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A cross-border marriage stripped of romance

Soutik Biswas | 13:22 UK time, Monday, 12 April 2010

Sania Mirza and Shoaib MalikThe subcontinent's biggest tabloid story in a long time has finally ended. Hopefully. Sania Mirza and Shoaib Malik have married after what resembled a fast-paced pulp thriller involving a spurned woman he was alleged to have married and then divorced amid bitter recriminations. As if this was not enough, there was a high-pitched jingoistic media debate about who owns Mirza now - would she turn out to play tennis for Pakistan? (Mirza, who is currently ranked a lowly 92 in the world, insists she will continue to play for India.) This was the kind of tabloid frenzy to which the usually staid and conservative media in India and Pakistan are unaccustomed.

The Mirza-Malik wedding was the "romance that gripped two nations", according to The Guardian. In reality, the treatment given the story completely stripped it of its romance. News networks vied with each other to dig up dirt about Malik and his alleged ex-wife, Ayesha Siddiqui. "Your jaw drops at the performance the stand-up anchors put up," wrote media critic Sevanti Ninan. "Grown men and women paid to harangue, and to sell the proposition that this is and can be the only matter of earthshaking importance for a large country of a billion-plus people."

Things appeared to be no better across the border with the story dominating the Pakistani news networks. "What we saw on our screens was tabloid journalism of the sort usually purveyed by the dregs of the profession," fumed the Dawn newspaper. "In a country racked by militancy and terrorism, should a celebrity marriage dominate the news on a day when dozens are killed in suicide attacks?"

Personally, I heaved a sigh of relief when news of the wedding came in. The tipping point for me came when one of India's star TV news anchors asked Mirza whether she and Malik, a former Pakistani cricket captain, discussed the Mumbai attacks and the Taliban when they were together. Sania laughed the question away, saying something to the effect that they were like a normal couple, who talked about normal things, instead of dissecting the roots of Islamic radicalism.Cricket bats with pictures of Sania Mirza and Shoaib Malik in Pakistan

This is not the first - or the last - subcontinental marriage, despite the tensions between the two neighbours. Thousands of Muslim families from the former princely state of Hyderabad moved to Pakistan after the partition of India and many retain links with their relatives who stayed behind. Every year, a number of cross-border marriages take place with Pakistani grooms picking up Hyderabad brides. Two of my friends are married to Pakistani women and apart from minor quibbles over visa delays, they face no problems. Malik is not the first Pakistani cricketer to marry an Indian - former batsman Mohsin Khan wed Bollywood starlet Reena Roy in the 1980s. (The marriage later broke up.)

So what is the big deal about the Mirza-Malik wedding? I suspect it was the element of lasciviousness that made it the biggest story in the subcontinent. I hope the fuss is over and the couple are left alone to get on with their marriage.


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  • 1. At 6:45pm on 12 Apr 2010, Asif wrote:

    I have no opinion on Shoaib-Saania marriage....infact, I don't like Shoaib the cricketer (a spoiled brat and team-spirit spoiler) and Saania (no great shakes in the tennis world).

    But the fact is... Shoaib's marriage to Ayesha was not an alleged. There was an official, valid nikahnama (marriage certificate) and he did give her an official divorce. You cannot give divorce to someone to whom you are 'allegedly married' to.

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  • 2. At 7:28pm on 12 Apr 2010, lokabandhu wrote:

    The most alarming thing was how the media's cheap,vulgar coverage of Ms.Mirza's marriage has almost completely submerged the horrendous massacre of about 8o CPRF men by the Maoists at Dantewada.This is a clear warning that globalization has destroyed the last vestiges of professionalism in the Indian media world and like in the West entertainment has become the primary aim of the media outlets.

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  • 3. At 7:51pm on 12 Apr 2010, ramesh reddy wrote:

    sadly now a days there is no difference between serious journalism and tabloid,who cares about these individuals marriage,there is a serious disconnect between the press and viewers,please grow. up we have far more better news to be covered,kindly stop this elitist nonsense.

