She may have bowed out of the Dubai Open but hey, it happens. Sania Mirza is just 18 - so time is on her side. Watching her powerful and graceful strokes you feel quite sure this girl is going to go far.
Along the way she is going to have to become immune to crazy Indian fans who will 'go wild' every time she wins a point. Many of the Indian spectators - at Dubai at least - were probably not even clued into tennis. But great - at least they know there is sporting life beyond cricket.
Sania is a powerful symbol of youth - and achievement. But simply by being who she is, Sania is also the face of the modern young Muslim woman.
Think about it:
- She is pursuing a completely unconventional career, where even conventional ones like medicine/ engineering/ MBA are rare for women in her community.
- She is on national television in tennis shorts and t shirt and no one has raised an eyebrow (at least yet)
I am not being 'communal' when I make these observations. Having studied at a college with a large number of Muslim girls I have seen first hand the kind of restrictions they face when it come to personal choices.
To begin with, they all came to Sophia because it is a girl's college. Some of the girls still wore burkhas to college (there was a stand so they could hang it up while on campus). Most got married immediately after graduating - at 20/ 21 and quickly became mothers.
I remember in particular one extremely talented girl - a gifted elocutionist and actor. She was selected as the lead actress in a play at the annual inter-class dramatics competition. The play was set in a Victorian period which meant she would have to weara costume other than salwar kameez. Her parents made a huge fuss about her arms showing - and this when the audience consisted only of women - students and professors of the college.
At IIM Ahmedabad, where I studied there wasn't a single Muslim girl among the 30 who were in my batch. And I don't think this has anything to do with 'discrimination' - it's just that they have never been given the freedom to dream big. Or the necessary parental support and encouragement. Come to think of it - I don't recall any Muslim boys in the batch either...
I don't say all Hindu women have the freedom to 'dream' either (read my earlier post: yeh ladki hai kahaan) but certainly many more of them are breaking new ground professionally.
Finally, Sania is a good reminder to the world of how India is different from fundamentalist Muslim regimes across the world. Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan - could any of them have produced a Sania???
I think not. India is at the end of the day a democratic country. A young Muslim woman - with the support of her family - can achieve almost anything. After all, even if the community were not to approve its word is not legal and binding.
Sania - you don't have to take up any 'cause'. Just concentrate on playing great tennis. Just 'being yourself' is a great inspiration for women, for Muslims and for all of India.