Why table tennis?
Poulomi: There is a small club near my house called the Baisakhi Sangha Club. My parents enrolled me there when I was a kid because I was very naughty. That was in 1992. Along with table tennis, I also used to take lessons in singing and painting. Bapi (father) was a school and university-level badminton player. And my dadu (paternal grandfather) was crazy about football. My mama was a table tennis player. So, there is the culture of sports running in my family.
But back then the priority was studies. I went to Nava Nalanda. Then around 1996, the junior national championship was held in Calcutta. I won it. I also got a call for the senior championship camp and a chance to be a part of the senior team. Then in 1997, the Commonwealth World Championships clashed with my Class VII examinations. I had decided not to go but my school encouraged me a lot. So, I went there and when I came back, they arranged a special examination for me! I later qualified for the Sydney Olympics in 2000.
Thanks to my parents, I never lost touch with studies. I have completed my graduation. I wanted to do a masters in history but got into MBA in 2008 at Sikkim Manipal University. I havent been able to attend even one class!
Table tennis has become an addiction for me. At times I complain saying, Bhalo lagchhe na, chhere debo (I want to quit). But now, it has become a habit. In 1999, I joined Bharat Petroleum and now I am the assistant manager, sports.
Soumyadeep: I have been playing table tennis for 19 years. My dad was into sports — he used to play table tennis and cricket. My elder sister is a state-level table tennis player. In the beginning, I started with Under-13. I also used to practise at Calcutta Club. After initial success in 1992-93, I thought of taking it up professionally. Now, it is my life. I am working for the Indian Oil Corporation as an assistant manager.
Started playing in…
Soumyadeep: For the national level, I started in 1993. In 1995, I won the Cadet National Championships; in 1996 I won the sub-junior national championships; in 1997, I won the junior national championships. In 1999, I joined the mens senior team. That was also the year that I entered the national rankings. In 2000, I won the senior national championships. In 2001, I retained the title. I have also captained India from 2002 to 2007. Last year, I could not play due to a knee injury. Then I played in Gangtok recently.
Poulomi: Tapan Chandra at Baisakhi Sangha Club till 1999-2000. Now, I practise at SAI in Salt Lake.
Soumyadeep: Initially, I trained under my father, then Anjan Dhar. When I was in Ajmer between 1995 and 2000, I trained under a Chinese gentleman, Yin Wei.
Won my first tournament at…
Poulomi: There used to be a tournament called Annapurna in Howrah. I wasnt even 11 then.
Soumyadeep: In 1993. It was an under-12 India-ranking tournament.
Major tournaments won…
Poulomi: In 1998 I won both the senior national and junior national championships. I won three junior national championships (1996, 1998 and 1999) as well as five senior national championships between 1998 and 2007. I have played at the Commonwealth Games at Melbourne in 2006 and the Commonwealth Championships between 2000 and 2008. I played at the Sydney Olympics when I was 16. I also played in the Indian Open finals in 2007.
Soumyadeep: Bronze at the Commonwealth Games in 2002. Silver at the Commonwealth Championship in 2001, individual silver at 2004 Commonwealth Championship held in Kuala Lumpur. At the same event, the mens team won gold. In the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne the mens team won gold. That was a huge win! It was after this win that government support started to pour in. Since then the facilities have also improved.
On receiving the Arjuna Award…
Poulomi: I was very happy when I got to know about it last month. We were leaving for China that day and were at the airport on our way to Delhi when we got the news. Unfortunately, I could not celebrate it with my parents because we had just gone past the security check. My fiancé was there with me. We went out for dinner. I heard that my parents had gone to my in-laws house and celebrated.
The award function was a magical moment…. All your major performances are played out in front of the President. Amar shob mone pore jachhilo (everything was coming back to me) — getting up at 5am and practising with prickly heat...
