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Verve People
March 10, 2016

Gene Junction: Jwala Gutta

Text by Huzan Tata. Photograph by HR. Styling by Devki Bhatt

Badminton champ, Jwala Gutta talks about her mixed background and the source of her success

“Nobody guesses that I’m Telugu till I start speaking in the language….”

The Arjuna awardee, who hails from Hyderabad, recently became the first Indian player to be in the world top 10 rankings in both the badminton doubles categories — women’s and mixed. With her perseverance a gift from her Chinese mother, Yelan, and love for the sport instilled in her by her Telugu father, Kranti, Jwala Gutta’s reign on the courts is far from over.

Born free
“My parents believe that I am an individual and let me choose what I wanted to do without pressurising me.”

Face value
“I think most people are aware that I have a mixed background. They’d usually think I’m from the North-East. Nobody guesses that I’m Telugu till I start speaking in the language — I speak it quite fluently. But people who are aware of Telugu surnames definitely know of my heritage. Of course, my contemporaries and those in the world of badminton know that my mother is Chinese.”

India calling
“My mom’s parents were never here and I was mainly raised with my Indian cousins and relatives. I was the first girl child. We are not a very religious family, so we never had any set traditions, really.”

Well-fitted genes
“I inherited my looks from both sides and I’m very Indian but I got my grit from my mom.”

Breaking conventions
“When you come from a mixed background, the way you think is very broad and you have an open mind.”

Proficiency in languages
“I’m fluent in English, Hindi and Telugu. I never learnt my mom’s native tongue — I think she forgot to teach me! My younger sister knows it because she lived in China for five years. My mother never pushed me to learn about her culture either.”

Cuisine cravings
“I think I’m very Chinese in that aspect, because I like bland food.”

Source of success
“It is the fruit and result of my hard work.”

Future perfect
“I want to do something for sports in the country, especially for women.”

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