Parminder Singh, a Class XII student of Khalsa English High School, does the bhangra after receiving courage awards at The Telegraph School Awards for Excellence 2012 for his indomitable spirit in the face of personal tragedy. (Rashbehari Das)
Calcutta, Sept. 8: On a day when rain denied the country the chance to celebrate the return of a sporting champion after his fight with cancer, the Science City auditorium rose to salute several anonymous little champions fighting the odds every single day to pursue their sporting dreams or to just embody the spirit of sportsmanship.
Powered by the theme “Khelo ji jaan se khelo… khelo, khelo, khelo”, the 17th edition of The Telegraph School Awards for Excellence, presented by Techno India Group in association with Parle-G, celebrated the spirit of sport and also unsung heroes young and old who have dedicated their life to sports.
Even as Yuvraj Singh tweeted today, “If Yuvi can, you can fight cancer and come back where you belong!” Subhankar Bhagat of St. Patrick’s Higher Secondary School, Asansol, stood tall on stage as the recipient of a courage award having fought cancer (Hodgkins lymphoma) for over a year, scoring 87 per cent in his ICSE, and also playing for the school football team.
As if matching steps with Yuvi’s comeback, another braveheart Singh bhangra-d straight into the hearts of an auditorium full of students and teachers and parents. Parminder Singh, a Class XII student of Khalsa English High School, lost his father at the age of 12. Then, just before his Madhyamik results, he lost his mother. Soon, tragedy struck again and he lost his older brother. But nothing could stop Parminder.
After topping his school with 83 per cent in Madhyamik, he started giving math tuition, working at a dhaba and dancing the bhangra professionally at events to stay afloat and also help out his brother’s widow and children in Ludhiana.
“I feel humbled and honoured and though I have a long struggle ahead of me, coming to such a ceremony made me realise that there are people who are facing greater or equal odds and that is an inspiration for me,” said Parminder, minutes after receiving the Keshav Rathi Memorial Scholarship and the Surrendra Paul Memorial Award for Courage and then doing the bhangra to the Rang de Basanti title track.
Parminder’s school, which has helped keep the spring in his steps alive, won a Special Honour as School of the Year for nurturing talent and promoting the sport of hockey in Calcutta and Bengal for over four decades.
Barry ’Brien, convener of the annual awards organised by The Telegraph Education Foundation, introduced this year’s theme quoting Albert Camus, “All that I know most surely about morality and obligations I owe to football”, before adding: “When you lose and win on the football field or the kabaddi court, that is what prepares you for life.”
So it was only fitting that a mastermoshai in such lessons of life was inducted into The Telegraph Education Foundation Hall of Fame this year — football coach Sushil Bhattacharjee, 87, who took the stage to a standing ovation flanked by some of his students.
“I am attached with sports for 70 years but never have I ever got an ovation like this. The whole thing was so intimate… so touching,” said the sports guru, after receiving the honour. The first coach of East Bengal and also that of the Bengal women’s team, his proteges range from P.K. Banerjee to Subhash Bhowmick to Krishanu Dey, Shanti Mullick to Shukla Dutta and Minati Roy.
If Bhattacharjee was the oldest sports star on stage, a whole army of younger budding talent shone with their tales of pluck and perseverance. Like the four young athletes from Sewli High School in Barrackpore — Sathi Neye, Sanu Bhowmick, Mallika Mondal and Kunal Dhali — who won scholarships to help them continue their studies and keep their dreams on track.
A month after the London Olympics, in which India bagged six medals but no gold, Sukanta Chaudhuri, the chairman of The Telegraph Education Foundation, urged the audience to help find and nurture young talent. “For every success that we report and encourage there are hundreds who don’t get the chance to succeed because they do not have the chance. We may not be able to give a lot but it can always be a little more. If one inhabitant of inner Calcutta was to make a modest contribution to help a child we could touch a target of one crore,” he said.