Soumyadeep: I won it in 2006. It is a process. This time when Poulomi was nominated, I was with her, guiding her. She was a strong contender. Somehow, I felt that she would win it. It was a really happy moment. I felt really proud.
Poulomi: Mouma Das. It is a really healthy competition that exists between us. Otherwise reaching this level is really not possible. We constantly push each other and motivate each other. I am very professional about my (Arjuna) win too. I am very happy that I have won it and so are my parents. But I hope next year, Mouma wins.
Soumyadeep: Naming one would be unfair. Beating Chetan Baboor in the national finals in 2000 was a big moment. There is Sharad and Subhojit Saha. We have been playing together for six to seven years and complement each other really well.
Poulomi: I won the Siliguri Nationals in 2007. It was a very happy moment in my career because I hadnt won a single tournament for the whole year. I was very upset. There have also been a few losses, which have had a deep impact on me.
Soumyadeep: Winning the senior national championships in 2000. In 2004, the mens team won at the finals of the Commonwealth Championship. That was also an important win.
Rate Soumyadeep on a scale of 10 as an opponent…
Poulomi: You cannot even compare. Table tennis for boys and table tennis for girls is very different. If I play with him, he will give me seven to eight handicaps. He is very hardworking and dedicated. After becoming number one after six years, he got injured and for six months could not even hold the racquet because he had to undergo a knee operation. When the doctor gave him permission, he practised like crazy. Aamar theke or knowledge onek beshi (he knows a lot more). He gives me tips on training, techniques and what racquets to use. If I have to rate him, I will give him 20 out of 10.
Rate Poulomi on a scale of 10 as an opponent…
Soumyadeep: She has been a pillar in the Indian table tennis circuit.
Other sports that you follow…
Poulomi: Tennis, badminton.
Soumyadeep: Cricket, tennis.
Fave sport stars…
Poulomi: Steffi Graf.
Soumyadeep: Dada (Sourav Ganguly) and (Roger) Federer.
Poulomi: Shah Rukh Khan, Hrithik Roshan.
Soumyadeep: Akshay Kumar.
Soumyadeep: Rani Mukerji, Deepika Padukone.
Poulomi: See, I have never planned for anything. No long term plans for me. As of now, I want to play the 2010 Commonwealth Games.
Soumyadeep: Getting back in the Indian team.
Poulomi, do you remember where you first met Soumyadeep?
It was 1993 and I was going to play a tournament. There was Soumyadeep with his father and I with my pisho (paternal uncle). Then I wasnt on talking terms with him due to a very big misunderstanding for a long time. We patched up two years back where a common friend played a mediator since two senior players in the team should at least be on talking terms. Its been eight to nine months that we have been going around and recently we have got engaged.
Do you practise together?
Yes, we do. He makes sure that he plays for at least half an hour with me. Standard wise, he is way above. We discuss things. I try to help him out.
What are the things that you enjoy doing together?
We go for movies. He is very close to my family and even his parents love me a lot. So we all go out together. Café Coffee Day on Lake Road is a favourite hangout spot.
Things you love about him?
He is caring, dependable and loyal.
One thing you hate about him?
He keeps scolding me!
One thing you think he simply loves about you?
I dont know (laughs). That youll have to ask him!
When are you planning to tie the knot?
In the beginning of 2011.
Soumyadeep, whats the best thing about Poulomi?
She is very adjusting and very positive.
The sweetest thing she has done for you?
I have been through a very rough patch. She has been there for me.
Who wears the pants in the relationship?
There hasnt been any major fight!
Date of birth: October 30, 1982
Born in: Calcutta.
Lives near the airport
Current national ranking: 2
School: Julien Day School, Mayur School (Ajmer), Naba Jiban Vidyamandir (New Barrackpore)
Date of birth: January 3, 1983
Born in: Calcutta.
Stays near Swiss Park
School: Nava Nalanda
College: Jogamaya Devi College
What message do you have for Poulomi and Soumyadeep?