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  • 4. At 10:49pm on 12 Apr 2010, Rohan Shah wrote:

    So, if media vigilance of their marriage is disturbing you, why did you choose to write on this very topic?
    The media is a business and it only shows what "sells" and unfortunately, this is what sells. These stars make millions coming into the homes of the commoners through dozens of ads on TVs. Isn't that commercial invasion as well?

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  • 5. At 01:44am on 13 Apr 2010, reachmukul wrote:

    No one cares about about a bus conductor wedding a bus driver. Mr. Biswas why are you wasting your time and talent writing about an average tennis player marrying an average cricket player.

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  • 6. At 03:09am on 13 Apr 2010, buymespresso wrote:

    When I heard about their marriage, I only had two thoughts. The first was "Cool - wonder what sport the kids will pick" and "Hope she keeps playing tennis". The first was, of course, quite stereotypical - having athletic ability is one thing, having the desire and doggedness to pursue a sport to the highest levels is another. The kids, should there be any kids, will - like kids everywhere - do what they d**n well want to do :-)

    I haven't paid too much attention to what the media said. I heard the basics - his prior marriage, her prior engagement - but since I'm not close to the couple, I don't know the actual details. I am a little worried about a strong woman marrying into one of the most patriarchal cultures on the planet - will it crush her spirit? - but then again, she's grown up with that culture, her new hubby insists that she'll keep her career, and her inner strength isn't going to suddenly vanish. She'll be alright.

    I certainly wish them well as they join the list of cross-border married couples : biathletes Ole Einar Bjørndalen (Norway) and Nathalie Santer (Italy), lugers Susi Erdmann (Germany) and Gerhard Plankensteiner (Italy), etc.

    If you want to go over half a century back, consider the story of two athletes on opposite sides of the Cold War who competed at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics. Soviet Olga Fikotova won gold in the discus and American Harold Connolly won gold in the hammer, and the two somehow managed to meet long enough to fall in love. They got married, Fikotova was somehow allowed to emigrate, and had a nice long 17 year marriage. (Pretty good, considering how little time they had to meet.)

    And, despite what I said about kids not to be speculated on... once upon a time, an average footballer and an average gymnast fell in love and got married and had two kids who both ended up playing professional tennis. The younger one had injury problems and retired early. The older one, who married an average basketball player, is Kim Clijsters.

    (Forgive my use of the term 'average' - anyone who can get to represent their country in a sport or make a living from it cannot be average, certainly not compared to the rest of us. It's insulting of us to call them so.)

    So I'll say to them what I usually say to friends who get married - good luck, try not to go to bed angry, remember to give and take, do stuff together, share your vulnerabilities, don't stop talking with each other, keep laughing, do small little things for each other, and try to be each other's rock in the crazy world we live in.

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  • 7. At 03:49am on 13 Apr 2010, buymespresso wrote:

    Correction: Olga Fikotova was from Czechoslovakia, not the USSR, sorry.

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  • 8. At 04:41am on 13 Apr 2010, Emon Khastagir wrote:

    I think media did the right thing by publishing the all things about
    sania and shoib. people's rights to know about all public figure. they
    earn and live by using publics emotion and their money.both sania and shoib have a great shake on their own field . there are lots of sania and shoib is waiting in the queue with a lots of sports merit .
    But whats the main fact as an indian sania have not done the right thing while public is continiously following there's life style , as shoib already had a wife ayesha. it also not the right time to say who is the looser .
    we should appreciate all the media , coz for there huge publicity Ayesha get the right justice. thanks them to open the mask of shoib.

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  • 9. At 05:19am on 13 Apr 2010, Rajiv wrote:

    The view point of the Indian media is totally foolish. It shows the quality of the people working with in those organization.

    Rather than appreciating a pakistani for marrying an indian girl, the media is trying to create an issue. See the quality of the Shoaib and Saniya and try to nurture the relationship between India and pakistan.

    I know many people liked sharukh khan's movie called VeerZara. Same way, these lovers are trying to fight against the commotion generated by the media and they are successful. They should be appreciated and recognized rather calling them traitors. I feel pity for the indian media, they really sucks!

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  • 10. At 05:48am on 13 Apr 2010, BP Singh wrote:

    This comment has been referred for further consideration. Explain

  • 11. At 06:43am on 13 Apr 2010, Fasih Khan wrote:

    Congratulations to both Shoaib & Sania.

