Kajal Dey, a table tennis coach with no wrists

Tanmoy Chakraborty

Kajal Dey a 49 year old table tennis coach without any hand. It was 1991 May 21 evening when Kajal Dey was just 22 year old young man, lost his both the wrists during a political violence that took place here after Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination.

“I was going back to my home from my work place in the evening like other normal day. But that day changed my life, when I noticed some violence was going on and a mob of two groups were indulged in violence, I was trying to leave the spot when I saw a stone like thing approaching towards me. When I tried to catch the stone which was thrown targeting me, it exploded and I lost my scene, after that when I woke up, I realized things will never be the same for me again”, Dey told Tripura chronicle.

Kajal Dey said that after the incident his friends and family members rushed him to the hospital, and he was kept under treatment for a long time where both his wrists were chopped to save his body from infection and blood loss.

Dey used to be a driver at a nursing home here during those days and often worked till late at night.

Life of Dey was changed when one of his friends suggested him to undergo an operation in Artificial Limb Centre (ALC) at Pune in Maharashtra.

“I went there and was treated for 5 months and 17 days. Nobody can imagine the kind of discipline they practice. I was literally made to work out things for myself”, he said adding that after receiving the training to become self dependent he never asked somebody to help him out in picking his phone calls or even handle a spoon with food.

Three years later of the tragic incident, Dey was seating in a local club of his area (Pole star) and watched his friends used to play football, cricket in the Astabal playground (Swami Vivekananda Maidan) and other indoor games in the club premises, than he decided to playing of table tennis.

“I thought of playing table tennis but how, I had no idea. Few days later after I consulting with some experts from the state, I designed a bat that could be fixed in between the two bones of my right hand using rubber sheaths that could easily attach with the table tennis bat”, Dey said.

However, the idea was succeed after trying after trying out with two-three bats and since then he never looked behind.

“An expert from ALC suggested me to do a special operation by separating radius and ulna, the two arm bones which were still attached to my arms sans the wrist. I have done the operation and muscle grew around the two bones, building two big fingers of sorts, which have enabled me to manage all works since then starting from using spoon and fork on the dining table, using a mobile phone and even playing table tennis”, Dey told reporters.

Kajal Dey said as table tennis became his source of inspiration, power, energy and everything, soon people started appreciating him for setting example for the youth by motivating them to not give up at any condition.

Dey has been inspiring many with his playing skills and it attracted a large section of people, who later started seeking his training and started play under him.

Since those days, Pole Star Club – a local social organization in Agartala, used to offer free sports coaching to children who would come to the club premises near Astabal Maidan (now Swami Vivekananda Ground) to practice. For the last 25 years, Kajal Dey has been playing table tennis with a bat tied between his bones. The bat has become an extension of the man and he has coached nearly 100 children in this way since 2003.

“I did not take a single penny from my student. I hope that someday one of his students will bring gold to the state”, Dey said.

Dwaipayan Dutta, one of his students was a champion at North East Table Table Tournament in 2017. Others like Omkar Debnath won a series of medals till 5 years back when he started his college. There are others like Moumita Saha, Aritra Patari, Shreyashi Chakraborty, who have won medals in national and regional tournaments.

Dey’s Daughter, Kalyani Dey, has won participated over 19 times winning 4 silver and bronze medals for the state and was playing the game until last year when she got admission for her Post Graduation.

Along with the table tennis Dey also works as a Group-D staff as a government employee in the Power department in Agartala where he has earned respect from everyone for being an example to all.

“The spare time which I gets before and after the office hours, I spends here in the Pole Star club’s indoor training centre with my students to train”, he said.

Dey also expressed his feeling saying, he had gone to participate in the Indoor (Madhya Pradesh) Para table tennis tournament in 2018 but authorities did not gave him the opportunity to play once in the Para Olympics, since he was not given the proper status under (Para category) by the sports authority. 

“The Para players are rated according to their physical fitness and disabilities but in my case I was not given the rating that I deserved. Since a table tennis player requires the wrist to hold the bat, which I don’t have I should have been given the 6 rate but unfortunately they didn’t do so”, the arm less table tennis player said.

Table tennis players from Tripura have earlier won medals in inter-state and national tournaments, in a row in the early 2000s. Players from the state also emerged victorious in events at ‘Panchayat Yuba Krira o Khel Abhiyan’ (PYKKA) run by the Ministry of Sports and Youth Affairs till it was shut down three years back.

“If anyone is disturbed, please take up sports. If you want, get in touch with me. Table tennis is better than suicide, any time”, he said.

Dey is hoping that one day his students will fulfill his dream of bringing gold in Tripura which he couldn’t do due to the negligence of the authorities and poor politics in the sports sector.

Till today, Dey offers free coaching to interested students from 6:30 AM to 8 AM and from 3 PM till 5 in the evening every day.

He also asserted that, sports should be kept away from the politics, because of the politics I have seen many lives of good players getting vanished and it also hampers a huge section of talented students who could have gone far if the path was not blockade by the ill mean of politics.

Today Dey has become a face for thousands in the state inspiring them to come forward and start taking challenges by playing any sport they like forgetting about their weak point they have and transforming it into ones strongest zone.