Jab tak samajh pate, sab khatam ho gaya: Deepika Kumari
The stiff wind blowing across the Lord's cricket ground on Wednesday morning would have given any paceman the itch to run in hard and let loose. Deepika Kumari walked in gingerly into the makeshift archery range, looked around, felt the wind on her face and grimaced.
She took out her bow and got down to work, perhaps trying to take her mind away from the thousands of images racing through her mind - the eager, patronizing faces in the Village, the teasing eyes of the TV cameras and the intruding mikes, the reams of columns in the newspapers.
And then there were a million voices screaming in her ears, urging her to go all the way. The burden of hype, at times, can numb you down. She tried to shut it all out and concentrated. This was the toughest job of her young life yet.
She took a deep breath and concentrated hard again. An edgy eight in the first set was not a great start. By the time she was in the fourth set, trying to stay alive against her British competitor Amy Oliver, she seemed to have given up.
Amy's last shot was a perfect 10; Deepika managed a 9, looked up at the screen and hung her head. She walked away from the range, gingerly again, lost in her thoughts. India's top medal prospect at the London Games had been swept away by the cruel English wind and had been pushed down hard by the burden of hype and hope.
She came out into the mixed zone, trying hard to compose herself. No, she did not cry. But her beautiful eyes looked troubled; they wanted a place to hide from the glare. She did not want to look up.
She pursed her lips, trying to say what her mind would let her say. She did not want to be there, but managed the courage to mumble: "Hum jab tak samajh pate, match khatam ho gaya (Even before I could understand what was happening, it was over)."
This was definitely not what she had thought of when she came here some days ago. She battled the cold, strengthened her resolve and tried to fight. But in the end, she got swamped by the occasion.
Was it windy? "Yes, the wind was there... I tried to give my best but just don't know what happened," she said, desperately wanting the inquisition to end. Did she get nervous as her challenger was shooting perfect 10s? She looked up and shot back, "I was not worried.
I always look at the yellow centre. I don't take pressure. Pressure is never on my mind...," her voice trailed. How different was it from the World Cup? "Very different, there's no comparison," she said, her eyes pleading, perhaps asking, 'Can I go now?' Not yet lady. So what's her future plan? "I will be much better prepared when I go to the Olympics next time.
Wind, conditions, nothing will bother me," she blurted and walked away. A row of Indian journalists were waiting at the other end. "Deepika a moment please," shouted an old pro. She stopped, looked up, and saw a sea of unfamiliar faces.
She then just shook her head and walked off. She couldn't go through it again; she needed a place to hide. Her coach, Poornima Mahato, looked at her protege and shrugged, "You people hyped it so much. She is just 18 years old. Poor girl... Leave her alone. Let her be." Deepika will learn with time that in this cruel world of sport, there is no place to hide.