How Gopichand and the Thomas Cup win helped me get back on my feet

Boria Majumdar with Pullela Gopichand

I left for Oxford on May 15, 2022. With the abuse continuing unabated, it was perhaps the best thing to do to retain sanity. Just two days earlier, on May 13, Pullela Gopichand, one of my closest friends, visited Kolkata for a function. He was staying at the ITC Royal Bengal and messaged me saying that he was coming to the city. Gopi and I go back to 2003-04, and have been extremely close friends ever since. While I wasn’t really in the mood to meet anyone, I responded instinctively to Gopi’s message, and asked him if he would like to meet for a few minutes. Within a minute, he responded saying that we must catch up. I still don’t know if Gopi wanted to meet me to try and lift my spirits. I haven’t asked him why he decided to reach out and fix the meeting. Knowing Gopi, that could well be the case, but it isn’t something he would tell me or anyone else. Understated and calm, he is one of the best things to have happened to Indian sport.

After exchanging pleasantries, he asked me what I thought of India’s effort in the Thomas Cup. India was playing some exceptional badminton, and had beaten Malaysia 3-2 in a thrilling quarter-final the previous day to guarantee a first medal in 43 years. It was an occasion to celebrate. ‘Don’t you want to do an interview?’ asked Gopi. I was taken aback. I hadn’t really planned for one, and wasn’t dressed to do a formal one either. But with the semi-final against Denmark to be played later that day, the timing couldn’t have been better. As I said yes, I could see a smile on Gopi’s face. He put his hand on my shoulder and said, ‘We are all with you,’ before looking away.


For me, that was a huge moment. Just weeks earlier, I had received a formal letter which stopped me from interviewing any contracted Indian cricketer, male or female, for two years. I had been punished for something I hadn’t done—threaten a cricketer—and there was very little that I could do about it. Gopi’s words came as both surprise and relief. They made me realise that individuals of substance still believed in me, despite the social media slander and character assassination. Before we wrapped up, Gopi told me that he would happily put in a word with H.S. Prannoy, the star of the Thomas Cup triumph, if I was keen on talking to him. As I dropped him off at the airport later that day, I gave him an account of all that had happened. He did not say a word for almost the entire journey. But just as we were about to reach the terminal, he said something that I haven’t forgotten. ‘When you lost your father, you were forced to see the world differently and grow up,’ he told me. ‘You had no other alternative. This is yet one more occasion when you will grow up. Know the world better. And again, you don’t have an alternative.’

At a time when I couldn’t do much in the cricket realm, the Thomas Cup win came as a huge opportunity. It was an opportunity to reboot and chart out a route that I hadn’t explored before. India won the Thomas Cup the day I reached Oxford, and within moments of settling down in the hotel, I called Gopi to remind him to put in a word with Prannoy. He did so immediately, and the interview was fixed within the next couple of hours. I was back to doing what I had always done. Covering sport and telling stories. Prannoy’s was a great tale, and to write on the Thomas Cup win was a journalist’s delight. The interview went extremely well and was published in the Economic Times the following Sunday. The video, which I recorded while sitting in the gardens of the BW Linton Lodge Hotel in Summertown, was aired on RevSportz. There was abuse soon after the video went online, but with the subject being the Thomas Cup win and not cricket, it wasn’t as vicious as before. By then, I had anyway gotten used to it. For me, the opportunity to work again and do what I loved was far more significant than some four-letter words on social media. That was when the game actually changed. Soon after the ban, I was scared. I wasn’t sure how I should react. I feared more waves of abuse and vitriol, and didn’t know how to go about my work. I had never been the nervous sort, but the experiences of the previous two months had made me constantly look over my shoulder. I was very concerned about my mother, and felt that I had let the family down. How could I make them go through this hell? The moment I tried to get back to work, the cuss words would resume. I needed to overcome my anxiety and look ahead. Find validation in the process. The Thomas Cup win and Gopi helped me do so.

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