Prakash Padukone has been a great player of badminton for India. He has won many matches and titles. He is a very quiet and introvert person. Father of famous Indian Bollywood actress Deepika Padukone he once shared with TOI about his inspiring life journey.
We are Saraswat Brahmins and speak Konkani. My father used to work in Mumbai in the early 50s and introduced badminton to Karnataka when he came and settled in Bangalore as he was a national level coach and umpire.
I was born and brought up in Bangalore and was introduced to badminton at the age of six. I played for my country, but all my other three siblings have also played for the state. We would play in a small marriage hall. Six months the hall would be booked for marriages when we could not play and would play other sports but at other times we would play when it was free.
Both my grandparents were also sportsmen and so the sports culture was there in our family. In 1980, I won the All England championship and became the world no 1 in badminton. The championship is more than 100 years old and whoever won that was considered the unofficial World No. 1.
I am grateful to my father as at that time the game was not popular, there was no money despite that he allowed me to pursue it as a sport and take it up on a professional basis. My victory changed the face of Indian badminton in terms of visibility, sponsorship, tournaments and awareness.
When I went to Bangalore, the state organised a reception for me where I was taken on an open jeep from the airport to the Vidhana Soudha with people lined up through the 8 kms way. It was a great feeling. After having become the best player in the world, I remember I played the national championship in which I lost.
Despite being the world’s no 1, I had lost the national championship first time after nine years. I was very disappointed but quickly got back and realised that in sports sometimes you lose and sometimes you win so you can’t get excited about either and can neither feel excited after a victory nor sulk after a defeat.
I got married to my second cousin Ujjala soon after and we moved to Copenhagen as I found a job there and lived there till 1986 when Deepika was born. I retired in 1989.
That’s great Prakash Sir!! People of India love you for your contributions to Indian sports.