A Tryst With Destiny - Pabitra Sarkar
Almost 25 years after being denied a rare chance to hone his soccer skills at the junior national level, he grabbed a golden opportunity and won a sporting laurel at the veterans’ international level. The man who once lost hope finally found a purpose to relive his dream. He is still playing.
Pabitra Sarkar was barely six when he lost his father. His mother, who would do some odd hand-sewing jobs to make ends meet, gave him a free reign – and he ran. Sports simply captivated him. Living in a back of beyond sleepy town of Jalpaiguri in West Bengal, he would go out and play with other children on streets or in the neighbouring run-down fields. But it was his soccer skills that made him stand out.
The word about his prodigious talent soon started spreading. It was a defining moment for a 15-year-old when he was called in to participate in the soccer selection trial conducted by Sports Authority of India (SAI) at Siliguri.
“I did not even have a pair of proper sports shoes to participate in the trial”, recalls Pabitra. The selectors, however, saw his steely resolve and spotted a spark in him. They decided to induct him.
But his joy was short-lived. “My mother who was always so supportive did not allow me to leave home and shift to the SAI sports hostel”, says Pabitra with a tinge of sadness in his eyes. Having seen hard times, she wanted him to enjoy sports but pursue studies to make a decent living. Her rationale was that sports would not feed the family.
Pabitra quietly sobbed but soon reconciled to continue to play. He realised he couldn’t live without sports. His love for the game grew stronger with every passing day. He would often be called by different soccer clubs to participate in various local tournaments. It was only his stubborn determination that saw him play alongside senior players in state level A-division football league tournaments as a left-striker for three years.
Evidently, his popularity grew, and the trophies started streaming in. But it was the memento presented to him by his mother that he cherishes the most. “I clearly remember the day when my mother presented me with a football”, recalls Pabitra. What made the memento even more special was the fact that she bought this out of the savings created from the money that Pabitra would give her every month when he got his first job in HCCB. She probably realised her mistake of not allowing him to live his dream. She rues her decision till date. But Pabitra does not blame her. “I can understand why she wanted me to study”
Pabitra Sarkar's Mother
As expected, life changed for him. Pabitra joined HCCB in 2001 after completing B. Com, Diploma in Computers and ITI. His involvement in his work grew and the daily grind of the job seemed to have drifted him from sports. “I realised how much I was missing being on the ground”, says Pabitra.
“I decided to revive my passion”, says Pabitra. He would just get up in the morning, get his shoes on and go to the ground. Soon, others would follow him. His tribe increased in strength. Today, there are more than 40 senior people, from 40 to 75, who join Pabitra every morning to play soccer and other games. He found a new rhythm of life.
The destiny, however, had something special in store for Pabitra. Seeing his unusual knack for running fast, one of his coaches encouraged him to participate in a state-level Masters’ Athletic Tournament that was to be held in Jalpaiguri in 2018. Pabitra not only competed but also won third prizes in 100 metre, 400 metre and Long Jump events. And, the rest as they say is history. One success led to another. His performance at the state -level qualified him for the Veteran National Athletic Tournament held at Guntur in 2018-19. This is where he won bronze in 400 metre race.
The win gave him a passport to participate at the Asian Veteran Games held in Malaysia the same year. Pabitra drove himself harder and secured 8th rank among 42 veterans drawn from different Asian countries. But for the current pandemic, he would have participated at the Masters’ International Athletic Tournament that was to be held in November 2020 in Japan.
“I was a star all over again”, describes Pabitra on how he felt after winning the Asian Tournament. Convinced that age is just a number, Pabitra ascribes his success to the hard work. He says, “You have to be honest in sports. The game will otherwise expose you.” He also believes in accepting realities of life and working towards overcoming the challenges.
Understandably, Pabitra is a role model for many local budding sporting talents. He even donates shirts, shoes, bags and footballs to children from poor family background. Working as Team Leader, Stores at HCCB’s factory in Jalpaiguri, Pabitra continues to participate in different sporting games and tournaments. And, his logic is simple, “I play because I love to play.”