Wednesday, October 5, 2016

My Father Would Have Loved MS Dhoni

By Manuwant Choudhary

My father would have loved MS Dhoni, not because his `Untold Story'  earned 85 crores, but because Mahendra Singh Dhoni represents the India of my fathers dreams.

India as a sporting nation not a bickering one.

Like Dhoni my father was a footballer - a goalkeeper !

From the bits and pieces I recall...he played for the Benares Hindu University.

In college when his friends would be going to watch a Waheeda Rehman film, my father would be in shorts heading either to the football field or to play tennis.

Once and only once a friend of his managed to force him for a film...and he landed up at the cinema hall in shorts and football boots and a tennis racket!

He also loved being in the NCC (National Cadet Corps) and after University he wanted to join the Indian army..he did get a call letter but the family didn't let him.

Many years later he would roar, "Had I joined the Indian army I would have been a Brigadier or a General !"

But his passion was sports.

When he completed his graduation from BHU my grandfather sent his Munshiji (Manager) to check the results.

The Munishji started checking for his name in the list from top..and it was a long my father told him, "Munshiji neeche se dekhiyega naam jaldi mil jayega" (Munshiji check from below you will get the name fast !)

And there it was...a pass with a third division...and nearly at the bottom !

My father would often tell us this story while my mom would try to keep him quiet, she would say he was too easy on his children. He never hankered after marks and saved our day when we did not do so well.

After BHU he joined the Bihar University only to play football...taking the university football team all over India.

In fact he kept playing right until 1970 when he fractured a collar bone.

But my father never bragged about his achievements.

As a school student in Darjeeling in the eighties I sensed his humility first hand.

We used to  always stay at the New Elgin Hotel.

And I think it was October..the Football Gold Cup tournament was on..

It was raining heavily as we got into the hotel lobby.

My father was in his usual crumpled kurta-pyjama as if just from a train journey.

No one would have bothered to be even know him

Just then a voice rings out loud and clear , "Arre Choudhary !"

My father turned and a man in blue track suit came and hugged him with joy..they were meeting after almost 30 years !

The man in the tracksuit was legendary Indian footballer PK Banerjee.

The hotel lobby was crowded with men in tracksuits..the East Bengal team.

PK Banerjee, their coach then, introduced each one of them to my father as if my father was Jawaharlal Nehru..

As the players shook hands with my father, PK told them "Choudhary was among the best goalkeepers in India".

My father laughed, "PK thats why we lost 16-0 to you and Calcutta University !"

PK, "Choudhary, but thats not entirely true...from Bihar University you were the only one must have saved dozens of goals that day in Jaipur ! How well you played !"

PK had gone on to play for India in 85 games scoring 65 goals !

And one of the first recipients of Arjuna Award...

Later PK became a coach for various clubs and the Indian team.

My father never liked cricket that much but when television came to India I would often find my father watching cricket in black and white..and inquiring about the score.

I have never cared for sports that much and so I nearly failed my journalism test when I put rugby above cricket....

Or when my editor Behram Contractor asked me to meet some Australian cricket was like my toughest assignment.

But many years later I see their point.

I watched Dhoni with interest....not for cricket but his story and I salute his grit and determination...a role model for Indians.

But what lingers on forever is a small part in the film - Dhoni's first girlfriend Priyanka Jha.

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