| The Banerjees of Kudghat: Prize catch. Picture by Pabitra Das
When Parthib Banerjee was eight, he won his first prize — Rs 50 for a drawing competition in the internal newsletter of a firm where his father worked. His son, Parveek, is now 11 and has already won quite a few prizes for himself — including a colour television set that was larger than him when he won it six years ago.
Between then — 1973 was the year Parthib won his first competition — and now, the Banerjees of Kudghat have become richer by six refrigerators, three washing machines, several VCRs (one of which has now been replaced by a VCD), three television sets, one motorcycle, two bicycles, one cooking range, countless irons, shirt-pieces, suit-lengths, saris and clocks.
Toss in the free trips to London and New York, Goa and Shimla, the free tickets to Test matches at Eden Gardens, and you get a drift of life by the luck of the draw in Banerjee bari.
In the past two decades, Parthib, wife Anju and son Parveek have won goodies worth “around Rs 50 lakh” through numerous slogan-writing, quiz, drawing and recipe contests. Not to mention Parthib’s now-arthritis-ridden father Prabhat Banerjee, who set the family fortune ball rolling by winning a Competition Success Review-sponsored contest that got them a free trip to the Big Apple way back in 1972.
While leafing through old files — of prizes won through the years — and conjuring up answers to riddles for the current ones, the family with the Midas touch on Sunday said there was a flip side to their winning ways — having to constantly figure out which prize to pass on to a neighbour a relative or a friend to make sure their Kudghat flat had some empty spaces left.
“We have started giving out — and, sometimes, selling off — the prizes we win,” Anju said. “We have replaced the VCR we won earlier with a VCD we won more recently,” she added, but admitted, while making her way through the prize-crammed rooms, that where to keep the winnings was a constant cause for concern. “The first prize I won (for the Metal Box newsletter) gave me Rs 50,” recounted Parthib. “What started as an experiment inspired by my father soon turned into a fierce passion.”
The family album has records of several competitions which Parthib — aided by his wife and, now, by his son as well — swept. One was a cricket quiz in 1997, played via newspapers, in which he won the first prize (two return tickets to London sponsored by British Airways), one of the second prizes (a five-day-six-night holiday package, courtesy Sterling Resorts), a third prize (a VCR) and several other consolation prizes (19 to be precise, all of them the trendiest T-shirts available in town). Another was a slogan-writing contest sponsored by the makers of a shaving cream. The family (entering as individuals) won all the top four prizes.
Anju picked up the play-to-win habit soon after marriage. She now regularly picks up prizes by cooking up recipes for contests run by a clutch of national magazines. Parveek, a student of Class VI in St Lawrence High School, is following in his parents’ footsteps, winning contests galore.