Courting great company

Up Close And Personal

The Padukones, Prakash and Ujjala, seem to have it all. He is a badminton legend, a home-grown Bangalore boy with a string of awards to his credit, who mentors young sporting talent through his badminton academy. She is the hands-on-mom, who put her career as a travel agent on hold, to charter her two daughters’ futures. One is the successful and glamourous Bollywood actress, Deepika, who just added another sparkly feather to her cap with Love Aaj Kal, the other one, Anisha is a rising star on the golfing firmament.

“Both of them are focused achievers in their own right,” says Ujjala. “Deepika was always geared towards glamour and fashion even when she was small while Anisha loved sports with a passion. We like the fact that they are so different and unique and we have never tried to push them into something they didn’t enjoy wholeheartedly,” she says.

Where did the couple themselves meet? Did they fall madly in love or did they go the relatively tried and tested arranged marriage route? “We are second cousins who have known each other all our lives. I grew up in Bangalore while Ujjala is a Mumbai girl. We used to meet at family gatherings and as we grew closer and felt that we were meant for each other, we asked our parents for their approval. They were very supportive and I have since called ours a ‘love match arranged by the parents,” laughs Prakash.

The Padukones derive their name from their ancestral village near Mangalore where they still maintain strong family ties. Travelling has been an integral part of their lifestyle, first with Prakash’s badminton career and now with the girls jet-setting around.

How different are their personalities? Do they let minor upsets get to them? “I’m the diplomatic one while Ujjala is more forthright,” says Prakash with his characteristic reserve. “She makes friends more easily but I take a lot longer to open up to a new person. Stress is part of life especially when we are so involved with our own hectic work, travel schedules and our daughters’ demanding careers. We both have to cope with it from time to time. Sharing a strong friendship certainly helps and the fact that we know each other so well, we can tune in or step back a little as the situation requires.”

If they are not attending high profile glamourous events around the globe, what do the Padukones do for a little rest and relaxation away from the shutterbugs and media attention?” With one daughter away from home and virtually living in Mumbai, we do spend a lot of time doing simple things that most families do together. We enjoy going for long walks, taking movies and dining out with our second daughter Anisha. As far as cuisines go, we both have an adventurous palate and enjoy Thai, European and of course, our perennial favourite coastal food!” says Ujjala.

“Family vacations are now geared to our children's hectic schedules. When they were young, we used to head off to a hill station in the country with them during their short October holidays and to a destination overseas for the long summer breaks each year. It used to be a very special family bonding time that we look back on with great nostalgia. Goa is always a favourite for short getaways while Maldives is a great watersports spot, which Prakash especially loves as there is no shopping there,” she laughs.

While both parents are intensely involved in the girls’ lives, they also have clearly defined spaces. Ujjala is very hands on with Deepika’s career playing the role of mother, philosopher, friend and guide or chaperoning Anisha to her golfing tournaments with equal dedication while Prakash is the financial advisor of the family.

They both enjoy listening to music and reading (Robin Sharma included). “At the end of the day at the risk of sounding cliched, it’s old fashioned family values and keeping a sense of perspective, in order to handle success and failure without going to pieces, is what we have tried to instill in our kids and live by ourselves,” they say.

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