I was raised in a family of academicians and scientists. Our days started with reading the newspaper and cursing the government for something new, almost everyday. We were almost always talking about what the next meal would be. Everyone wanted my brother and me to study well and become a professor in a renowned college or join the ISRO or do something on those lines! We loved our sweets and the only time we were allowed to take a break from studies was when we went to visit our grandparents or when we took up some kind of art as a hobby. And we were probably the only family in our huge circle, which did not watch football, at least not for a major part of my childhood. I’m sure that by now you must have guessed that I’m Bengali and believe it or not, I turned out fine (yes, cos I did not watch football).
My uncle used to support Mohan Bagan with all his heart almost as though it was Mohan Bagan that kept him in his womb for 9 months. Many years later I found out that he was delivered prematurely, maybe that explains it. In the eighties, Manas Bhattacharya and Sisir Ghosh were a big deal. It would appear as though they scored at will. The times Mohan Bagan lost, everyone would tread carefully around my uncle. In the nineties I started watching football. Like most people, I was introduced to it during a World Cup match on DD. You must understand one thing – You can’t be Bengali and not love the sport of Football. It’s in our genes. We are all football fanatics. To ensure that I studied, my parents suppressed their love for the sport and never watched it or spoke about it much. All that changed once I started with my B.E. course. They seemed to go easy on me and they cut me some serious slack with football.
We had a great school team at La Martiniere, where I did my schooling. I belong to a time when school was mainly for education and sports were a mere hobby or excuse to get kids out of the house. Our school had athletes, football and cricket played, and many other sports enthusiasts, but the ground truth remained the same – if you didn’t post the marks then nothing else mattered. I did kick the ball occasionally when the opportunity presented itself in school but I was nowhere close to being good enough for a real game.
I wasn’t great in sports but I loved watching pretty much any football match. Being in college was like restarting certain aspects of your life which were either non-existent or surpassed or hidden. Football was somewhat similar in my case. Whenever we got a chance my uncle and I or my friends and I would go watch matches, on the field if we could and on TV if we had to. College saw me play a lot of football and become an absolute fanatic who would schedule all activities around the football league schedule. Soon I realised that Playing football was one of the greatest things that happened to me. No matter how my papers went, no matter what my parents said, no matter what my girlfriend did – football was my avenue to disconnect and just enjoy myself.
College got over, work happened, and life started getting real. Work was demanding and there was hardly any spare time. Playing football was out of question and funnily everyone around me was on a similar boat. 10-12 years went by and I had given up on playing sports. Watching a football game on TV was more like it. One fine day, the HR said that we have an inter business unit football tournament and that the interested players can show up for selection. Physically I was in my thirties but in my mind, I was still in college, I am sure many of you know this feeling. I had to make it to the team. Should I buys myself a new pair of shoes? Should I start running everyday to get back in shape? All kinds of things were going through my head. We worked close to a beautiful rink in Powai called Kick. I had been driving past it for a few months now but never saw the need to drive up there and see whats going on. Finally 12 of us landed there for our practise and selection. All we needed was to show up in a shorts and t-shirt and they gave us shoes to play comfortable.
Football had returned to my life, and this was no small moment for me. This opened up a whole new zone of entertainment and fitness. I never knew that it could be so easy to get back to the sport, just like going to a gym or going for a swim. An hour of football on alternate days is all I needed to be a happier man.