Badminton

As Saina Nehwal returns to Gopichand's academy, let’s not forget her success under Vimal Kumar

The 2012 Olympic bronze medallist attained the world No 1 rank under the guidance of the Bengaluru-based coach.

In an unexpected move on Monday, Indian shuttler Saina Nehwal decided to part ways with coach Vimal Kumar and rejoin former coach Pullela Gopichand at his academy in Hyderabad.

It was only three years ago that the shuttler had parted ways with Gopichand after the 2014 World Championships. Back then in Copenhagen, Nehwal was beaten by China’s Li Xuerui in straight games in the quarter-finals. She immediately joined Vimal Kumar and achieved phenomenal success while training under him in Bengaluru.

Saina’s rise to the top under Kumar’s guidance

  • Under Kumar, Nehwal became world No 1 in April 2015. It was only the second time that an Indian had achieved the top ranking after Prakash Padukone achieved the feat during his heyday.  
  • It was also under Kumar in 2015 that Nehwal bagged her first World Championship medal, a silver in 2015 in Jakarta where she lost in the final to Carolina Marin in straight games 16-21, 19-21. Two years later, at the recently concluded 2017 World Badminton Championships in Glasgow, she secured a bronze to complete a stirring comeback after injury laid her low in the period after the 2016 Rio Olympics.  

A plethora of titles

  • The 2012 Olympic bronze medallist won five titles from September 2014 to September 2017 under Kumar. Starting with the China Open in 2014, she went on to win the India Open 2015, Australian Open 2016, Syed Modi International 2015 and the Malaysia Masters in 2017. She ended up as runners-up at the All England Open in 2015 and the China Open 2015.  
  • Nehwal also lost in the semi-finals of the Swiss Open in 2016 and India Open 2016 while bowing out in the semi-finals in the 2015 and the 2016 editions of the Malaysian Open. The Asia Championship in 2016 and the Thailand Open in 2017 also saw her secure a semi-final finish.  

No doubt, it has been a brilliant run for Saina Nehwal under Kumar. Now as she moves to Hyderabad to work under Pullela Gopichand’s guidance, here’s hoping she only gets better.

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“My body instantly craves chai and samosa”

German expats talk about adapting to India, and the surprising similarities between the two cultures.

The cultural similarities between Germany and India are well known, especially with regards to the language. Linguists believe that Sanskrit and German share the same Indo-Germanic heritage of languages. A quick comparison indeed holds up theory - ratha in Sanskrit (chariot) is rad in German, aksha (axle) in Sanskrit is achse in German and so on. Germans have long held a fascination for Indology and Sanskrit. While Max Müller is still admired for his translation of ancient Indian scriptures, other German intellectuals such as Goethe, Herder and Schlegel were deeply influenced by Kalidasa. His poetry is said to have informed Goethe’s plays, and inspired Schlegel to eventually introduce formal Indology in Germany. Beyond the arts and academia, Indian influences even found their way into German fast food! Indians would recognise the famous German curry powder as a modification of the Indian masala mix. It’s most popular application is the currywurst - fried sausage covered in curried ketchup.

It is no wonder then that German travellers in India find a quite a lot in common between the two cultures, even today. Some, especially those who’ve settled here, even confess to Indian culture growing on them with time. Isabelle, like most travellers, first came to India to explore the country’s rich heritage. She returned the following year as an exchange student, and a couple of years later found herself working for an Indian consultancy firm. When asked what prompted her to stay on, Isabelle said, “I love the market dynamics here, working here is so much fun. Anywhere else would seem boring compared to India.” Having cofounded a company, she eventually realised her entrepreneurial dream here and now resides in Goa with her husband.

Isabelle says there are several aspects of life in India that remind her of home. “How we interact with our everyday life is similar in both Germany and India. Separate house slippers to wear at home, the celebration of food and festivals, the importance of friendship…” She feels Germany and India share the same spirit especially in terms of festivities. “We love food and we love celebrating food. There is an entire countdown to Christmas. Every day there is some dinner or get-together,” much like how Indians excitedly countdown to Navratri or Diwali. Franziska, who was born in India to German parents, adds that both the countries exhibit the same kind of passion for their favourite sport. “In India, they support cricket like anything while in Germany it would be football.”

Having lived in India for almost a decade, Isabelle has also noticed some broad similarities in the way children are brought up in the two countries. “We have a saying in South Germany ‘Schaffe Schaffe Hausle baue’ that loosely translates to ‘work, work, work and build a house’. I found that parents here have a similar outlook…to teach their children to work hard. They feel that they’ve fulfilled their duty only once the children have moved out or gotten married. Also, my mother never let me leave the house without a big breakfast. It’s the same here.” The importance given to the care of the family is one similarity that came up again and again in conversations with all German expats.

While most people wouldn’t draw parallels between German and Indian discipline (or lack thereof), Germans married to Indians have found a way to bridge the gap. Take for example, Ilka, who thinks that the famed differences of discipline between the two cultures actually works to her marital advantage. She sees the difference as Germans being highly planning-oriented; while Indians are more flexible in their approach. Ilka and her husband balance each other out in several ways. She says, like most Germans, she too tends to get stressed when her plans don’t work out, but her husband calms her down.

Consequently, Ilka feels India is “so full of life. The social life here is more happening; people smile at you, bond over food and are much more relaxed.” Isabelle, too, can attest to Indians’ friendliness. When asked about an Indian characteristic that makes her feel most at home, she quickly answers “humour.” “Whether it’s a taxi driver or someone I’m meeting professionally, I’ve learnt that it’s easy to lighten the mood here by just cracking a few jokes. Indians love to laugh,” she adds.

Indeed, these Germans-who-never-left as just diehard Indophiles are more Indian than you’d guess at first, having even developed some classic Indian skills with time. Ilka assures us that her husband can’t bargain as well as she does, and that she can even drape a saree on her own.

Isabelle, meanwhile, feels some amount of Indianness has seeped into her because “whenever its raining, my body instantly craves chai and samosa”.

Like the long-settled German expats in India, the German airline, Lufthansa, too has incorporated some quintessential aspects of Indian culture in its service. Recognising the centuries-old cultural affinity between the two countries, Lufthansa now provides a rich experience of Indian hospitality to all flyers on board its flights to and from India. You can expect a greeting of Namaste by an all-Indian crew, Indian food, and popular Indian in-flight entertainment options. And as the video shows, India’s culture and hospitality have been internalized by Lufthansa to the extent that they are More Indian Than You Think. To experience Lufthansa’s hospitality on your next trip abroad, click here.

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This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Lufthansa as part of their More Indian Than You Think initiative and not by the Scroll editorial team.