5 September, 2018
There was a lot happening in the country during the recent Asian Games that concluded in Jakarta and Palembang. The devastating floods in Kerala and Coorg mostly took away all the media coverage. Hence, many of the initial medal-winning performances of our athletes in the Asian Games almost went unnoticed. However, things slowly started picking up and while a few hits and misses, it was obvious that India was well on its way to find its best Asian Games performance in terms of medals. And also, in terms of Gold medals, it equaled its best-ever performance of 15 golds.
The last and the 15th gold medal was truly a case of the last but not the least. It was a gold medal in Bridge, a debut game in this Asian Games, and also the medal winners were Pranab Bardhan and Shibhnath Sarkar, who won the men’s pair event. What makes this gold even more special and interesting is the ages of the medal winners. Shibhnath Sarkar is 56 years old, while Bardhan is aged 60, making them the oldest Asian Games medallists for India.
Age is no bar if you truly believe in yourself and would like to follow your passion. And you can even bring glory to the country at this age, and that is what has been proved by this duo at the Asian Games, truly becoming an inspiration for many. Bardhan is a businessman in South Kolkata's Santoshpur and is a family man with a granddaughter as well. As expected, things were not easy, and he had to deal with the negative perceptions in society about Bridge as a sport.
The bridge is equated with gambling by many, and he was in fact asked by someone at the Passport office when he was to travel to Montreal for a tournament, whether he was traveling all the way for gambling! Bengalis are known for their love of the game of cards, and there is also an adage that says that it can lead to destruction. And hence, the negative perceptions about the game.
Bridge needs more intellect than chess according to Bardhan, needing a lot of logic because of the challenges it throws up. Also, Bridge is played in partnership, unlike chess where you can single-handedly work out the strategies in your mind. In Bridge, you can’t even communicate with your partner during the game. A lot is at stake, and you need to have a good understanding and reading of each other’s minds. This is where this team has really struck Gold. They have been playing with each other for 20 years now. No wonder that they managed to clinch the gold. Though both have their jobs to work on a daily basis, they still play and practice the whole day and are also good friends away from the game.
Preparation and Future
They have not taken things easy; in fact, they have prepared well for the game at Asian Games debut. They won an invitational tournament in Incheon, where Asia Pacific countries competed, earlier this year. They also won the team bronze for India in the Asia Cup in Goa, in June. So, they had their practice of competition and were confident of going in. However, they, as well as the Bridge Federation of India, are still fighting to dispel the negatives associated with the sport. Perhaps, the efforts will yield and one day; it will be looked upon as a sport.
The Federation is now seeking all possible help and taking a few steps to get this introduced as a sport in schools to encourage people to take it up. With so much negativity associated with the game, as gambling is so prevalent and also a negative influence, it is really a tough way ahead for the Federation, but perhaps the Gold medal at Asian Games can help in a great way. It is indeed wonderful that two people whom the society may have looked upon as old have actually managed to bring smiles and glory to the country.
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