Calcutta: Mamoni Mondal still remembers that poster of a natty Switzerland suburb on her not-so-natty wall in the jhopri that was home in the November of 2000. She had just won gold in the 1 m springboard diving event at the 55th national aquatic championships in the city, and she was dreaming.
A lot of water has passed down the Hooghly since, and big events have swept dreams around the world. Yet today, with many more national and international laurels under her belt, she, nearing 20, still can swing her hennaed-hair in a laughter: “Yes, yes, I remember that poster, that is still my dream, it remains.”
The drive to those snow-capped Alpine hilltops remains steady, albeit a trifle slow, maybe. As a first move, she has just about outpaced her debilitating poverty (first reported in The Telegraph on November 10, 2000). She has gotten herself a job with the Railways (a junior clerk), and now the family of five lives in her own Railways quarters, not too far from her old Narkeldanga khaldhar jhoparpatti.
The bacon is brought home regularly, these days, pretty pesky a thought back in 2000. One of her two elder brothers has a job with Calcutta Police, and her father, lo! the man who kept at her, kept at it, kept encouraging, while he sold vegetables, still does.
The difference is that Khaleque now trades in them big time, guiding his truckloads from the village (back home in Bongaon the soil was fallow), and through the bazaars of the city.
Life is back in the groove. Life is finally in a groove of some sorts, actually.
There has been more upward mobility. She was in Hong Kong in 2001, for the first Asian Age-group meet where she was first in high board. She was Best Diver at the Bangalore junior nationals.
Then in China, last year, for the second Asian Age-group meet, she won silver in high board. She has been Best Diver several times, though she missed golds at the Hyderabad National Games where she says she was “down with the flu” and could hardly perform up to expectation.
These are ingredients that dreams are made of, or the yeast for the bread to rise. These should have been the mid-road goals, really, not the goal.
One hopes the original dream sticks. No boyfriends, not yet back to books (“appeared for Madhyamik”), a bit confused around the temples, a bit more need for guidance.
Mamoni Mondal, one hopes, does not let go the need for the need, the hunger for the ultimate. Because that wasn’t just another poster on the wall. Because the food on the table today is more palatable isn’t reason to stop asking for more.
That will be made clear by her mother, and her coach (Samir Saha), again and again, because that dream has entered many hearts, since, and a story of rags, waiting for the riches.