Most of you visiting this website will know all about this young man and here he is in the news again, in the India Times. Many thanks to Richard of Richard Lane Photography for the image too.
Every time Sailen Tudu makes the trip back to his village in the troubled forests of south Bankura, he carries a few rugby balls with him a most unlikely gift from someone who grew up hunting and kicking a football around with playmates. But then, that is if you didn’t know he is the only representative from the state among India’s rugby probables for the October 3-14 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi.
Tudu has also spent the last couple of years in England on scholarship, completing a diploma in rugby at the Hartbury College, and is preparing to fly back next month for a three-year degree course there. And he has always looked forward to going back to his leafy hamlet in Phulkusuma, close to tourist destination Mukutmanipur.
“We just throw the ball around and have a great time. Many kids are actually getting interested and there are plans to take the game there,” the 21-year-old said on Friday. “Most are, of course, intrigued by a game that’s so different from anything that they have known. Just as I was when I first saw it.”
That was in 2004, long after his father, a retired policeman, was transferred to Howrah and then to Kolkata. “I studied at Chetla Boys and was a decent district-level footballer before a back injury put me out for over a year. So, I used to run near the race course. One afternoon, I came across Paul Walsh and a few others playing with this strange ball,” Tudu recalled. “I stopped to watch and soon someone asked me if I’d like to play. I asked what I had to do, they said whenever you get the ball, just run’. I was good at running, and it was no problem,” he added with a laugh.
He was soon playing for Walsh’s team, Jungle Crows, and by the end of 2005, making the trip to Pakistan with the India under-19s as its youngest member. Two years later, he was vice-captain of the Under-20 team and last year was playing the Asian five-nation meet with the senior team. “And, of course, I played a few matches this year,” he said.
Walsh, formerly employed with the British High Commissioner’s office here, was instrumental in sending Tudu to England. “No, I didn’t choose him, he selected himself by being very talented, hardworking and dedicated. And everything else fell into place as well,” says Walsh.
Tudu is saddened by what is happening in Jangalmahal’. “I was born and brought up there but now I am scared to go there at times. We can’t go outside in the evenings. It shouldn’t be like this,” he said, adding: “I’m not sure about all the reasons why this is happening, but people there are not getting what they need. I hope the government, the media, sportspersons… everyone, comes together to solve it.”