Saina is one of the most famous sports personalities – not just in India, but globally. She has won multiple medals for the country and even become the youngest Indian to win the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award.
But like all success stories, Saina’s life had its own challenges and roadblocks.
Saina Nehwal was born in Haryana, the place where having a daughter is thought of as a curse. When she was born, her own grandmother refused to even look at her. She (grandmother) wanted to have a grandson and was saddened by the fact that a girl was born in the family.
In one of her guest columns in India Today, Saina talked about the incident that happened at the time of her birth.
“I was really surprised when I was told that my grandmother did not come to see me until a month after my birth. I was born seven years after my only sister Chandranshu and my birth was a big disappointment for her”
But rather than getting bogged down, Saina made sure she makes her family proud. She further added:
“But in it there is a message that I understand very well now about the discrimination against the girl child”
Though being born in a patriarchal family, Saina was lucky that her parents encouraged her on the path of sports.
Talking about the early days, she said:
“My mother Usha Rani had represented Haryana in badminton and she was consistent in her encouragement. That helped me build my career successfully and at just 14, I had a sponsor in Bharat Petroleum and Deccan Chronicle now. We live in an apartment bought with my prize money and my parents have taken care that it is in my name”
She further adds
“Many Haryanvi sportspersons, particularly women, are not half as lucky. They do not have generous sponsors even after doing exceedingly well”
Talking about sports in the state known for its female infanticide and honor killings, Haryana, Saina mentions:
“Men are domineering in rural Haryana and that shows in sport too. That Haryanvi women are in the spotlight for their excellent performance and have brought many medals to the state should make a difference”
Even though she has achieved great laurels for the country, her traditional relatives have still not accepted her life and the idea of treating boys & girls equally.
“My uncles and other relatives are against encouraging girls in every aspect and that includes sports. I hardly interact with them. My parents are more open. They back me all the way.”
No matter what challenges life threw at her, Saina has proved that with determination and focus we can achieve our dreams. She is a role model for all the girls born in a country where they are always made to feel less, and not allowed to dream big.
At I For Her, we celebrate women like Saina Nehwal who go all the way and fight all odds to build a successful life for themselves, and provide the needs inspiration for all of us!