People have no right to question my Indianness: Jwala Gutta

Jwala Gutta
Jwala Gutta recently took to Twitter to take aim at vitriolic trolls on social media after being subjected to racist abuse and bullying. File photo

The glamour girl of Indian doubles badminton scene once, Jwala Gutta is a match for any model. More than that, what sets her apart from her peers is her courage to speak her mind. She never hesitates to spell out what people have been discussing in hushed tones.

The outspoken Jwala recently took to Twitter to take aim at vitriolic trolls on social media after being subjected to racist abuse and bullying. She tweeted that she was an Indian and that no one asked about her religion or caste when she won medals for the country. The Commonwealth Games gold medalist added that her wins were celebrated by the entire country while urging her followers to not divide the country but stay united.

The 36-year-old, who retired from the sport about two years ago, is currently devoting her time to Andhra government’s COVID-19 prevention and mitigation works.

Talking to Malayala Manorama about India’s prospects in badminton in the upcoming Olympics in Tokyo, the Olympian said her hopes were pinned only on P V Sindhu who might get home a medal.

Excerpts from the interview:

You have constantly been targeted with racial abuse online. What could be the reason?

As you know my mother Yelan is of Chinese descent. Because of that I have been getting taunted and called ‘Chinese’ and ‘chinki’. Whenever I air my opinion on anything on the social media, people who get offended resort to name-calling and racist abuse. The coronavirus outbreak has added a new slur – half Corona - to the list. They even go to the extent of saying that I might get coronavirus infection because I’m Chinese! I’ve donned Indian colours for over 20 years and won many prestigious honours for the country. Do these people have any right to question my Indiannes?

Do you feel you have been discriminated against during your playing days? Can you tell us one such instance?

I was unceremoniously expelled from the Indian camp after the 2016 Rio Olympics. That was the most painful incident in my career. When the list of new members for the national camp was released, I was surprised to see my name missing. I was denied the chance to make a graceful exit. When I inquired about my ouster, (national coach) Pullela Gopichand said he was working on bringing together a new squad for the Tokyo Olympics. Now what happened to that new team? For a long time, I and V Diju were ranked in top 10 in mixed doubles. Tell me, where does Gopichand’s new team stand in rankings?

Currently all the top doubles players in the country are being trained by Gopichand? Do you feel a different ecosystem for doubles is required?

Yes, of course. I don’t think Gopichand has ever played doubles in his career. Then how can he train doubles players? I’m doubtful whether India’s men, women and mixed teams will even qualify for the Tokyo Olympics. We should have separate camps for doubles with a specialist coach taking care of the players.  

There are reports that you are coming up with an academy in Hyderabad. Can you share the details?

The Jwala Gutta Global Academy for Badminton is my way of creating a space that can specifically focus on doubles game. It will have state-of-the-art training facilities dedicated exclusively for the country’s top-rated players. Unfortunately, we prioritise singles game despite the fact that the country stands more chance in doubles at the international level. I didn't get any financial support from governments or any other sources. My family had to sell one of our houses to set it up.

India’s best hopes for a badminton medal at the Tokyo Olympics rest on P V Sindhu, Saina Nehwal and K Srikanth. Will they be able to live up to the expectations?   

In my opinion, Sindhu is the only medal prospect. If she maintains her current form, she will be bringing home gold. Saina’s performance is inconsistent. Also, she is yet to recapture her form after returning from an injury layoff. I don’t see any of the men, including Srikanth, winning a medal at Tokyo.

Is there any truth in the rumours about you getting married soon?

I have been dating South Indian actor Vishnu Vishal for some time. We have decided to get hitched, but no date for the wedding has been fixed. I miss him the most during these lockdown times.

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