I started playing tennis in the 1950s. When I joined the Calcutta South Club, Naresh Kumar was already an established player. Right from the beginning, he became a mentor and a guide to Premjit Lall and me.
Soon, we realised that Naresh Kumar was much more than a mentor. Every now and then, he would suggest techniques to us and I remember him asking me to improve my backhand.
Naresh was my captain for my Davis Cup debut. He was a bit older than us, but we became good friends in no time and travelled the entire world with him playing for the country. During those tours to Europe and the US, we discovered him as a senior who was always encouraging and smiling.
He was a great admirer of art and M.F. Husain, a tennis lover, would often visit Naresh and his wife Sunita, an artist herself, at their home in Kolkata. It was probably in 2000 when I saw Husain creating a large painting on a wall of their house. Naresh was a fan of Husain’s works and his collection of Husain’s paintings is probably one of the best in the country.
Naresh was an extremely down-to-earth person. Despite being a family man, who was ever helpful, Naresh was also known for his big dinner parties at his home on Middleton Street. At those parties, one could find the entire sports fraternity of Kolkata. I was invited there a number of times and discovered during those parties that Naresh had a great sense of humour. Cricketer Ted Dexter was a good friend of Naresh’s and on several occasions, Ted spent time with Naresh at his house.
Jaidip Mukerjea is a former tennis player.
(As told to Bishwabijoy Mitra)