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Grieving parents’ gift to son

Pradipta Mandal’s parents lost him months before his 23rd birthday but that did not stop them from giving him a gift they are sure would have pleased him a lot.

Pradipta, 22, who relatives in Calcutta and former neighbours in Visakhapatnam described as “a sports fan” and “budding philanthropist”, died in a freak motorbike accident last July. In memory of their dearest son, the Mandals held a volleyball tournament in Howrah on his birthday, January 13.

“Pradipta used to eat, sleep and drink sport. Be it cricket, football, tennis or motorsport, he would watch everything on TV. He never played volleyball but that is the sport we have chosen to support because it is woefully short of funding,” said Pradipta’s father Sumanta Mandal, a senior general manager with Orissa Minerals Development Co.

The two-day tournament featured eight top volleyball teams affiliated to the Howrah District Volleyball Association.

“Volleyball has long been neglected and more such efforts will give the players greater exposure and improve the standard of the sport in which Bengal lags behind Punjab, Kerala and Tamil Nadu and other states,” said former national-level player Moni Mohan Pal, who was in the audience during a semi-final match at Howrah Saraswati Club, Panchanantala.

The one sport Pradipta himself had excelled in was table tennis and went on to become an inter-college champion at Andhra University. But his biggest wish was to visit the Eden Gardens once, something that will never be.

Cousins Sayan and Arnab said Pradipta was “an ardent fan” of Sourav Ganguly. They recalled how he was torn between supporting Pune Warriors India, the team Sourav represented, and his home side Kolkata Knight Riders last year.

“He loved Sourav so much that his friends in Vizag would call him ‘Dada’. But he did give them a treat at home after KKR won the IPL last year,” Sayan said.

There was another side to him that went beyond his own needs and aspirations. “He used to feel for the less fortunate and often visit orphanages. His friends in Vizag visited old-age and children’s homes to mark his birthday this year,” said a former colleague of Pradipta’s father, P.A.R. Naidu, who came down to Calcutta from Visakhapatnam for the volleyball tourney.

Sumanta, 51, and wife Papiya, 47, left Visakhapatnam, where their son was born and had spent much of his life, after his death on June 5 last year.

“His life was just about to take off. He had job offers from Infosys and HCL after completing his BTech and MTech in computer science and IT from Andhra University College of Engineering,” mother Papiya said.

“The day he died was a Thursday. He had asked me to keep Sunday afternoon free so that we could watch the Wimbledon final together. But that Sunday did not come,” recalled father Sumanta, struggling to fight back the tears.

Sumanta has formed a trustee body and created a bank account to make the volleyball tourney an annual event.