Rowers in Kolkata have not had the Rabindra Sarobar to practise for more than two-and-a-half months now.
Two teenage rowers who were practising for a school regatta drowned in the Sarobar during a squall on May 21, prompting a blanket ban on rowing in the lake till safety protocol was in place. The protocol is stuck on the issue of petrol-powered rescue boats and no one seems to know when the sport will resume in the state’s only rowing venue.
Rowers in West Bengal — each affiliated to any one of the three rowing clubs by the lake — have only been getting indoor practice and gym sessions. Indoor rowing involves a machine called ergometer, which is used to simulate the rowing experience.
But many of these rowers told The Telegraph that endurance training and indoor rowing could only help them to a “certain extent”. There is no substitute for rowing in the water, they said.
Some rowers expressed dismay at the collective apathy towards an Olympic sport.
It is unimaginable that a premiere cricket venue like the Eden Gardens is lying out of bounds for cricketers, they said. “The balancing of the boat and coordination between team members cannot be practised in indoor sessions,” said Sankalpa Saha, one of the prominent rowers in the state.
In January 2020, Saha won two silvers — in fours and quadruple sculls — in the AREA (Amateur Rowing Association of East Asia) tournament hosted by the Bengal Rowing Club.
Pratik Gupta, Saha and two other rowers — all members of the Lake Club — are slated to represent West Bengal in the men’s fours category in the upcoming national games, to be held in September-end in the Sabarmati river course in Ahmedabad.
Gupta and several others have been mulling a shift to another state for practice in the water. “Every week, we keep hearing from club officials that rowing will resume soon. But week after week passes and the stalemate continues,” he said.
Subhashis Mukherjee, a veteran rowing coach and part of the West Bengal Rowing Association and Rowing Federation of India, said he did not expect rowing to be compared with mass sports like cricket and football.
Officials of the rowing clubs and the association were not sure when rowing would resume in the Sarobar.
On June 16, the three clubs wrote to the KMDA, custodian of the water body, seeking permission to use “petrol engine operated” rescue boats and resume rowing in the Sarobar. “Last week, we sent another letter. Let’s see what happens,” an official of a club said on Wednesday