AUGUSTO RODRIGUES | NT
Think of crossing the bridge when you have reached the river, is an old saying. As the Goa Bridge Association (GBA) readies for its KK Modi Goa Bridge Festival starting at Clube Gaspar Dias in Miramar today, the association braces itself to change the perception that the game is the preview of the elite.
Bridge has been a game played by a few – by those who are enjoying the sunset of their life– and the affluent. Anil Gupta, a businessman from North India, tried to break the glass ceiling by bringing in four people from North India– some were farmers, others rehabilitated of their addiction to gambling– to participate in the tournament. The number has increased this year with the GBA deciding to invite two farmers from Madhya Pradesh for the festival.
“Bridge is not a game that will make you intelligent but it helps unlock doors in one’s mind. It is a stimulus; once you start playing it draws you in,” describes Anil as he prepares himself for the tournament.
“I had sponsored a team from UP last year. This year I am going to be a member of the team and by doing so I hope to achieve to back one of the glass ceilings, that the game is the purview of a certain class,” says Anil as he chats with members of his team.
Dheeraj Kumar from Johri in UP is one of the members of the team Anil will be playing with. Dheeraj has gathered together a team of three from his state – all daily wage workers – who spend their evenings playing bridge.
“Bridge is such a game that has got people out of the addiction of gambling or even intoxicants. When you play Bridge you do not need to take intoxicants because the game gives you a high,” claims Dheeraj who has taken to the game after he found acceptance in Bridge society.
“Bridge is not the game of the masses. But since it has
been included in the Asian Games – where team India returned with four gold
medals — it has given an incentive to youngsters to have a look at the game,”
claims Deone Menezes member of
Soham Gurjar and Natwar Jawra have been invited from Raibidpur, a village in Madhya Pradesh, for the tournament in Goa. Both farmers claim Bridge is a game that has kept their village sane, away from vices, and that is why most women in their village prefer to court men who play Bridge.
“Many years ago, an officer was transferred to our village and he was a Bridge freak. As he had no one to play with, he started teaching the farmers working around him and that is how the villagers took up to the game,” says Natwar.
“Four youngsters from our village represented India at the international level and four more are expected to represent the country this year. Bridge is a part of our life,” claims Soham.
“Raibidpura is a village that has the highest density of players in India. I often go to the village to collect the children from there for the international meets. It has the highest concentration of Bridge players in India,” claims Deone.
“Bridge needs to spread in the villages. For the awareness to spread, we need finances and backing from the press. The GBA is trying to spread the game but we are facing limitations,” states GBA president Raman Madhok.
Till that time, Bridge in Goa will need to seek waters that could allow the game to flow towards all.