Until a couple of days back, the abiding image of Deepika Kumari was of a smiling, giggling young girl who seemingly didn't care that things were going anything but swimmingly at the London Olympics last year. Deepika, then just 17, had already established herself as one of the premier archers in the world, and stood a realistic chance of winning a medal at the Olympic Games. But neither she nor the Indian team lived up to expectation, crashing out in a blaze of errors after allowing nerves to have the final say.
It irked many that even as her campaign was coming apart, Deepika joked around with her teammates. Few were willing to concede that her behaviour stemmed from embarrassment and from having let herself, her team and her country down. She was hurting badly; the laughs and the giggles were a nervous manifestation of her inner turmoil. It wasn't as if she didn't have pride or commitment. And while it didn't necessarily make for very pleasant viewing, the perception that she didn't care that she had shot so badly couldn't have been farther from the truth.
Having laughed her way through defeat, Deepika last week was driven to tears after victory. They weren't tears of joy, mind you. Those tears stemmed from hurt of a different kind, triggered by the insensitivity of a media corps that, in its desperate desire for 'exclusive' interviews, showed utter, callous, complete disregard for a champion performer's wishes.