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Guest Column<br>Retrofit: The Ayesha-Shoaib-Sania triangle – the theatre of the absurd

07-April-2010
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Guest Column<br>Retrofit: The Ayesha-Shoaib-Sania triangle – the theatre of the absurd

Somewhere the numbers don't add up in this knotty triangle. You know the triangle, which has the Sub-continent watching, or should I say gaping at it. Movie, soap all rolled into one, I am talking about the Ayesha-Shoaib-Sania triangle. It has all the ingredients that make a masala soap or old ishtyle Hindi fillum. But guess who is having a ball? Indian media, which is going berserk covering this triangle. Media needs juice and this triangle has all the makings of a classic... love, sex or dhoka. Love and romance on the Internet, nikah on the phone, alleged sex in a Banjara Hills hotel, a sad miscarriage and what have you. Mind you, Shoaib Malik doesn’t necessarily have unimpeachable credentials. He is one of the gang of seven banned recently by the Pakistan Cricket Board for allegedly fixing matches and breaching the code of conduct. In a 2004 TV interview in Pakistan, Shoaib said, “I am already married. She hails from Hyderabad in India. Her name is Ayesha and I am very happy.” Cut to April 4, 2010, when the same Shoaib says - I was not happy marrying her because I had not told my parents and was emotionally forced to do it. In January 2008, Malik said, “I never got to actually meet the girl in the photographs Ayesha sent me. I was only engaged to her.” Again on April 4, 2010, Malik says that ‘they pressured me into it (nikah) with the intention of cheating. In Islam, there can only be a divorce if the nikah is valid.’ Also on the same day - I have met Ayesha (Siddiqui) a number of times, but knew her as Maha Apa, the elder sister of Ayesha. Dang, this is theatre of the absurd.

Who does one believe in this amazing story? Ayesha or Shoaib? The Ayesha-Shoaib story is not new, it goes back many years. June 2002 is when they reportedly got married. What has added grist to the rumour mills is the hastily convened wedding with Sania Mirza on April 15. Times Now showed Shoaib being interviewed by Arun Lal during a post match ceremony. Shoaib happy that he had scored 82 in the city of Hyderabad, a city where his wife lives. That was pretty much conclusive. But a day later TOI did a puff job on page one when it ran a tepid interview with Shoaib Malik as lead. Shoaib Malik, as they say in Hindi, is hardly ‘doodh ka dhula’. Which brings me to Sania Mirza, an average tennis player, who was hyped into being a hell on plimsolls by Indian media. Known more for her style and attitude, she was bereft of substance on court. A blistering forehand her only weapon.

Late last month, when Geo News broke the story of Shoaib’s impending marriage to Sania Mirza, there was more than a flutter in the dovecotes at the Ayesha residence. Dawn, a reputed Pakistani newspaper, wrote that, “Newspapers reported that Malik first met Mirza at Hobart, Australia in January, when the Pakistan squad was on tour and Mirza was in the city for a tennis tournament. “It was after this meeting that Mirza’s engagement with her childhood friend broke,” a local Urdu daily reported. It added, “The Pakistan Cricket Board has fined and banned Malik for one year for unspecified disciplinary reasons following heavy defeats in both Test and limited-overs series against Australia earlier this year.” Dawn also wrote that Malik, 28, was at the centre of marriage controversy five years ago, when he was reportedly broke an engagement with Ayesha Siddiqui, who was from Mirza’s hometown in India. The two had reportedly developed friendship on the Internet and Siddiqui’s father had even threatened to take Malik to court. Malik has denied any serious relationship with Siddique. The dashing cricketer was also linked with Indian actress Sayali Bhagat, and there were reports of the two meeting confidentially in 2008. That made the cosy triangle a rather large cumbersome foursome.

On Monday, ToI reported Sayali Bhagat saying - Link-ups are still fine as long as they don’t backfire. I can’t avoid controversies, but I can obviously control whether it’ll get out of hand or not. I don’t have the temperament to handle a repeat of what’s happened… When news of two famous people broke out, people didn’t have any access to them. The next famous person they could find who had any remote connection with them was me. But I didn’t have any comments to give on the Shoaib-Sania marriage. I have moved on in life. Shoaib and I were offered a film about a cricketer and a beauty queen. Despite agreeing to the offer, the producer and director could not get financiers for the film since Shoaib was a Pakistani cricketer. Meanwhile, 26/11 happened, and it was even more difficult to market Shoaib as a hero.”

