Diptimoy Mukherjee at work. (Bhubaneswarananda Halder)
Sportspersons make many sacrifices to become champions, Diptimoy Mukherjee made his so that others could become champions.
The 55-year-old former state and national-level table tennis player gave up a central government job to devote more time to coaching. He never married because “table tennis will always remain his first love”. And he even used to carry two bags to office so that he could leave for practice with one, giving those who saw the other bag the impression that he was still at work.
Mukherjee’s three decades of untiring work as coach has helped top players like Soumyadeep Roy, Nupur Santra, Sushmita Roy, Souvik Roy and Sourav Sengupta improve their game. His passion for shaping new talent was saluted with The Telegraph Educational Foundation Special Honour at The Telegraph School Awards for Excellence at Science City on September 8.
“I cannot tell you how it felt to go up on stage and receive the award. I was so overwhelmed that I almost had tears in my eyes. It’s great to have your contributions recognised in such a manner,” says Mukherjee.
Inspired by his elder brother Dilip, Diptimoy had started playing table tennis when he was only eight years old.
“I used to accompany my brother to watch famous players like Mir Khasim Ali, Farookh Khodaji and Rupa Mukherjee and felt intoxicated seeing them play. There was nothing I wanted to do more,” said Diptimoy. Within four years, he was playing for Bengal.
But teaching the game seemed to him even more appealing. In 1981, when Mukherjee was only 24, he started coaching budding players at a table tennis school in Rabindra Sarobar.
“I could have played longer but my motivation was different. I wanted to create winners for Bengal,” says Mukherjee, now associated with Falcon Sporting Club on AJC Bose Road, which he calls his “temple”.
In between, he was a physical education teacher at South Point High School, which he joined giving up a central government job.
“Everyone said I was mad to give up a government job but I have never been happier than when I was teaching table tennis to the students. Under me, the school won the Patterson Memorial Table Tennis Championship four times,” said Mukherjee, who now also coaches at Saturday Club and Calcutta Swimming Club.
His ambition? To coach at the national level. “I know I have more to give my country.”
And his love for the game will keep him going. “The sound of the ball hitting the bat draws me even now and nothing makes me happier than the sight of a table tennis board,” he says.