By Dr Harvir Singh Nehwal
The night before Saina’s big final match at the Hongkong Super Open, she told me “Papa, I am having pain in the legs.” I got worried since obviously 12th morning was most important. So I pressed her legs by keeping them on my lap that night. That gave her some relief.
In the last few months, Saina has insisted that I accompany her to her tournaments in Paris, Malaysia, Dubai, Birmingham and now Hongkong. From Hissar in Haryana to Hyderabad to Hongkong has been a long journey for me, all thanks to my Saina.
While her ticket to and from Hongkong cost 33000 rupees, my tickets cost 47000 rupees and Saina paid the airfare, just like all flights to other countries. I keep thinking, Yeh Saina ka udhaar hai mere upar, how will I repay her. This tiny girl is doing so much for me.
Usually I don’t see any of her matches, even when I travel with Saina. I feel tense so I either stay at the hotel or even if I am at the match venue, I move out of the playing arena. I remember at the world championship in Paris, when I moved out of the stadium, some Indonesian players who saw me waiting outside were surprised to see me not watching Saina’s match.
This time, I had the courage to watch the final. I had the gut feeling that she will do well. I sat in the VIP arena, avoided telling any of the photographers because I did not want any attention drawn to me. But I guess, someone overheard me cheering Saina, saying “Yes Beta” everytime she scored a point and very soon my identity was discovered ! Again, thanks to Saina, I was treated very well.
Her good run this year is largely due to the efforts put in by her coaches, Pullela Gopichand and Bhaskar Babu. Both of them, just like me, treat Saina like a small kid.
After her victory, I shook hands with Saina and blessed her. Later in the evening, we were taken to an Indian restaurant where people celebrated by drinking champagne, Saina by sipping coke and me with plain water !
There was no time for any shopping, sightseeing or anything else as we had to take the early morning flight back to Hyderabad.
I remember when we moved from Hissar to Hyderabad, the children of my colleagues were older than Saina and therefore Saina felt a bit lonely also since she did not know Telugu and faced a language problem. I am glad I put her into sports because badminton gave her the language to communicate so effectively with the rest of the world.
(Dr Harvir Singh Nehwal is top badminton player Saina Nehwal’s father. He works as an agricultural scientist in Hyderabad)