Talking Heads – Nirupama Vaidyanathan

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The game built character in me

Nirupama Vaidyanathan, India’s Number 1 at the age of 14 and the first Indian woman to win a round at a Grand Slam, was in Chennai to launch her book, ‘The Moonballer’ (Konark).Niru’s autobiography takes us to Coimbatore where she was born, and then on, right through the career growth of the author as an international tennis professional. In a chapter titled ‘Growing up with tennis,’ the author observes that some people nowadays buy racquets on a whim, thinking that the racquet is the answer and the reason for losses. She cites a Tamil saying, ‘Vallavanuku pullum ayudam’ (meaning, ‘For a true warrior, even a blade of grass is a weapon’), and adds that she never complained about equipment.

“I started tennis with a wooden racquet, which gave almost no power. The strings were thick and you had to make contact in the exact centre of the racquet for the ball to even cross the net. I played with it for almost three years, without breaking the strings even once, before I graduated to my father’s aluminium Head racquet. It was my ‘turbo’ racquet, the one that gave me ultimate power and I was thrilled by it,” Niru reminisces.

At the book release, Vijay Amritraj, the tennis legend, spoke of how the game builds character in one. Later, I asked Niru what her view was about that statement of Vijay. In response, she said that the lows in life prepare you for something bigger. “I saw a lot of lows, especially when I was alone, travelling.”

The lows, in her view, prepare one for a great moment. Such as, the book-launch, in her case – a story of guts, grit, and glory. “I am so appreciative of occasions like this because these are not normal, when things go correctly. They are not that easy. And when it happens, you really appreciate that. Because nothing came easy for me, and something like this happens, I am just like, Wow it can actually be like this!”

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