She remembers the time when some of her seniors gave statements that she can’t play badminton but that made Jwala Gutta more determined and she went on to win both Junior and Senior Nationals in the same year.
The former Badminton player Jwala Gutta says that she always spoke her mind and that it didn’t go down well with some sections of the society. She also feels that the country is still very reluctant to accept an opinionated woman.
Gutta is one of the seven influences who is part of fourth edition of Levi’s #IshapeMyWorld movement that celebrates unstoppable women who have shaped their lives on their own terms.
In the video, the retired left-handed Indian badminton player can be seen expressing how some of her seniors gave statements that was not in her favour. When asked about it, she told IANS over an e-mail, “My focus was always on my goals and I never got affected by the things they said. My game and performance answered for me. The same year I did not only win the junior nationals but also won the senior nationals.”
She feels that #IShapeMyWorld is all about living on your own terms and being unstoppable, which she believes in too.
“I have never compromised on my principles or changed for anyone. I never wasted time getting affected by the negative things people had to say and rather used all my energy and focus to better my game,” said Gutta, who was also awarded the Arjuna Award, India’s second highest sporting honour for her achievements.
So is a woman with opinion not taken well in sports as well?
“The scene in sports is getting much better these days. The players are being recognised and appreciated for their performance in various sports. As for woman raising voices, I think an opinionated woman is still not very easily acceptable in our country,” she said.
Gutta started playing badminton at the age of six. In 2000, aged 17, she won the Junior National Badminton Championship and in the same year she also won the Women’s Doubles Junior National Championship and the Senior National Badminton Championship, both in partnership with Shruti Kurien.
Her other achievements include bronze medal at 2011 BWF World Championships in London, and a gold and silver at 2010 and 2014 Commonwealth Games respectively in the women’s doubles event which were the first for the country in the discipline.
She also won the historic bronze medal at the 2014 Thomas & Uber Cup held at New Delhi, a bronze medal at Badminton Asia Championships in the same year and final and semi-final appearances in many big international events.
Talking about the hurdles intially, she said: “When I took up doubles, I was surrounded by a lot of criticism. Even my parents thought that I wasn’t making the right choice, but like I said before, I believe in myself and my skills and it was important for me to make a difference.”
Gutta says that she is a straight-forward person and does not believe in manipulating an individual in any way.
“Sports was never just a hobby for me, it was a profession from the very beginning. I don’t believe that I have made any sacrifices. I gave up on certain things for something that I enjoyed the most…. I don’t think there is anything wrong in speaking your mind. Every individual should be free to express their opinions. I think what should be looked at is the medals I have won for my country,” she said.
In the video, Gutta is also seen talking about the “hypocritical society”.
“If there is a sportsman and he is stylish and glamorous, nobody asks him, but if a sports woman is stylish or glamorous, she is questioned. Why can’t we just be looked at as a sports person,” said Gutta who has also supported some social causes, including women empowerment issues, anti-tobacco and anti-zoo campaigns.
She has also been involved in many other campaigns including Swachh Bharat Abhiyan and has also launched the Indian Badminton League’s (IBL) school programme ‘Shuttle Express’ in Pune, for school children.
Finally her take on female badminton players?
“I want to wish them all the best because this is the golden time for women in sports, especially badminton. Our players are shining through and doing a great job. They just need o focus on their game and not think of external factors that distract them from putting on the best performance they can,” said Gutta who is currently enjoying her time spent with family and friends along with a lot of travelling.
(Nivedita can be contacted at [email protected])