunch why he’s fi­nally ready for com­mit­ment

Hindustan Times - Brunch - - FRONT PAGE - Text by Vidya Prabhu Pho­to­graphs by Reuben Singh Styling by Mia Ku­mari

Brunch hosts a spe­cial bash for crick­eter Yu­vraj Singh, as he pre­pares to tie the knot later this month. You are in­vited!

I n 2007, when Yu­vraj Singh parted ways with Kim Sharma, his ac­tress girl­friend of four years, their breakup was ideal fod­der for ru­mour mills. Many rea­sons were cited for this turn of events; some said it was due to her ob­ses­sive be­hav­iour, oth­ers said it had to do with Singh’s mother dis­ap­prov­ing of her. The­o­ries about the crick­eter miss­ing Sharma abounded but they died a nat­u­ral death with time, and soon af­ter, spec­u­la­tion ran rife that Pre­ity Zinta and Singh were dat­ing. Some­time later, Singh was back in the news; this time, it was his al­leged ro­man­tic in­volve­ment with the then-emerg­ing ac­tress Deepika Padukone. Two years ago, when word about his sup­posed re­la­tion­ship with ac­tress Neha Dhu­pia trick­led in, it was an ad­di­tion to an al­ready long list of al­leged dal­liances: the all-rounder is said to have dated ac­tresses Preeti Jhangiani (2007), Minis­sha Lamba (2009), Riya Sen (2010), Shaz­ahn Padamsee (2011) and Anusha Dan­dekar (2012) as well.

It would not be an ex­ag­ger­a­tion to call Singh a bon vi­vant; his imp­ish charm is known to set women’s hearts aflut­ter. But now is an in­ter­est­ing time in his life, for Singh – or Yuvi, as he’s fondly called – has kissed good­bye to his colour­ful past and is all set to em­bark upon a new phase in his per­sonal life. The crick­eter has been en­gaged to his lady-love, ac­tress Hazel Keech, since last year and come the last week of Novem­ber, the good­look­ing cou­ple will tie the knot. The crick­eter is hes­i­tant to di­vulge too many de­tails though. “There’s a sangeet and a wed­ding cer­e­mony in Delhi, in ad­di­tion to an­other cer­e­mony in my home­town, Chandi­garh. The cer­e­monies will be over be­fore my birth­day on De­cem­ber 12. I do not wish to re­veal more as it is a pri­vate af­fair,” is all that Singh is will­ing to say.

Even at the bach­e­lor party thrown for him, the mod­els are all eyes for Singh, but the groom-to-be is blithe. And if he’s ner­vous about tak­ing the plunge with Keech, he’s cer­tainly not let­ting on. “Un­like most peo­ple who show in­ter­est in my life only be­cause they are driven by some agenda, Hazel is a gen­uine, hon­est per­son, who knows the real me. The fact that she takes no in­ter­est in my on-field life is re­fresh­ing,” he gushes, as he sits down for the in­ter­view. “She shares my at­ti­tude to­wards life – both of us love goof­ing around and we be­lieve Yuvi’s fi­ancée, in work­ing hard. Hazel Keech Life is in­ter­est­ing when you have such a part­ner.”

WHEN HAZEL IG­NORED YU­VRAJ

The Hazel-Yuvi love story seems straight out of a Mills & Boon clas­sic. One would think that the cou­ple hit it off right away, but the crick­eter has a dif­fer­ent tale to tell. “I first met Hazel in 2011 at a friend’s birth­day and what caught my at­ten­tion was her de­light­ful smile. As it hap­pens, she wasn’t smil­ing at me. But I did catch her at­ten­tion later that evening; I even com­pli­mented her work in the film Body­guard,” Singh re­calls. Chuffed that their chat had gone off well, he reached out to her through their com­mon friend. What fol­lowed was some­thing he wasn’t pre­pared for.

“I must have asked her out for cof­fee seven to eight times, but she kept ig­nor­ing the topic! I have been shot down ear­lier but to be re­fused so many times was some­thing else – she left me be­wil­dered. I guessed she was dat­ing some­one else and de­cided to move on,” he re­counts.

Cut to three years later, and Keech wafted into his life again. Okay, it wasn’t serendip­ity. “In 2014, I saw her on my friend An­gad Bedi’s Face­book friend list. Sur­prised that she had be­come friends with him af­ter just a brief in­tro­duc­tion, I told An­gad to stay away from her be­cause I liked her. I then sent her a re­quest but she ac­cepted it only af­ter three months.”

Is he sure she made him wait that long? I ask him in dis­be­lief. Singh nods in the af­fir­ma­tive. “We be­came friends af­ter know­ing each other for three years and three months, and I told her that I had earned a date with her af­ter all th­ese years. This time, she agreed.”

“I must have asked her [Hazel] out for cof­fee seven to eight times, but she kept ig­nor­ing the topic! I’ve been shot down ear­lier but to be re­fused so many times was some­thing else”

“I may be turn­ing 35 this De­cem­ber but in my mind, I feel like a 50-year-old. Can­cer can do that to you. ”

A STICKLER FOR HOME­WORK

Get­ting Keech to say yes to cof­fee was just the be­gin­ning; Singh de­voted a fair share of time on ‘re­search’ in or­der to woo her. “I got to know about her work; that she had starred in the Harry Pot­ter films and in the mu­si­cal,

Bom­bay Dreams. In fact, she was glad to hear that the lat­ter was one of my favourites.”

Yu­vraj clar­i­fies that it wasn’t love at first sight for him either. “I don’t be­lieve in it. Love at first sight hap­pens when you are 16 or 17 years old,” re­veals the crick­eter. Sur­pris­ingly, he also says that he was ex­tremely anx­ious be­fore propos­ing to Keech last Novem­ber in Bali. “I re­ally don’t think I am good at ro­mance, so I was un­der­stand­ably ner­vous,” he con­fesses.

