Recently I was on my maiden visit to Kolkata.
Purpose: Explore the possibilities of how we can start ‘One Thousand Hockey Legs’ on grass root levels.
You say ‘Calcutta’ or ‘Kolkata’ and various people have different remarks to make. They have various queries. Yes, Kolkata is a different place to be. The unique thing about Taxis there is, they never say ‘no’, may wherever you have to go.
In many ways, Kolkata is a city of contrasts.
You have India’s first metros here. You also have trams, possibly last few remains of British Administration.
You have one of the busiest Railways stations of the country. You can go anywhere in India from here and mind you, the fastest trains start from here. The traffic inside the city is the quite opposite.
At times, smoke and noise at many places in city makes you crave for some fresh air. Then, you have the area of ‘Maidan’ - Lush green playing grounds - spread in an area of atleast 1 sq. km.
Kolkata is a reflection of traditional Indian city, busy but yet receptive to outsiders like me.
Whereas the fact remains that whomsoever I talked in Kolkata was a very helpful person, another fact that surfaced was with regards to Hockey, i.e. “Hockey is dead in this whole state”. Yes, sad but not disputed by anyone whom I met.
As I started off our mission of exploring various schools where we can introduce this sport, I was enamored with the warmth and welcome of all the school authorities.
I had with me Dr. Shankar Kumar Chatterjee, a Hockey enthusiast, who has been instrumental in materializing my visit to Kolkata. If not him, I wouldn’t have gone to that city on Mission Hockey.
As we crossed the River Hoogly, from main city Kolkata to the outskirts of Howrah, I got to see another portion of West Bengal – the unending poverty. Desperately attempting to beat the humid heat that marked the onset of summer, Howrah visit was an eye opener.
There are so many people just waiting to grab an opportunity offered to them. We covered 3 schools here and the only response from these schools was, ‘Come, we are desperately waiting for your Hockey programme’.
As the latter half of the day started, we started from Howrah towards Hooghly district. I couldn’t believe that I am only a few kilometers away from Kolkata. Narrow roads, old constructions and poverty were seen everywhere.
As we reached the schools, it was the same story again.
‘Hockey is dead in this state.’
‘We want to start your programme in our schools.’
I was totally overwhelmed by the response we got. Over a period of 2 days, we visited 7 schools and a couple of enthusiastic calls to Dr. Chatterjee, seemed to tell me that after all I haven’t been after something impossible.
A couple of hours before I had to leave the city, I met a passionate Hockey lover, Mr. Divnain Singh, who has been a Hockey coach for years. We casually chatted with him. He also told the same thing that I was hearing from the past 2 days. He passionately remarked that Hockey is not being played at schools these days. For a moment, I couldn’t digest it.
If you ask me, to summarize what I brought back from Kolkata:
1) Spirit of Volunteerism personified by Dr. Shankar Chatterjee.
2) The vision and belief that we are on the right track.
Hockey Citizen Group has a big task ahead now - To live up the expectations and promises made in Kolkata.
I just dream of a day when every school child has a Hockey stick in their hands. Yeah, I know it’s a distant dream. But I still wish to dream so…
Developing sustained passion for Hockey by introduction of Hockey to pre and early teenaged children and simultaneously promoting playing sport as a culture and tradition, thereby contributing to develop a sports loving society.