Boy, this is getting convoluted.

Now interestingly, Sania Mirza was so smitten by Malik after the meeting in Hobart in January that she called off her engagement with childhood sweetheart Sohrab Mirza. There are too many gaps and inconsistencies in this love triangle. Before you could say Jack Robinson, she had announced her marriage to Malik on April 15. And that is when the fur started flying. Madam Ayesha and her team began bowling beamers and Malik was ducking and weaving. The clincher is the alleged miscarriage. That cannot happen without cohabitation. No sir, not yet anyway. The wall to wall coverage from Mail Today has been very good, as they seem to have covered most of the components of this bizarre drama. Finally, where is this Ayesha? Yes, I heard her on Headlines Today answering questions with aplomb, but why doesn’t she make an appearance in public?

Finally, a ToI story datelined Hyderabad, which appeared on Tuesday morning. Speculative, but juicy nevertheless. And perhaps explaining some of this stranger-than-fiction type of drama. The story titled ‘Shoaib and Dubai reasons for Sania’s break-up’ goes like this: When Ayesha Siddiqui, in one of her several telephonic interviews to news channels, wondered why Sania Mirza announced her wedding with Shoaib Malik within weeks of breaking up with Hyderabad-based bakery owner’s son, Sohrab Mirza, she posed a question that many people have been asking. Some leading Hyderabadi Muslims, who are well acquainted with the tennis star’s family, claim that Sania has been interested in Shoaib Malik for over five years, but had agreed to an engagement with Sohrab to please her family.

“The Adil Mirza (Sohrab’s) family is very well respected in Hyderabad and the two families have known each other for long. Sania’s parents were not too keen on her marrying Shoaib earlier as they were not particularly pleased with his background,” says a family friend. Why was the engagement called off? While the Mirza camp has been claiming the two were ‘incompatible’, there is speculation that the break-up came because she was insistent on marrying Shoaib Malik. The family apparently gave up its earlier opposition, rationalising that Malik was, after all, a well-known personality.

Some family friends insist that Sania is completely smitten by Malik, but others say that it’s not a simple love affair. They say it is a ‘strategic’ move, where both partners have a common destination in mind – Dubai. Sania, who crashed out of the Dubai Open earlier this year, has routinely been extended a warm welcome by the people and the government there, which was glad to host a tennis star who had become a poster girl for their local community’s young girls. Therefore, when she decided to settle down in Dubai with Shoaib, it did not surprise many. It wasn’t just neutral ground, but one that would leverage the careers of the two sportspersons, says another family acquaintance.

Sania has been slipping consistently in her World Tennis Associations rankings and Malik has been banned for a year by the Pakistan Cricket Board. On its part, Dubai is trying hard to turn into a sports destination and is in search of sports stars who can showcase the upcoming facilities in the city. “Sania wanted to settle down in Dubai and wanted someone who could support that. A lot of World Tennis Associations tournaments like Dubai Open and Qatar Open are being held there and she gets appearance money for these tournaments,” says a sports analyst. If she is based in Dubai, she will become a bigger star as there are hardly any sports personalities in Dubai, which is currently investing heavily in sports. There is also talk of a cricket league on the lines of IPL and this could possibly be a strong reason for Malik to be stationed in Dubai.

I am confused, my mind is in a whirl. Wonder whether you can make more sense of this nonsense. After all, a failed, under-the-scanner Pakistani cricketer is marrying a failed Indian tennis player. Wedged between them is a Hyderabadi woman, who claims she is Shoaib’s first wife. All she wants is an honourable divorce. Wow, what a screamer!

(Sandeep Bamzai is a well-known journalist, who started his career as a stringer with The Statesman in Kolkata in 1984. He has held senior editorial positions in some of the biggest media houses in three different cities - Kolkata, Mumbai and New Delhi. In late 2008, he joined three old friends to launch a start-up – Sportzpower Network – which combines his two passions of business and sport. Familiar with all four media – print, television, Internet and radio, Bamzai is the author of three different books on cricket and Kashmir.

The views expressed here are of the writer’s and not those of the editors and publisher of exchange4media.com.)

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