Chirag Trades Racketwork for Brushstrokes

One of Chirag Shetty’s paintings.

It is difficult, Chirag Shetty says, to watch others play when he cannot. The fast-rising men’s doubles talent from India has been home in Mumbai since the early days of the lockdown in March. With the pandemic showing no signs of easing up, Shetty has had to content himself with training at home, while watching with some concern as teams elsewhere in the world return to regular training.

One unexpected ally that he found in this period was painting. Shetty, inspired by his senior compatriot Ajay Jayaram and a few other badminton-playing friends, started with watercolour on paper and has progressed to acrylic on canvas.

“I’ve started painting, which I never did before. Initially during the lockdown I got a few watercolours, but could only draw on paper. Then I went to a proper store and got canvas and acrylic paints. I’d wanted to paint before, but couldn’t find the time. But now that I have time, I told myself why not try this?

“I feel I can find solace in painting. This was a stress-buster and it helped, and it is going to stay with me.”

As with other badminton professionals, Shetty earlier had little time or energy to pursue other interests, and is somewhat thankful that he has been able to pursue a new hobby due to the lockdown.

“In Hyderabad (national training centre), all I did was train, look after my diet, watch some TV shows… all through the week. On the weekend, we’d go for lunch or dinner with friends. Now that I’m not getting tired as much, I’ve been left with a lot of time and I don’t know how to spend it.”

Shetty picked up the basics through YouTube videos, and is now trying out Dutch core technique, which he is fascinated by.

“You use core acrylic paint over canvas and use a hairdryer and stuff, without using any brushes. It looks easy but you need to get the right composition to get a good picture, so I’m trying to do that.”

Shetty acknowledges that the pandemic has forced badminton players to come out of their badminton-only bubble and engage with the world outside. He is thankful that his employer, Indian Oil Corporation, assigned courses and tests that challenged him to learn more about the business.

Being away from badminton for so long has reinforced his love for the sport, and he can’t wait to get back.

“If you’re away from the sport for such a long time, you realise the importance of it, you want to get back to the court. I remember, in 2017 when I was injured, I couldn’t play for a month, and the moment I entered the court I felt so liberated… it’s not describable. The situation is much the same, although I was able to go out back then, and I can’t even do that now. It makes you realise the importance of badminton.

“I’m definitely concerned. It’s been a long time since I played badminton. I want to get back to the court as soon as possible. But I can’t really complain, things are bad all around the world. A lot of teams have started practising, so it feels a bit difficult to see.”

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