A Cinderella story outta nowhere

(By Shreyashi Roy & Aman Misra)

In the 1980 movie Caddyshack, Bill Murray plays Carl Spackler in the role of the greenskeeper commissioned to look after Bushwood Country Club. The famous scene has him hacking away at flowers outside the clubhouse while he imagines himself holing out to win the Masters tournament.

Cinderella Story

“It’s in the hole!”

With apologies to Nawazuddin Siddiqui if this were rewritten for Bollywood, SSP Chawrasia would play the role of the protagonist Danny Noonan who works his way up to the big-time. In Spackler’s words, ‘a Cinderella story, outta nowhere’.

Chow as he fondly known on tour, spoke to us after getting recommended for the Arjuna Award in a year which he successfully defended his Indian Open crown.

“The Arjuna was a dream. Sheikh Jamshed Ali was the first to win the award in 1975 when I wasn’t even born! Until today I’ve kept a photograph of him receiving the award with me. Since I was a child, I’ve always wanted to win this. Knowing that I have finally been chosen this year makes me happy because I have fulfilled my desire.”

Sheikh Jamshed Ali

Indian golf’s first Arjuna Awardee Sheikh Jamshed Ali (Photo from The Telegraph Kolkata website)

Both are part of a legacy of golfers produced from the Royal Calcutta Golf Club in Kolkata. Ali passed in 2005 after a long battle with throat cancer, but in Chawrasia remains the link to a glorious past of self-made golfers that adopted the game played by British sahibs back in the day.

When you bring up his European Tour wins, he is quick to point out that all were in India. His peers on tour have branded him the “Indian Jack Nicklaus” for his dominance at home. Even if you consider that he has won on foreign soil in Manila, November 2016, for Chawrasia the goal is to win in Europe.

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“To play at that level, you need all the shots in the bag otherwise you cannot survive.” offers the veteran who is currently number two on the Asian Tour Order of merit.

Veteran journalist Joy Chakravarty took us back to the 2011 Avantha Masters when the Kolkata golfer won for the second time on the European Tour, and in the process retained his card.
“When he holed out on the 18th, naturally the cameras rushed to him – and I remember he kept saying  Abar Europe jabo!(I am going to play in Europe again!)”

It is a telling sign, what his greatest ambition is. A golfer reaches his peak between the ages of 32-35. This year in May SSP turned 39, but has no plans to slow down. “If I could, I’d happily play for a living all my life.”

While a bothersome back kept him home for this week’s Fiji International, Ranadeep Moitra posted a video on Instagram where he puts SSP through the ropes in the gym at the RCGC during his off week which is testamen to his work ethic everyone talks about.

Expect him to be back in action soon – searching for his magnum opus, that elusive win in continental Europe

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Mangoes in Summer, Carrots in Winter

When you grow up in India, you’re always offered fruit and vegetables to eat at home depending on the season. In the summer Pops would always bring back mangoes in the official bazaar bag – a big white and ugly plastic bag with a single red line running down at one end. In winter with all the lectures came carrots – juicy and bright in the white,ugly bag. Living away from home now leaves little option. Oh the luxury of mangoes in summer, carrots in winter.

2016 unlike 2015 hasn’t been a silent year. This year I’ve written on noisy trains with people passing tea in the middle of my screen. I’ve typed furiously on a short flight while the air hostesses showed us how to wear our lifejackets. In a cab, in a hurry with the latest Punjabi beats on tap and even in an elevator before a presentation. In Bangalore, with a submission on the line – the three and a half kilometer drive from the tube to the office was enough time to proof read the piece in an auto rickshaw. Mangoes in summer, carrots in winter.

The soul of my machine is well traveled – maybe even more than I have now. Life is so different I don’t even react  to it anymore. So when an old school friend called on me explaining that she was getting older and she wanted me over I didn’t blink twice. Late nights had been the norm and I was looking forward to none of it. A horrible throat earlier in the week had me against the ropes, almost dead but I kicked the bucket and hailed the last bus off campus. Mangoes in summer, carrots in winter.

The last thing on my mind that Saturday night was meeting someone I hadn’t seen in a while. Some are doctors. Some are lawyers – they’re an illusion to me now. I wonder what they’re doing with their lives now? The apartment wore a rugged look since I was last there. Shadows of my previous visit lurked in the dark corners and as the evening wore on they faded in the distance to make way for my current one. Mangoes in summer, carrots in winter.

