A former cricketer who deserves better

He is the oldest living cricketer in Bengal, having represented the state in quite a few Ranji Trophy matches in the 40s

Sakyasen Mittra
He is the oldest living cricketer in Bengal, having represented the state in quite a few Ranji Trophy matches in the 40s. However, at present, he is just counting his last days as he feels that death will release him from all his present pains. Pulin Mitra, a former opening batsman, is just managing to survive by selling his Bengal blazer, medal and tie that he had received in 1993.
Even poverty will not be the correct word to describe his present condition. There are many days when the eighty-year old Pulin Mitra eats just once during the entire day. Only because he doesn't have the money to have three square meals a day. A cerebral attack last year has left him half paralyzed. He stays with his wife in a 40 square feet room. The only furniture that adorns it is a half-broken bed. He has but one trouser and one pyjama. Most of the time he does not use them as they would become dirty and he does not have the money to buy the detergent. "I am just waiting to die," is the only comment that he has to offer to this writer. "What should I live for," he asks.
Inspite of all this, he has not lost his love for cricket. "I walked from Jadavpur to the CAB (a distance of 15 kilometres) to donate my eyes when they said that I would get a ticket to watch the India- Australia match this year. I got the ticket. But I had to sell it off as my wife did not permit me to walk to the Eden Gardens. It was a wise decision. The money I received was enough to run my family for 15 days."
Mitra does not want to talk about cricket. He is also averse to speaking about himself. After much persuasion he says, "It was probably in 1948, that I opened the innings in a match against Holkar. In the opposition there were stalwarts like CK Nayudu and Mushtaq Ali. In both the innings a bowler called Jagdale dismissed me. We lost that match. I did not score much."
Job pressure forced him to quit the game immediately after that match. "I cannot tell you the number of matches I have played exactly," he snaps back when persisted with questions on cricket. There are plenty of paper clippings in the room to show that players like Pankaj Roy, Nirmal Chatterjee, Prabir Sen and Mantu Bandopadhaya held him in high esteem. "It was their greatness that they respected me," says Mitra. He is also quick to point out that more than Sourav Ganguly he likes Rahul Dravid. But then he just withdraws into a shell when asked to comment on the present condition of cricket in Bengal.
Talking about his life he says, "I had to give up the game when I was 32 years old. I joined a lamp factory and they were not ready to release me for cricket. Those days, I was living with my sister and brother-in-law in South Kolkata. I was unemployed and when the chance of a job came, I decided to give up the game. I retired in 1984. The money that I received as Provident Fund and Gratuity is long gone. So this is the way I live at present," he says sadly.
He is also not aware of the fact that he is entitled to a benefit match. "What will I have to do for it," he asks. He has but one plea. "Can Mr. Dalmiya arrange for some pension for me. The Cricket Association of Bengal is quite rich. So will they give me some pension for the remainder of my life?" Only the CAB knows the answer. But there is little doubt that Mitra deserves a bit more out of life than what he is getting at present.