Nobody seems to remember Syed Modi anymore. For all those who don’t know anything about Modi, it maybe recalled that the 1962 born boy was one of the most brilliant badminton players to be born in the country.
He was eight-time champion. An Arjun award winner, Modi won the Austrian International in 1983 and 1984 and, in 1982 the Commonwealth Games men’s singles title succeeding Prakash Padukone as national champion.
Then Modi was murdered on 23 July 1988 in Lucknow outside the KD Singh Babu Stadium after a routine round of practice. The cause of his murder remain a mystery to this day.
It is important to remember Modi as a role model for all children born into ordinary, middle class families but who was so terribly talented that none could stop his rise to success based on sheer fair play.
Emails and telephone calls made by The Lucknow Observer to those who knew Modi went unanswered.
Joan Yeoward, a fellow sports person and Welfare Officer at the Railways knew Modi when he moved from Gorakhpur to Lucknow. Joan said that she can not forget Modi who was very talented and a thorough gentleman.
Originally from Gorakhpur, his name was Syed Mehndi but was mispronounced at a tournament in Mumbai after which he let himself be called Modi instead of Mehndi.
Modi started by playing badminton as a child with his elder brothers. When coach PK Bhandari watched his strokes he trained him to win the junior national champion in 1976 at the age of 14 years just like Suresh Goel, another champion who died at the age of 35 years in 1978. Later national coach Dipu Ghosh coached Modi.
From the 1970s till the early 1990s is said to be best phase of badminton when Prakash Padukone ruled the court and Modi who was seven years younger was his natural heir. Modi’s style of playing was an exciting combination of Suresh Goel and Padukone and he was already a superstar shuttler till his tragic death.
Joan’s younger brother David recalls playing badminton with Modi at the Majithia Club in Gorakhpur. David was assistant to the late industrialist and sports enthusiast Sardar Gurlabh Singh Majithia and learnt several strokes from Modi.
“I was shocked and deeply saddened when I heard that Modi was murdered in 1988,” David told The Lucknow Observer adding what a simple, affectionate and down to earth person Modi was apart from being an ace badminton player.