22 December, 2017: On the Eastside of Tollygunge is an oasis of tall trees, green pastures and lotus ponds. Bang in the middle of the suburb, made popular by its tinsel town residents, is the Mecca of Indian golf. The Royal Calcutta Golf Club is a lavish celebration of golf, set to the tune of undulating greens, inviting poodles of water and sedately ominous sand pits. Standing silent witness, the course has seen the rise and demise of many a national hero, emerging from its fertile womb.
A city within a city, Tollygunge has been a cradle of dreams and not just those of the celluloid kind. As the suburb that is home to many of its stars, there is naturally a tendency to associate the locality with fairytale dreams that are scripted to play out on screens.
Yet it is dreams of a different kind that distinguish both the suburb and its citizenry. There are innumerable stories of romance that could stir our emotions. None more poignant and inspiring than that of SSP Chawrasia. Born into a family of limited means, the rise of the legend into a star of international repute is an evocative story of passion, purpose and perseverance – in the face of enormously difficult odds.
Chawrasia made his dreams with his eyes wide open, those starry eyes imagining a world far beyond the physical limits of his existence. As the greenskeeper’s child, he could afford the luxury of its scent, but the taste of golf would have been too much, even to desire.
But that did not stop the ever curious lad from pursuing his dreams till he discovered their logical end. It is a tall order for a young boy with the social milieu of Chawrasia to imagine being a world class golfer, let alone become one.
After nearly 20 years on the circuit, the affable Bengali gent has endeared himself with his persistence. Chawrasia is the only Indian to have an uninterrupted presence on any international tour for nine long years – holding a card to the European Tour since 2008.
“Indian golf has grown over the years on the strength of inspiration drawn from stories such as that of Arjun Atwal and SSP Chawrasia. We are happy that they came from these lawns here at the RCGC,” said Lakshman Singh, one among the famous quartet of golfers that won the Asian Games in 1982.
“Over the past few years, the quality of this course has become better. We have produced stars in the past, and hope to make some in the future too,” signed off a hopeful Lakshman.
At the other end of the spectrum is Arjun Atwal. Born into a wealthy family in Kolkata, he grew up to chose golf over business, eventually turning into one of the most successful Indian golfers on the professional circuit.
In that contrast between aspirations, one borne from the luxury of choice and another from the necessity for survival, lies the mythical conundrum of the RCGC. The club is adjoined by a bustling collection of homes on nearly every side of its perimeter.
The view from many of those windows would be worth a mighty premium, but beyond those walls live souls far too enmeshed in their existential struggles to enjoy the luxury of a soothing sight.
But there is hope. Behind those grim walls somewhere is a young boy or girl, watching intently at the drama that unfolds just outside the window of their small world. It will take all but a tiny spark to awaken the energy needed to allow a young child to script a dream and grow wings, breaking away from those shackles of existential angst.
Till then, it will be those homes that provide the caddies and caregivers that nourish the RCGC and sustain its glory as an important cradle of Indian golf.
Chawrasia is at hand this week, chirping and smiling as he patiently meets the many people that look up to him for inspiration. As a child, Chow was living around the 9th hole, where the seeds of his dream were sown.
Now as we watch the many stars enthral audiences with their golf at the RCGC, one can only hope that there is some young soul beyond those windows overlooking the greens, wanting to emulate their heroics on the course.