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A tale of love and heartbreak- Syed Modi- A champion in real life

Being the national champion for a record eight consecutive years, to being shot down in a life that lasted for only 26 years. Syed Modi's life had it all!

Last updated: 27.08.2019
A tale of love and heartbreak-Syed Modi-A champion in real life | Sports Social Blog

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Syed Modi was an Indian professional badminton player in a time when the game was not that popular in the country. From ruling the sport for eight consecutive years to falling in love with a badminton co-star in his junior days, and then finally being killed. All these incidents happened in a lifetime which spanned just around 26 years. Modi's life was cut short but he did leave a void in the place of a badminton romantic that remains unfulfilled even till date.

Early life:

Syed Mahdi Hassan Zaidi was born in a small village named Karma in Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh. Syed was the youngest of eight children in the family (six sons and two daughters). When Modi first started going to the school, the person who entered the name in the school roster mistook his name "Mahdi" as "Modi", which was a more common name in the subcontinent. The family didn't felt the need to change his name and "Modi" was what it was when he grew up. In his schooling days itself, the talent was easily recognisable as far as badminton was concerned. And the family worked hard to afford his coaching fee for the badminton academy. Far from considering him a burden, his brothers pinned their hopes on him to bring honour, pride, and happiness to their family. 


The world under his feet:

In 1976, aged only 14, Modi won the national junior championships. In 1980 (aged 18), just when he was eligible to play at the senior level, he dethroned the veterans in the game to claim his first National championships. And there was no one in the country to challenge his supremacy as he went on to win eight titles in as many years, a feat that is still matched by none after so many years. He was awarded the Arjuna Award in 1982 for his heroics in the Commonwealth Games and Asiad as he claimed the Gold and Bronze medals at these games respectively. But as fate would have it not everything was right in his life.

When love came knocking:

In 1986, Ameeta Kulkarni was in the team which represented India at a junior badminton year in Beijing, China. Syed Modi was present in the men's team when the two met for the first time. It was love at first sight as the two continued to meet after coming back home. Just after turning adults, both of them wanted to take the next step as they approached their families seeking permission for the marriage. It was never a smooth ride as Ameeta came from an upper-class, English-speaking Maharashtrian family, very different from Modi's own background. And the two families opposed to marriage, not only because of their vast chasm in their backgrounds but more due to professional issues and jealousies between two ambitious, target-oriented individuals. However, Ameeta and Syed were adamant as they got married in a registry in a hastily arranged ceremony. 

The turning point in his life: 

Ameeta met Sanjay Singh, a powerful politician hailing from Amethi belonging to a rich, high-class family, in a function in Lucknow. An extra-marital affair was on cards as Ameeta and Sanjay grew close to each other. While Modi went on to win several laurels for the country, Ameeta had to take a break because they were expecting their first child in 1987. Although the joy of their first child should have settled the issue, the gaps widened as Modi suspected that the child was not his. Marital discord affected his game to such an extent that he lost his first senior National Championships in 1988, which ended up being his last participation in the tournament. Sanjay was a close friend of the then-PM Rajiv Gandhi while he was married to Ex-PM VP Singh's daughter Garima Singh. So he did carry a lot of power as far as the administration is concerned. 


Syed moved from Gorakhpur to Lucknow in the quest for better training facilities. He was trained at the reputed "K.D. Singh Babu Stadium, Lucknow.'' After his training ended at around 7 in the evening, he had a habit of visiting the nearby shop for cold drinks and snacks. But on 28 July 1988, when he was enjoying his snacks, a group of four people came out of a Maruti car and fired five bullets straight to his heart from close range. Thus, ensuring that he died before he could be taken to the hospital. The country lost its charm as far as badminton was concerned. 

A verdict which raises more questions than it answers:

CBI filed a charge-sheet with seven accused which included both Sanjay Singh and Ameeta Modi (later Singh). But, in the absence of any definite evidence against them, both Sanjay and Ameeta was relieved from the case. The verdict did leave everyone puzzled because it put five people on trial for committing a crime without any motive. With both Sanjay and Ameeta Absolved, who else could have conspired to murder Modi has become an unanswerable question. A question which still remains unanswered even after more than 30 years of his death. Soon after Modi's murder, Ameeta married Sanjay Singh.

Finally some ray of hope in the family:

With love for badminton running in their blood, youngsters in the family continued to play the game. But they refrained themselves from taking part in competitive competitions due to different reasons. But not anymore. With time healing the wounds, the Modi family is gearing up for a return on the badminton turf. And ready to take the baton forward is Modi's six-year-old grandson, Syed Taqi Haider Alias Ayan. Sighting a tribute to Syed Modi, Ayan's father wants his son to follow in the footsteps of none other than his uncle himself. Ayan is currently being trained in the Chowk Stadium, Lucknow. Syed Modi played the game with all his heart. Even when love came knocking, he accepted it with stretched arms. Although destiny had a different fate, Modi lived life to the fullest in the limited time that he got. 

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