Ruchi Anand could easily be called a prodigy. The third of four sisters, born and brought up in Dehradun, she is quite the all-rounder. She got her BA (Honours) in Political Science from Lady Shri Ram College, topping Delhi University with flying colours, an MA in International Relations and an M.Phil in International Law from the Jawaharlal Nehru University, a second MA in the US from Purdue University in International Relations followed by a PhD in International Relations on the topic of International Environmental Justice: A North-South Dimension, which was later published as a book by Ashgate Publishers. And if that was not enough, the law professor at American Graduate School in Paris and mother of two is also an ace Badminton player.

Speaking about her stellar academic career, she says, that she has always liked to win and shine and be the best she can be but without missing the opportunity to stop and smell the roses (or catch a game or a laugh and get involved in mischief) at every step of the way. At once she was inspired by her father who encouraged her to be the best in whatever she did and John Lennon, who just wanted to be ‘happy’ when he grew up.

Ruchi Anand has always liked to win and shine and be the best she can be but without missing the opportunity to stop and smell the roses.

“The big question was how I could achieve it all? I found that listening to teachers in class and then ‘studying smartly’ at the end was the key to my success. I didn’t slog like other students did all the time, but when it came to preparing for exams; I knew what I should study to ace the exams. I remember the Principal of my college LSR was quite surprised to learn that I had topped the Delhi University when other students worked much harder than I did.”

Ruchi Anand often calls herself the Slumdog Millionaire of Badminton, because she never officially learned to play the game. Very young, she realised that she lived in a patriarchal culture that needed to be denied to get ahead with what one really wants to do as a girl.

She adds, “Sport was, and has been, ever since, a way to feel powerful and physically and mentally strong and free. It spelt freedom and joy and control all at the same time. Badminton became my top sport because it was easy to play anywhere. We played mostly outdoors, come wind or rain or shine. The point was to have fun and if possible also win the game. I never really learned how to play in an official manner, with a trainer. My way of holding the racket, of moving on the courts and hitting my shots are all very typical of the competitive arena of badminton in international circles where everyone plays in a streamlined way that comes with training.”

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As a Political Science student, Anand knew that she wanted to change the world. She followed her academic path till she reached a point where she was too qualified for anything other than academics. She informs, “All other options and offers that I got (in consulting firms and corporations) required me to tone down my fire and flow with the tide. By this time, I knew that I was a ‘freethinker’ and wanted to stay that way. I did not want to sell my soul or my thoughts for a big paycheck. Being a professor allowed me to do this and I love it. If you love what you choose as your profession, you’ll never work one day of your life!”

Having said that, doing research and writing in English while living in France is not easy due to a lack of adequate and easily accessible research material in English! Being a third-world academic and a feminist scholar, going against the tide of mainstream academia has been a constant challenge for Anand requiring the game to be played smartly and diplomatically.

Ruchi Anand with kids
Law school professor and badminton player Ruchi Anand with her kids

Having an extraordinarily busy life, the published author of three books, lives by the mantra that if the mother is happy, the kids will be happier. Sacrificing who she is for what the kids need would be stripping herself off an identity that she holds dear. It inevitably means protecting herself from being a victim of the many ‘myths of motherhood’ and misconceptions and stereotypes of what it takes to be a good mother.

Having an extraordinarily busy life, the published author lives by the mantra that if the mother is happy, the kids will be happier. Sacrificing who she is for what the kids need would be stripping herself off an identity that she holds dear.

“In light of this, I continued to work and play badminton even after having children. Instead of totally changing who I was for them, they grew up knowing who mom is and adjusted themselves to me. And love me the way I am, never questioning my love for them for which I spare up enough quality time. I organise my courses to free up every Monday and Wednesday for kids. Thanks to this philosophy, the kids are growing up to be independent and feminist and respectful and empathetic. Having a French dad (who I met with while I was a student in the US) with whom I share this belief with, has helped me not get judged, nor become a victim of norms that don’t always work for everyone in a ‘one size fits all formula.’ One has to flow with modernity and adjust accordingly.”

Ruchi Anand wants to keep giving back to the society in her own way by making a difference to people she shares her life with and people she meets as she lives along.

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Read More by Amrita Paul