Stand By Me

Shab­nam Singh, mother of crick­eter Yu­vraj Singh, on life as a sin­gle par­ent and be­ing there for her son through the most dif­fi­cult year of his life

India Today - - PROFILE - By GUN­JEET SRA

Last year started on all the right notes for 30- year- old crick­eter Yu­vraj Singh. Not only did In­dia win the World Cup af­ter 28 years but he was also de­clared man of the tour­na­ment. Just when ev­ery­one thought things couldn’t get bet­ter for him pro­fes­sion­ally, there came the shock­ing news that he was bat­tling lung can­cer. “He was cough­ing and vom­it­ing all through the tour­na­ment. But we thought it was just the stress, and his de­sire to ex­cel on the big­gest stage... so we ig­nored it,” says his mother Shab­nam Singh. Once the tour­na­ment was over and all the ex­cite­ment sub­sided, Yu­vraj fi­nally went to see a doc­tor. “To our hor­ror, we found a golf ball- sized lump over his left lung,” says Singh. “I was stunned and in de­nial for a long time be­cause of con­flict­ing med­i­cal re­ports. I kept think­ing to my­self that this couldn’t be hap­pen­ing to my son.”

But the re­al­ity fi­nally seeped in af­ter months of tests con­firmed the same thing. It was can­cer and it needed im­me­di­ate at­ten­tion. “We were all wor­ried. But he would keep telling us that he’s a brave boy and will come out of this,’” says Singh, her voice chok­ing with emo­tion. A sin­gle par­ent, Singh di­vorced her

hus­band, for­mer crick­eter Yo­graj Singh, when Yu­vraj was still a teenager, and makes no qualms about the fact that her life re­volves around her chil­dren. So when Yu­vraj de­cided to move to the US for treat­ment, it was only nat­u­ral that she fol­lowed him there. “Ini­tially I was a lit­tle ap­pre­hen­sive about go­ing there, but once I reached and saw the lev­els of med­i­cal pro­fi­ciency, I was very happy.” She says the fact the peo­ple were friendly and the doc­tors sup­port­ive, helped her get along with life when Yu­vraj was in the hospi­tal.

I was stunned and in de­nial for a long time be­cause of con­flict­ing med­i­cal re­ports. I kept think­ing to my­self that this couldn’t be hap­pen­ing to my son.”

Although the cook­ing, clean­ing and look­ing af­ter her son was phys­i­cally ex­haust­ing, they took a toll on her men­tally too. “It’s only when I look back that I re­alise for the three months that I stayed there, I was go­ing through the mo­tions of the day just like a zom­bie. I didn’t want to be the least bit emo­tional as I wanted to be strong for Yuvi,” she says, adding, “I re­alised that the doc­tors gave me cold facts and I re­spect that. Also, af­ter the first cy­cle, the re­sults were re­ally en­cour- ag­ing, so that too kept me go­ing.” It’s only when the doc­tors said that he would be as nor­mal as be­fore the ill­ness did she stop wor­ry­ing.

Dur­ing his time there Yu­vraj read vo­ra­ciously and found strength in the story of cy­cling leg­end Lance Armstrong’s au­to­bi­og­ra­phy It’s Not About The Bike: My Jour­ney Back to Life. Armstrong, like Yu­vraj, was di­ag­nosed with can­cer but not only did he bounce back, he also re­turned to his sport big­ger and bet­ter than ever. Yu­vraj plans to do the same, pen­ning his ex­pe­ri­ences down in the hope that he too will write a book to in­spire oth­ers one day. He also ad­mits that his mother is his rock of Gi­bral­tar. “I think my mother is stronger than me and she re­ally kept me go­ing. There were times when I would weep like a child, but she never shed a tear. She stayed strong and made me stronger,” he said in an in­ter­view re­cently.

Singh says that vis­its by his fam­ily, friends and col­leagues also kept them go­ing through the time. Anil Kum­ble and Sachin Ten­dulkar, both vis­ited Yu­vraj dur­ing his treat­ment. “Kum­ble wanted to sur­prise him, but he got to know his date of ar­rival,” says Singh. Itch­ing to do what he does best, play cricket, Singh says Yu­vraj de­lib­er­ately kept away from the game be­cause when­ever he saw a match, he would feel frus­trated. “He was at home all the time, even get­ting up was a chore and he spent his days play­ing video games and watch­ing movies,” she says. Re­cently Yu­vraj ad­mit­ted that he was so bored of stay­ing in­doors that he even learnt how to cook matar pu­lao. Now that her son is back in In­dia, Singh says that there is noth­ing more she is look­ing for­ward to than nurs­ing him back to health. “We are stay­ing pos­i­tive and I am con­fi­dent about Yu­vraj com­ing back with a bang,” she says. Her next big strug­gle is try­ing to be there for both her chil­dren, “As a sin­gle par­ent it be­comes ex­tremely dif­fi­cult for me to cope as Yu­vraj wants to be in Mum­bai most of the time and my 19- year- old Zo­ravar loves Chandi­garh,” she signs off.


ROCK SOLID: 1. Singh and Yu­vraj post his treat­ment; 2. Cel­e­brat­ing in hap­pier times

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