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Sourav brings smiles to Siliguri
- Skipper & mates stars at rehab centre opening

Siliguri, April 23: If the girls at Udayan in Calcutta have found a benefactor in Steve Waugh, the challenged children at the homes of the North Bengal Council for the Disabled (NBCD) have found hope in the form of Sourav Ganguly.

In his second visit in two years, the Indian skipper, who had in tow Mohammed Kaif, Parthiv Patel and Virendra Sehwag, brought cheer to the disabled children who had gathered for the inauguration of a new training and rehabilitation centre today. The facility was opened this morning by former Rajya Sabha MP Bharati Roy.

“It is so kind of him to come here again. It gives us courage and inspiration to face the disabilities in life,” said Uma Shankar, a visually-handicapped child who had a chance to meet his idol last year when he visited the Prerona Educational Centre with Yuvraj Singh.

Apart from forty-eight children from Prerona, many other disabled children came from as far as Phansidewa to have a glimpse of their cricket gods. The players arrived almost two hours late, but the children’s spirit did not flag.

They put up a marvellous dance performance to the tunes of “Anandaloke mongolaloke…”, before a flute recital by their teacher, Bidhan Ghosh, to bowl over the cricketers.

In the forty-five minute session, Sourav, dressed in a cool blue kurta and faded blue jeans, looked relaxed. “It feels good to be here. The work taken up by the NGO is commendable and it gives me pleasure to congratulate them on crossing yet another milestone,” he said.

With his teammates, Sourav shook hands with the children, autographed their miniature bats before a tour of the three-storey facility. It was an eye-opener for the guests: little Papia, suffering from a severe mental retardation, went into a fit, crying and banging her head. A moved Kaif, spoke soothing words to her but, while batsmen stop in their tracks when the lightning-quick Kaif has the ball in his hand, Papia was uncontrollable.

The enthused smile of locomotor-handicapped Niranjan brought them at ease as the quartet went around speaking to the children, who were awed at having their heroes so close to them, but never without a smile.

Sourav, too, wore a pleasant smile as he and his friends admired the handicrafts of the children and patiently listened to them. All the while, the trio of minister Asok Bhattacharya, Siliguri Mahakuma Parishad sabhadhipati Anil Saha and Siliguri mayor Bikash Ghosh hovered around.

Later, at a felicitation programme arranged by the NBCD, Sourav showed why he is so revered by his teammates. Conscious that the limelight was firmly on him, Sourav asked the organisers to present bouquets to the juniors, before accepting his. The NBCD presented a memento to the captain, congratulating him for steering the team to great heights and wishing a bright future for Team India.

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