'Building Bridges': When Asian Games gold medallist Pranab Bardhan fought perceptions of gambling

Pranab Bardhan and Shibhnath Sarkar won the men's pairs gold in the debut sport of bridge in the Asian Games.

Published: 01st September 2018 07:07 PM  |   Last Updated: 01st September 2018 09:24 PM   |  A+A-

Gold medallists Pranab Bardhan and Shibhnath Sarkar pose with the Indian tricolour after winning in bridge competition at the 18th Asian Games in Jakarta. (Photo | PTI)


JAKARTA: The incident happened some years back and it's still vivid in the memory of Asian Games gold medallist bridge player Pranab Bardhan.

The 60-year-old Bardhan was then getting ready to represent India in an international competition in Montreal but he needed to renew his passport.

But the officer at the passport office, scrutinising his application form made an allegedly offensive remark.

"He (passport officer) asked me, aap jua khelne Canada jaa rahein hain (you are going to Canada to take part in gambling). I told him you have not read my file properly. He was an educated man but still did not know, it's a sport and not gambling. Sensible people would not think like that," Bardhan, who today became India's oldest gold medal winner at the Asiad, spoke about how perceptions rule our society.

Quintessential Bengalis love their adda sessions along with a game of carrom or cards.


It's a way of life in those rickety club rooms in the narrow bylanes of Kolkata where people learn their contracts and auction bridge with ease.

The old Bengali adage goes like this: "Taash Daba Paasha, Teen Sarbonasha", whose loose translation will be "Cards, Chess or game of dice can lead to destruction".

No wonder the perception is ingrained in people's mind that it's a waste of time but Bardhan would tell you that a game of bridge requires more intellect than chess.

"It is a game based on logic. It's a mind game like chess but more challenging. In chess, you play one against one. Here you are playing with your partner, with whom you can't speak during the match. You have to understand each other's move. You have to judge, what I am thinking with my cards," Bardhan, 60, said.

"It's definitely not gambling. Everybody gets the same hand (first set of cards), so no luck is involved. It's up to you to respond to the situation," said Bardhan who has been playing with Sarkar as a team for the last 20 years.

Bardhan said one must love and respect his cards.

"The set that you have in your hand, will not come to you with same combination again. You got to respect what you have. I always say you must love your cards, only then you can develop the game," he said.

His partner, 56-year-old Shibhnath Sarkar feels that contrary to popular perception, bridge is a game of young people and not the senior citizens.

"The Singapore team had young players. There are a lot of players who are in their 20s. It's also not a sport for the elite. In West Bengal, you have all kind of people playing the sport," said Sarkar, who is a fan of legendary singer Kishore Kumar.

Nirmal Rajagopalan, the honorary treasurer of the Bridge Federation of India, said the officials were striving hard to dispel the negatives attached with bridge.

"We are in touch with people to have bridge introduced at the inter-university games as a sport. We are also seeking a meeting with the All India School Board to have this game introduced at schools. The perception is changing and this medal will help further," Rajagopalan said.

"There are at least 5000 players registered with the federation."

Bardhan and Sarkar, who also won a gold at the Asian Championship last year, said they did practice by playing against a computer at least two hours every day.


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