Published: 06th March 2021
If empathy is part of one's DNA, whether on or off court, it shines through: Mahesh Bhupathi says at Int'l Kindness Festival
During one of the sessions of the virtual International Kindness Festival, former tennis professional Mahesh Bhupathi was in a free-wheeling chat with Mahima Poddar. This is what ensued
In one of the evening sessions of the virtual International Kindness Festival, we were in for a relaxed chat between Mahima Poddar, Founder of The Kindness Foundation and multiple Grand Slam winner Mahesh Bhupathi. The topic? The Role of Empathy in Sporting Friendships.
While the Chennai-born sportsperson started talking about how, whether on vacation or not, tennis practice never stopped for him as a child, he also said, "Winning and losing early on in life teaches one a lot of lessons." And since his life has been tennis-oriented, so were his bonds and friendships. "It was not very different from a classroom of 30 students competing during exams. The only difference is you never get a second shot at the tournament, but in class, you have that chance."
It's common knowledge that it was Bhupathi's parents who egged him on to the path of Tennis. So Poddar proceeded to ask him if that's what he does with his daughter, Saira, and if that's the right approach in general, especially when, as a parent, you know you are doing the right thing. "I am surely not forcing her to play, but when in a couple of years it clicks, I am assuming everyone will thank me," he said and added, "Today parents say let children choose their profession, but if you want to be a professional athlete, you have no shot at making it if you don't start early."
When Poddar asked the retired professional tennis player if empathy does play a role in the field of competitive sport, he pointed out the incident where Roger Federer cried on the shoulder of competitor Rafael Nadal after losing the Australian Open and said, "If it is part of your DNA, whether on the court or off the court, it shines through."
How did Bhupathi navigate the difficult choice he had to make between professional and personal life? "When Saira was born, it was easy to travel with her. But when she was in kindergarten, it got difficult. I reasoned that if two to three additional years would make a huge difference versus spending quality time at home," said the 46-year-old. To which Poddar added, "Always, one needs to dial down one thing in life, especially a parent who is struggling to find a balance."
Bhupathi also spoke about his connections with fans and how he would see familiar faces in the US Open or even when he played in Stockholm and Beijing. "Since we Indians love food, most of them would invite me for a home-cooked meal back in their house," he says with a smile. When the conversation steered towards the difficulty in playing single and doubles, he said that, "During singles, you are alone and you need to figure out the solution yourself. While during doubles, if you are not feeling good, your partner can shoulder a part of the game and vice versa."
A fun round of questions followed during which Poddar asked Bhupathi several questions, the most interesting of which we have compiled below -
How would you rate your memory?
How would your wife rate your memory?
Hopefully A plus
If Spiderman and Batman fight, who would win?
I'd say Spiderman because he is much quicker.
Who is the kindest person you know?
Who inspires you?
I get inspired by success stories, whether it's in sports or business.
What are you known for apart from tennis?
Being a stay-at-home dad
What message would you like to give your daughter when she is older by 20 years?
I hope she is in a happy place and working hard. I truly believe that hard work leads to success
What message would you like to give your ten-year-old-self?
I'd tell myself to work harder, I cheated a lot of times growing up.