She was first seeing someone when we first met, soon to be single. I’d always ask about her when I called that side of town so far, warm and brighter than my room here at university. Sometimes I’d see the occasional post and think of her but that was it. She walked in and we immediately hit it off. Not a word was spoke between us, everything was unresolved. She said we should move this to her place. Mangoes in summer, carrots in winter.

In a matter of minutes we were on her balcony staring at the far horizon – the abyss that made up the landscape view out of her apartment. A cigarette passed between us was the only sign of physical contact as the cold night wore on. The smoke disappeared into thin air like most of my life but something convinced to hang around a little longer. Mangoes in summer, carrots in winter.

Back at the party we were wanted. As the elevator took us between the floors,it would be poetic justice to say we looked at each other and smiled – but it would tragic as well to say I looked at her and smiled while leaving her reaction for the reader to figure out for themselves. Mangoes in summer, carrots in winter.

As usual like the damn Batman sign in the sky, work beckoned – there’s always bills to pay whispered my evil head to me. The night ended with me texting her I’d be leaving the next morning. She asked me to wake her up before I left. At so many levels I began wondering if I should call or not. Mangoes in summer, carrots in winter.

She was ready downstairs, revving up her dusty sedan. Very kindly I was offered a ride back to the place I tried not to belong. We drove that car as far as we could. The rest of the morning was a blur, coffee and aloo paratha before life came calling. As I watched the dark shiny car pull away I wondered. Mangoes in summer, carrots in winter.

You can’t have em’ all. In the cold of the winter staring at the paint peeling from my hostel room, the only noise I hear is the rhythmic tapping of keys. There is a deathly silence punctuating the air as the end of the year approaches. All this while the impression I had of a writer was exactly that – sitting like Hemingway or Kerouac did. Or a great leader like Napoleon did in his time. How wrong could I be?

As wrong as mangoes in summer, carrots in winter.

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All yellow cabs in Calcutta chainsmoke

Coming home of late, has been a regular experience given the work at the bookstore not to mention the holiday season. As the boss puts it – apart from putting bread on the table it also pays my university tuition. How I agree with her, in my mind all those sleepless nights before the final examinations come back once again – the race against time is on. The proverbial hourglass is running and there is nothing one can do to stop it.

This time it was Bombay and its plastic vision – bright lights and cars everywhere, its small cramped quarters and stories – oh the stories that city can give you. Going there is a story in itself.
Unlike Calcutta – in Calcutta you step out of the aircraft and smell the night sky. Thick, dense and a sense of mischief about it – very traditional, like a relic. It keeps you wondering – this was a place where something once happened. Bombay on the other hand is where it happens – the air is pleasant, more vibrant and wanting – but you still have to breathe it.

From Shivaji’s airport to Bose International. The history encompassing the two is written and debated firmly, and in the air of both cities you grasp more than a tinge of the two – Bombay and its tact, like Shivaji’s army – as Calcutta’s keenness for the intellect as was Bose.

With practiced perfection I hail a cab – all yellow taxis in Calcutta chain smoke. The driver threw the matchbox on my lap as he took off into the calm of the night sky. The smoke from our cigarettes carried out into the traffic in unison – like brothers on opposite sides of a civil war reunited once again. The lights were blurry every time he took off – the car clattered from all ends, it was an old Ambassador, the relic encompassing how the city felt – somehow enough to keep mind and body together.

The next morning I’m awoken not by my alarm clock in unison but by the sound of the traffic outside my window. The sound is very distinct – it is the sound of a fresh morning – like a warm croissant on a cold February morning. Children, parents, cars, two wheelers all clog the private lane leading into the musty bookstore I call home. It is the end of the week – the smell the atmosphere conjures is encouraging – eager at the prospect of the holidays to come.

Ahh Calcutta – for all your laziness you know how to enthral the mind. An afternoon away from the city can’t shake you off either – from beyond the boundary walls of a private retreat one can hear the azaan call, the Bollywood music usually associated with festivities and the occasional cry from the kabaariwala – the rich vein of sound and colour makes up the bedrock of civilisation here.

The bloodlines of Bengal, rooted firmly in the daily life of everyone taken together like an orchestra playing on a broadway show for decades to packed balconies and rapturous applause everytime. It tells you how this city’s base vibrates with stirring monotony, still alive – refusing to give up.

I let it ingulf in me its memories – good, bad and ugly. Once you hit every note you feel little pain and smile.

Finding my way back to Calcutta, lonely and blue – mistreated too. Sometimes I think of you girl, is it true that you think of me too?

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