Sania Mirza Interrupted

It takes tremendous will power and fighting spirit to earn respect where Indians, especially Indian women, have never made a mark.

updated: February 15, 2008 16:58 IST
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New Delhi:

It takes tremendous will power and fighting spirit to earn respect where Indians, especially Indian women, have never made a mark. So what made Sania Mirza buckle? She has decided to opt out of the Bangalore Open beginning March 3, stating she does not want to play in India.

Has our vacillating affection made India's favorite tennis player develop cold feet? Do we judge our celebrities too harshly?

Let's begin from the beginning. Sania caught our fancy in 2003. It was a great break for a nation starved of heroes, or shall we say heroines - Sania was young, pretty and fiery. And she played a sport that required her to wear short skirts. The potent combination of her religion and sex made her a sensation-hungry nation's wet dream.

Taking cue, media went overboard in its effort to micro-scan Mirza. They were over-enthusiastic, even fanatic - they devoted sacred column space and precious air time to her t-shirts, her nose ring, her glamour quotient, her house, her neighbors, her

It was too much of a good thing. The demi-goddess status did not come for a song - the expectations from the teenager were unreal. What more, Sania was 'supposed' to conform to the notions of how a celebrity should be.

We, as a nation, like to see things in black and white: It's either good or bad, crest or trough, zenith or nadir. Anything else does not fit in our scheme of things. That's too severe a parameter to be measured against. So each time Sania played, hopes of a billion people were pinned on to her. Nothing wrong, except that she did not have the option to fail.

Kudos to Sania for trying to please 'em all. But it only ended up working against her. Her intermittent success further fuelled the nation's imagination. Sania mania was peaking, so much so that we thought she was going the Anna Kournikova way when she lost some matches in a row.

Sania proved to be far better than the has-been Russian. She stayed focused and worked towards improving her game, broke into Top 30 and became Asia's top woman player. Not just that, she steered clear of flings, came out clean from impossibly muddy situation, her good girl image intact.

But with bigger success came bigger baggage. Anything she did, or did not, came under the scanner.

The clerics pulled her up for the length of her skirt. A 'concerned' citizen filed a PIL against her for allegedly insulting the national flag. She was in the eye of the storm for shooting in the premises of a mosque. She also invited trouble for speaking on pre-marital sex.

Imagine playing a uber-competitive sport like tennis in the international circuit with a tight noose around the neck. That can crack the toughest of nuts. So why raise a brow when Sania hung up her boots?