Asiad and family - how Hema bridged the gap

Teaming with Kiran Nadar, Himani Khandelwal, Bachiraju Satyanarayana, Gopinath Manna and Rajeev Khandelwal, Hema brought laurels for the country.

Hema Murli Deora (from left) with Adille Sumariwalla, Rajeev Khandelwal and Himani Khandelwal at the Bombay Gymkhana on Thursday.   -  Shayan Acharya

Years ago, when Hema Murli Deora was introduced to the game of bridge by her husband and former union minister, late Murli Deora, little did she know that someday she will win a bronze medal at the Asian Games.

But, keeping faith in her game, the 67-year-old actually clinched a bronze medal in the mixed team event at the just-concluded Asian Games. Teaming with Kiran Nadar, Himani Khandelwal, Bachiraju Satyanarayana, Gopinath Manna and Rajeev Khandelwal, Hema brought laurels for the country.

Speaking to Sportstar, on the sidelines of a felicitation event at the Bombay Gymkhana on Thursday evening, Hema admitted that this achievement will be a big boost for the game. “It has given a big boost to the game, which was not recognized before. People used to think that it was a card game and (more of) gambling. But, there is no money involved. Like chess, it is a mind sport,” Hema said.

The team was felicitated by the union sports minister, Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, on Wednesday, and they also met the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi. “This is a big thing. I am happy that it is also being recognised by the government,” she said.

READ: 'Asian Games gold will change perceptions about bridge,' say medal winners

Hailing from a family of politicians — her son, Milind Deora, has also been a former union telecommunications minister — it was not easy for her to pick up the sport, but she fell in love with it slowly. “My husband used to play bridge, but of course, I had no knowledge then. I learnt from the scratch,” she said.

While her priority was to look after the family, Hema has slowly been able to bridge the gap between personal life and the sport. “When the children went to the university, that’s when I had time for myself. There were gaps in between. My husband would be busy, and I made it a point to be with him. But slowly, I managed time for myself and fell in love with the sport,” she said. Once she started practising seriously — with friends from the fraternity helping her out — seriously, results came in. She soon started winning local tournaments.

She, however, admits that both her husband and son have always supported her. “The children did not know the game, but they were always very proud whenever I won any tournaments. My husband would really encourage me every time,” she said. As she spoke about her late husband, Hema looked a bit emotional. Touching the medal, she smiled a bit and softly added: “This would have not been possible without his support. I really miss him now…”