A rare of photo of Sourav Ganguly's marriage. Photo Courtesy: Facebook
A rare of photo of Sourav Ganguly’s marriage. Photo Courtesy: Facebook

Love him or hate him, you cannot ignore Sourav Ganguly. He brought passion and fearlessness to Indian cricket. Where he stands among all Indian captains is debatable, but one cannot ignore the fact that it was under Ganguly that India first started to win overseas Tests. They have called him the ‘God of off-side’ or ‘Prince of Calcutta’, but what his fans loved most about him is what they call ‘Dadagiri’ in Bengali. His spunk, his attitude, his aggression made him stand out on the ground, but off it, in personal life, he has pulled off something similar as well. Romance did not take time to blossom, but unfortunately the girl came from what they call a ‘rival’ family. The story behind their marriage reception, on February 21, 1997, is now a part of Bengal cricket folklore. He is a passionate lover, and his famous love story is one of the epics now. Paulami Chakraborty revisits a saga of love that is still talked about in the lanes of Behala, Kolkata.

Chandidas Ganguly was one of the most respected names of Behala, a popular and crowded area in Kolkata. His sons, Snehasish and Sourav, led lavish lives, thanks to his blooming print business of their fathers. Both went to reputed schools; and both were competent students before they decided to choose cricket. But this story is not about their school or college-days. This is about the younger son, who fell for the girl next door.

Sourav and Dona knew each other since childhood. When a young Sourav walked past the Roys’, he inevitably saw her. He confessed in a talk-show conducted by Anurag Basu: “While playing football, while going somewhere. I could see her, may be way too much.” He added that though he knew her, they were “not really friends”. The ‘too much’, though, was not enough for young Ganguly as he often used to take his friends along and pay visits to Dona’s school to catch a glimpse of his lady love.

It had all started with badminton for Dona. Sourav was one of the many boys of his age who played badminton, and (we do not know whether it was intentional), the ‘feather’ often landed in the Roys’. Dona later revealed in an interview with Rediff: “Whenever the shuttlecock fell on our compound, I got my chance to return it.”

And love? “When, I don’t remember. But it happened somewhere in between,” the man — who, for many was the epitome of aggression in Indian cricket — actually blushed. It was a mutual affair; an aspiring classical dancer, Dona fell for Sourav as much as our hero fell for her.

Dona told, "He ate most of it! Aami mone mone bhabchhilam koto khaye (I was thinking he eats so much)!".  "I have always been a good eater", replied her hubby.
Dona told, “He ate most of it! Aami mone mone bhabchhilam koto khaye (I was thinking he eats so much)!”. “I have always been a good eater”, replied her hubby. Photo Courtesy: SouravGangulyCo Twitter handle

 

They remember their first ‘date’ though, set up in a popular Chinese restaurant in Kolkata called ‘Mandarin’, where Ganguly ordered two plates of fried rice, two plates of Chilly Chicken, two plates of Chow Mein, an American Chopsuey some prawn dish. Dona told The Telegraph, “He ate most of it! Aami mone mone bhabchhilam koto khaye (I was thinking he eats so much)!”.  “I have always been a good eater”, replied her hubby.

It could have been a regulation marriage, with consent from both families amidst the paparazzi and the millions of shutterbugs. Unfortunately, Sanjeev Roy, Dona’s father, was not exactly on the best of terms with the Gangulys. Things were never going to be easy. It could well have been a Bollywood script.

But then again, Ganguly had plans. He was, you see, on his way to become national captain. Planning was his forte.

1996. Ganguly, with his dream debut at Lord’s (131) and excellent follow-up at Trent Bridge (136 and 48), was suddenly the toast of the nation. India lost the series, but found two quality young batsmen, the other being Rahul Dravid. It was a fruitful English summer for Ganguly. By the time he reached Kolkata, the plans were already in place.

As Ganguly later told Basu, “I did not elope with Dona. We returned home. We just kept the wedding a secret.”

Former Ranji Trophy cricketer, a close confidante of Sourav, later revealed: “Right after the successful England tour, Sourav called me to his place and said, ‘I want to get married!'”. Before Banerjee could respond, Ganguly added, “I have got runs. Everyone in the family is in a good mood. If I am to do it, this is the time.”

Banerjee played a crucial role in arranging everything, keeping secrecy on top of his priority list. A few close friends accompanied Ganguly and Dona separately to the venue. Unfortunately, when they reached the registrar’s house, they discovered a small crowd, garlands in their hand, ready to congratulate their hero on the day of his life.

Banerjee narrated: “It would have been all over the press. I told Sourav, ‘Guru, let’s go to my place.'” Banerjee’s family, who obviously had no clue of the goings-on, were shocked by the sudden appearance of a national star. By the time they got over it, Dona Roy had become Dona Ganguly.

The wedding was kept secret for long. When the families eventually got to know, both the Gangulys and the Roys were left fuming. Eventually, they saw sense, and as they show in movies, they decided to resolve all animosity; the two got married on February 21, 1997 in a grand ceremony. And as they write in books, they lived happily ever after.

(Paulami Chakraborty, a singer, dancer, artist, and photographer, loves the madness of cricket and writes about the game. She can be followed on Twitter at @Polotwitts)