THE THREE Cs: CRICKET, CAN­CER AND CHAR­ITY

One would think it is easy for a star like Yu­vraj to raise money for char­ity. But Singh says it’s not. “When I ap­proach peo­ple for sup­port, they ex­pect me to sit with them and take pho­tos with them. I don’t mind do­ing that, but it seems as though that’s not enough [for them to make a do­na­tion] either. More­over, most cor­po­rate have their own CSR (cor­po­rate so­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity) ini­tia­tives, and they have no room for other causes. This at­ti­tude to­wards char­ity needs to change in our coun­try.”

To com­bat this prob­lem and to en­sure a con­tin­ued sup­ply of funds to the YouWeCan Foun­da­tion, Singh has launched a fashion YWC fashion la­bel, prof­its from which will go to char­ity. Just last month, Singh or­gan­ised a fashion show that had the likes of Za­heer Khan, Harb­ha­jan Singh, Chris Gayle, Ashish Nehra, Viren­der Se­hwag and Ro­hit Sharma join him on the ramp.

Yu­vraj Singh lights up when talk­ing about his NGO, which was born in 2012 out of the cathar­sis he un­der­went when he was re­cov­er­ing from can­cer. It is cur­rently fund­ing the ed­u­ca­tion of 25 un­der­priv­i­leged can­cer-af­fected chil­dren. “We wish to ed­u­cate more kids and even­tu­ally start pay­ing for can­cer treat­ment as well, but the prob­lem lies in the fact that the culture of char­ity is not as big in In­dia,” Singh says, lament­ing the fact that while peo­ple over­seas of­ten do­nate with­out ex­pect­ing any­thing, the same can’t be said for most folks back home.

The dour ex­pres­sion on Singh’s face as he speaks about his fundrais­ing ef­forts is strik­ing, par­tic­u­larly be­cause it is dif­fi­cult to rec­on­cile it with his on­ce­upon-a-time flam­boy­ant im­age. Singh em­pha­sises that the year 2011 brought with it a wave of change. “When I was di­ag­nosed with can­cer, the first thought that crossed my mind was the fear that I may never get to play for In­dia again; later on, it sunk in that I may not live long either,” he ex­plains.

Fac­ing his own mor­tal­ity made the all-rounder grow up much faster; it turned him into the ma­ture per­son he is now. “I may be turn­ing 35 this De­cem­ber but in my mind, I feel like a 50-year-old. Can­cer can do that to you – it opened my eyes and made me re­alise that I wanted to give back to so­ci­ety,” says Singh, who has also set up the Yu­vraj Singh Cen­tre of Ex­cel­lence (YSCE), and YouWeCan Ven­tures to give young crick­eters and en­trepreneurs a de­serv­ing plat­form.

MUM’S THE WORD

He may re­sent miss­ing out on cricket for a good three years, but there are things he’s grate­ful for too; his par­ents – Shab­nam and Yo­graj Singh – for one. The crick­eter is in­debted to both of them, es­pe­cially the for­mer. “My mother is the strong­est per­son I know; I owe all my re­silience to her. She’s made sac­ri­fices for me through­out her life; I think she fought my can­cer bat­tle as much as I did. I know I can never be as per­sis­tent as her, but hope­fully, I will make a good par­ent.”

THE ROAD AHEAD

Singh is sure that his NGO will be an in­te­gral part of his fu­ture; if any­thing, he wants it to out­live him. “I will keep work­ing in the field of can­cer aware­ness, de­tec­tion and treat­ment. I also want to work with younger cricket tal­ent; I would love to coach them, es­pe­cially when it comes to men­tal prepa­ra­tion. Hav­ing been through a lot of ups and downs, I know how im­por­tant one’s frame of mind is when one walks onto the field.”

He’s had a few act­ing of­fers too, but film­mak­ers have failed to en­tice him so far. “Right now, my fo­cus is on my game; I want to play till 2019 and give it my best.” How­ever, he adds as an af­ter­thought that he may con­sider a stint in the glam­our world once he stops play­ing. “Maybe some­thing to do with re­al­ity shows. But cricket is my pri­or­ity now,” he stresses.

HON­EY­MOON TRAV­ELS

Hear­ing Yu­vraj talk about his cur­rent pri­or­i­ties jolts me back to the present. I ask him about his plans in the im­me­di­ate fu­ture – his wed­ding prepa­ra­tions. To which Singh quips that he is still un­sure about a lot of things, in­clud­ing his ac­tual bach­e­lor party! “My friends, in­clud­ing An­gad, plan to throw me one but I am get­ting mar­ried in the mid­dle of the cricket sea­son, so I don’t think I will have the time for it.”

For­tu­nately, he has made time for a hon­ey­moon, and the most likely des­ti­na­tion is Hawaii. “My idea of ro­mance is trav­el­ling to­gether, prefer­ably out­side In­dia where we can move around freely. Hawaii fits the bill and Hazel, ad­ven­tur­ous that she is, can look for­ward to surf­ing and div­ing, while I laze around on the beach. Now that’s an idyl­lic pic­ture, don’t you think?” he grins.

Hair, makeup and groom­ing by Y&E STYLE ME­DIA PVT LTD (WWW. YESTYLEMEDIA.COM) Troy Costa tuxedo, pocket square and bow tie; YWC shirt; GAS jeans; Hublot watch.

On both mod­els: Ro­hit Gandhi + Rahul Khanna dresses; heels by Zara On Yu­vraj: Diesel Black Gold jacket; YWC jumper and trousers; Sal­va­tore Fer­rag­amo shoes

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