This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Mayank Jain. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Interview With India’s Badminton Star, Ashwini Ponnappa On Life And Sports

More from Mayank Jain

By Mayank Jain:

Ashwini Ponnappa and Colin Jackson
Ashwini Ponnappa and Colin Jackson

We remember her as the player who broke records and gave India a medal almost everywhere she represented the country. We know her as Jwala Gutta’s equally fearsome partner, and remember the time when their duo bagged gold in 2010 Commonwealth Games. Numerous awards, honours and trophies in her closet have only fuelled her fire to do more and do it better.

Being a hyperactive kid in her childhood, her mother gave her the badminton racket to blow off her extra energy and that’s how she started connecting the shuttles with her racket. An early riser in the game, Ashwini began practicing at a tender age of just eight and she won her first major championship long back in 2001.

Ashwini is an inspiration for us, an embodiment of never-say-never spirit. She stands tall as one of the best badminton players of India (and perhaps, Asia). Her story has a lot to teach us about chasing our dreams and fighting the odds to do what you love in a country obsessed with a single game. We talked to her about life, badminton and her beginning in this ‘smashing’ game:

Being one of India’s top seeded players, you need no introduction. Please tell us about your background and beginning with badminton.

I started playing badminton at the age of 8. And started playing tournaments from the under 10 category.

In India, nothing sells like Cricket. But, Jwala Gutta and you, introduced us to the smashing game of badminton. Do you think badminton has gained popularity over these years as a professional sport?

Yes, I do feel the game has gained popularity over the last couple of years. Which is good for the sport and is also helping the players to do well.

Ashwini PonnappaPlaying badminton at the international level must take its toll. Have you missed any major tournaments so far due to injuries or fatigue?

Unfortunately, yes. The last one year has been a little rigorous and I’ve had injuries which have made me skip tournaments and not give my best in a few.

Your partnership with Jwala Gutta is well known and respected all over the world but there must have been a beginning. What was the turning point of your career?

The turning point for me personally was partnering with Jwala in 2009. I was really lucky to have had her ask me to partner her. It gave me a chance to see what I was capable of. Ever since I started playing with Jwala I knew that I could do really well in the international circuit as I was playing with someone who was very experienced, confident and someone who believed she could do really well just as I did. It’s pretty important in doubles that both partners believe in their partnership and capability.

You made a world record of fastest smash in Paris World Championship in 2010. How did it feel? Do you feel you have achieved enough in life so far?

I’ve always known I had a good smash. When I heard that I had hit one of the hardest smashes, it was hard to believe, still is. I haven’t really seen it anywhere for myself; I have just heard people tell me.

Not at all, I feel I’ve got a long way to go and still got a lot to achieve.

Ashwini Ponnappa with her mother
Ashwini Ponnappa with her mother

Please give us a sneak peek into your life as a young Indian girl. What are the other things you enjoy apart from playing Badminton?

One of things I enjoy most apart from playing badminton is spending time with my family and friends. I long going out when I’m back home and have time. Apart from that, I love listening to music, reading books and watching movies.

Indian women are having a hard time these days due to crimes and male dominance. Have you faced any such hardships or opposition in your career? What is your message to the Indian women out there?

No, I haven’t faced anything like that in my career. My message to them would be to be strong and believe in yourselves. Anything is possible once you put your mind to it.

To know more about this story and what I think, follow me on Twitter at @mayank1029

You must be to comment.
  1. muhammed shamil ek

    very very nice

  2. muhammed shamil ek

    iam a badminton player

More from Mayank Jain

Similar Posts

By Rupsa Nag

By Rupsa Nag


Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below