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  • 12. At 08:08am on 13 Apr 2010, CricketBuster wrote:

    Its quite ironic that British media is complaining about tabloid nature of another country when Britain's largest selling newspapers are tabloids and full of hysteria.

    To the topic media has every right to show what they want to and in this case they did the right thing by exposing Shoaib Malik who was vehemently denying any relation to Ayesha. If it was not for media pressure the truth would never have come out.

    But then facts and Southik are always so far off ... which makes this article another tripe.

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  • 13. At 10:09am on 13 Apr 2010, BakedBeans wrote:

    1.I feel for the guy who was engaged with Sania .....
    2.Sun sells more than any other newspaper in UK
    3.Check most read articles in BBC it will be some celebrity gossip.....

    Why blame media for that ?

    Most of the writers who write India section in any foreign newspapers usually 'cut copy paste ' articles from Indian newspapers When they run out of ‘interesting’ story for English readers they would always blame Indian media...

    Sania story might not interest average English reader where as it might interest Indian reader in India....

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  • 14. At 11:47am on 13 Apr 2010, SM Hussain wrote:

    This article reads like a middle-school level Essay in English.
    If the story of the marriage was "no big deal", why did Soutik choose to comment on it?

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  • 15. At 2:43pm on 13 Apr 2010, ghostofsichuan wrote:

    Empty lives are filled with the lives of others. There are many empty lives. Why do we care?

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  • 16. At 4:03pm on 13 Apr 2010, divakarssathya wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 17. At 4:09pm on 13 Apr 2010, divakarssathya wrote:

    To the moderator:

    I have had to express my profound disappointment with the arbitrary manner in which my comments on the Sachin Tendulkar post were scrubbed out - or put on ice - after a while, I did not bother to find out.

    Since the BBC is universally believed to be a stickler for professional values and ethics, I would naturally expect that you would examine my claims, and if you so think fit, support my sathyagraha, rather than meddle with my comments.

    Fair ?

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  • 18. At 6:26pm on 13 Apr 2010, sandeepDgupta wrote:

    Its not just Indian media, I have been seeing a similar trends in the US where all that media cares is about tabloid junk. For example, take the issue of Tiger Woods, do we really need to cut - slice and examine his life and character so much? Has adultery never been witnessed before?? (He is just paying the price for being popular, I sometimes pity the man)

    In my humble opinion, I feel that we should respect these people for their professional career, in this case - Sania, Shoaib and Tiger are sports people who have made a distinctive mark for themselves.
    Everyone loved Tiger Woods for his excellence in golf, and not because of his personal life as a husband or a father. So, I would like people to leave these celebrities alone, there is no need to for hypocritic judgement. Little gossip and fun chatter is cool, but anything that borders on disrupting someone's personal affairs should definitely be curbed.

    Sania and Shoaib are grown-ups, they exactly know what they are getting into, lets just wait and see how future unfolds for them. Hoping the best for this couple and all other couples who marry for love.

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  • 19. At 11:03pm on 13 Apr 2010, Rahul wrote:

    Sautik, i think u have a problem here, i read your title and straight went on to read the comments. Needless to say anthing else. Great job u have Sautik, u get paid for creating TITLES !!!

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  • 20. At 12:54pm on 14 Apr 2010, tom wrote:

    I think Soutik Biswas need to really bring the right points on the table rather than being overcritical of India. The India media relflects the social demographic and culture of India not the west and writing these overcritical viewpoint just paints the wrong picture about India to Western audiences.

    Soutik should go back to the drawing table and bring the right points from the Indian viewpoint and help Western readers to understand India better rather than chosing to be sarcastic about his own country.

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  • 21. At 5:37pm on 14 Apr 2010, acenavigator wrote:

    Soutik: You are wasting your time.
    First, there are better things to write and think about.
    Secondly, I've not heard of Shoaib because I am not interested in cricket. Thirdly, I love tennis. And I watch Sania (only in newspapers-not worthwhile watching on TV) for her attributes and not for her prowess in tennis.

