Abhinav Bindra is the reticent cerebral face of Indian Olympic sport. Courting publicity goes against his grain, hyperbole is alien to his being. Bindra just is; he doesn't try at being anyone more. It's a sign of great self-confidence, it also reflects a certain arrogance.
Trying to get him out of his shell before his weapon explodes him — hopefully — on to a podium is a bit of a plod. However, like his craft, Bindra too rewards persistence. It becomes easier when he is sitting bored on the sidelines of the 10m range at the Royal Artillery Range in one far corner of London.
So, does the gold at Beijing put more pressure on him?
"Why? What do I have to lose? What do I have to prove," he barks at what was presumably an innocent query. Too late your reporter remembers that this man who goes into a hermit-like state before the Olympics is seldom eager to share his journey before the summit has been attained.
"Have I already won a medal at London? Nahin na (No). To kya hai mere haath mein (what do I have)? What can I lose?"
But surely the only individual gold from a nation of a billion comes with its own baggage? "Everybody (who's here) is a little bit under pressure which is a normal thing. We are at the Olympics and there will be a little pressure. I am not that stupid or that dumb not to realise that I am at a reasonably important competition!," Bindra goes on. Your reporter figures that the window to this interaction is shutting down fast. It's best to slip a few in while he is willing to talk.
Aren't you easier in the head at these Games compared to Beijing? After all, there's nothing left to prove.
Bindra takes a deep breath and exhales: "That was a competition four years ago; it is of no relevance today. That was reward for two hours of decent work. Of course, there was a long journey attached to it but now, it's a new day, new game, new circumstances, new me, new everything... so, let's see. Open game, open field. I have worked hard. It's been a nice journey
this time too. Am trying to give my best. Let's hope, let's see if I can do it. I don't know..."
You do have a lot more grey hair now..
"Yeah, am getting old."
At the age of 29? You have been closeted away from everything, working hard?
"I always work hard. Been trying," he says as a far-away look creeps on his visage, "Yeah, I have been working hard."
Is winning again about ego?
"Don't have much of an ego. Ego kya hai (what is ego to do with this)?"
So the rush of winning is addictive?
"Kerha (what) rush?" he mutters in disdain.
That feeling of having beaten the world...
"It does nothing for you, are you mad? It's a fake war, anyway. It's not that important."
Then what? self respect?
Fidgety with his practice time coming around, Bindra finally gushes out in a guttural burst of emotion: "See, I don't need it, but I WANT it!"