~By Dilip Bobb
Here’s my #metoo moment. No, nothing to do with rape or sexual exploitation but a secret affair that I was asked to keep under wraps. The affair, love affair I must emphasise, was the one between two of India’s top badminton players Saina Nehwal and Parupalli Kashyap. This was some four years ago when I was with the Indian Express group and one of my responsibilities was looking after the then Sunday magazine, Eye. Saina was then riding high, having just become World Number One, and we planned to put her on the cover. She was then training in Bengaluru, so we sent our photographer and a reporter to the training venue since we wanted some action shots rather than a glam celebrity photo shoot. The Express team arrived at the venue to find her and her practice partner, Kashyap, sitting in a corner. The reporter sensed that there was more between them than practicing partners, and asked them to pose together across the net. They did so without creating a fuss, assuming that the story was on Saina and that Kashyap would not figure in the final selection of photos for the cover. When the team returned, we were looking for the ideal cover shot and the one with the two of them was easily the best of the lot. We were going ahead with the final selection when there was a call from Saina’s father. He seemed quite agitated, demanding to know what photos we were using and insisting that none of the ones featuring his daughter and Kashyap together should appear. He gave no explanation but it was obvious to us that there was something going on between the two players but her parents wanted it kept under wraps. Now that the duo have announced they will graduate from practicing partners to actual partners in marriage—the date is set for December 16—it has now been revealed that the two were in a relationship for almost a decade, managing to keep it hushed up before going public last fortnight. All thanks to her protective father. However, the photograph that was abandoned—the two of them together—is now a collector’s item in the Express photo archives.