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  • 22. At 6:02pm on 14 Apr 2010, COMMON SENSE wrote:

    Marriage between Sania Mirza and Shoab Malik.
    Acoording to various news sources , it is claimed that Mr Malik married and divorced Mrs ? ? ? (before marrying Miss Mirza)over the Telephone.

    Telephonic marriage and divorce were accepted by Muslim Law/Religoin.

    Was the Telephone invented before the Muslim religion ?

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  • 23. At 11:39am on 15 Apr 2010, Le Gooner wrote:

    Having seen some of the coverage on India’s Start News channel, I’ve been very alarmed by the jingoism and general hostility to the marriage.

    Personally I don’t see what the issue is. The couple are happy and that’s what matters.

    Unfortunately, even educated middle-class Indians are getting wound up by the web of hatred whipped up by the media there.

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  • 24. At 12:25pm on 15 Apr 2010, COMMON SENSE wrote:

    Honour killing of two innocent people (of different caste) who got married in Haryana, India. The murder is supported and justified by local people.


    This world needs Love-love-------.
    I hope to see how God of those responsible for murder and those supporting the murder brings prosperity and happiness to these people.

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  • 25. At 2:17pm on 15 Apr 2010, vasima wrote:

    Seriously speaking i feel sorry for shoaib's first wife, but i hope shoaib wont play around with sania and overall i wish them a very happy married life

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  • 26. At 2:51pm on 15 Apr 2010, saher wrote:

    Shoaib Malik and Sania Mirza’s marriage topic has definitely been over hyped by the media. The major news channels of India are covering the marriage events 24/7 as if there is nothing else important. After getting the news that they finally got married, we take a sigh of relief thinking that the drama is over now. However, the media is still flocking the news channels with the aftermath of the marriage. Given a chance, media would love to keep a track of every second of Shoaib and Sania’s daily activities. The important news like the Maoist attack and the current storm in India and Bangladesh is given less coverage. Media is more interested in finding out what Shoaib and Sania are wearing in their marriage events rather than finding out how many poor people are in need of clothes because of these ongoing tragedies. Yes we are happy with this new Indo-Pak relationship; however we certainly don’t need the details.

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  • 27. At 3:09pm on 15 Apr 2010, Nik wrote:

    Re22: No but there were communication methods that were approaching the speed of telephone. Various empires had communication means based on fire signals emitted a top mountains and such. Even in ancient Greece's diverse and interwarring independent states, there were the so called "phryctories" which were special towers built a top mountains and which transmitted basic messages like "invaders approaching", "everything ok" etc. including partial or whole phrases. It is said that the news of the fall of Troy travelles in just 2 hours all over Greece via having done the round of the Aegean and through islands and overland. Later on there would be more evolved phryctories which used fire along with shaped long columns indicating a position - the identical would be on the receiving tower, thus by repeating the positions, the receiver would transcribe a full text message which would be more of a codified a telegramme, ok do not imagine a full conversation.

    It is known that Perian, Indian and Chinese Empires had their own such systems for fast communication.

    As muslims built upon the Greek, Persian & Indian culture they must have used similar systems of rapid communication.

    ... though I ignore if they used it to ask a bride on the opposite town... haha!

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  • 28. At 08:19am on 19 Apr 2010, kp vidyashankar wrote:

    Seeing Shoaib's lying performance and Sania's innocence, I give this marriage only 2 years. SAD ! Feel sorry for Sanis. What about the elders in her family. I HOPE THAT I AM WRONG.....

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  • 29. At 08:21am on 19 Apr 2010, maria wrote:

    @Soutik Biswas,Only reflect a jealously In your blog nothing els.

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  • 30. At 05:08am on 20 Apr 2010, MOHI wrote:

    It is just obnoxious that a small matter of a tennis stars marriage being dissected so deeply. May be the common man just enjoys dreaming that if he or she had been the centre of attraction like them . Just some fun nothing serious. But waste of print.

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  • 31. At 12:40pm on 26 Apr 2010, Eagle Eye wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 32. At 06:57am on 04 May 2010, roopesh wrote:

    .. oh i cant wait to see sania playing tennis wearing a burqua ..

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