Big Picture | Never say never again, Sania
Is Sania Mirza's 'No' to India the anguished cry of a young, successful, talented player to her nation to please let her live and breathe?
She is 21. She is a woman. She is a Muslim. And by any yardstick, one of India's most successful international sportsperson. She plays a sport, which unlike cricket, is played all over the world. In that sport she is ranked 29th and the next best ranked Indian in the world could be a man ranked anywhere between 300 and 10,000!
And one day she screams at the top of her voice that she doesn't want to play in India. Oh, Why?
Is it to do with being a woman in a male dominated society where no matter what you achieve you will remain a second-class citizen?
Is it to do with being a Muslim, who is seen as a threat by a fringe minority in her own community, who want to burden her with their own regressive worldview and hate her for being a modern, progressive woman with her own ideas of life and identity?
Is it to do with a lunatic fringe in India who don't lose a single opportunity in trying to remind the world that being a Hindu is synonymous with being 'Patriotic' and being a Muslim is being 'anti-national'?
Or is it to do with the pressures of sport, the pressures of expectation, the pressure from sponsors and agents, family and the pressure created by your own ambition and desires?
Or is it a combination of all these elements, which finally led to a vivacious, zestful, woman who any citizen of any country should admire for what she has achieved, to say: This has gone on for too long; I can't take it anymore.
In many ways, it has gone a bit too far. Each time Sania wears something different, each time she shoots for some ad or the other and, now, even for her sitting posture, there is a fundamentalist group on either side of the sectarian divide which cries foul.
To be a Sania in this country is not easy, it is never going to be easy. But does that mean she should give up? Does it mean giving legitimacy to a minuscule demented minority and making them feel victorious?
Shouldn't Sania's well wishers make her realise that there is a vast majority out there who are proud of the Hyderabadi girl for what she has done for sports and tennis in this country.
Sania's cry of anguish is understandable, but she should also know that when she wins, Indians rejoice with her and when she loses they even cry with her.
She has broken many barriers in India, surmounted great odds, defying the limitations imposed by the prudish, sectarian society we live in and above all is excelling in a craft which requires supreme effort of body and mind.
Sania, you are the face of progressive, modern India. Please don't say 'No' ever again.