Sole comes off, but the soul is touched

Calcutta: Off golf for "six-seven months," Ravi Shastri's right sole came off just as he was settling down on the Tollygunge Club course.

Shastri, however, didn't look to borrow a pair of shoes. He didn't think of heading back to the Shamiana either. Instead, he completed nine holes before coming off on Friday afternoon.

"I'd come for a cause and I had to continue playing the promised nine holes... It did feel odd, wearing one shoe sans the sole, but anything for an event which touched one's soul," Shastri, a former India captain and cricket manager, told The Telegraph.

The cause: To help Children's Hope India (CHI) raise funds through the CHI Cup for New Light, which works with the children of sex workers in the Kalighat area.

While CHI is registered in the US, New Light is a city-based charitable trust.

The fund-raiser, in partnership with Tolly, has been a first for CHI in India.

Of the 137 golfers who'd signed up, 115 teed off, each contributing Rs 5,000 as their participation fee. Besides, many made donations, ensuring that a handsome sum gets handed over to New Light.

"An event like this helps improve the image of the city hosting it... I've learnt this is a first for Calcutta and, so, a terrific precedent has been set," Shastri, the cynosure, maintained.

"When we thought of this event, many only had words of discouragement... That no more than five golfers would actually show interest... But we went ahead and haven't had cause to regret... We're grateful to Tollygunge Club for all help extended," is how the New York-based Veekay Tejpaul, who put in the hard yards, summed it up.

Shastri is currently playing off a 20 handicap, but was quick to point out that he could "quickly" bring it down to a single digit.

"I didn't expect to hit the ball so well, but I did... In fact, I've never hit it straighter... I played with a borrowed set (belonging to Lt. Col. (Retd) R.S.Saini) and I've offered to buy it from the owner! Three pars, a birdie... Look, I'm really glad I came," Shastri said, finishing the lager.

Shastri named Kapil Dev among the five best golfers from the cricketing fraternity. "Kapil is very good... (Sir) Garry Sobers is a legend... Ricky Ponting plays very well... Ditto for Shaun Pollock... Then, how can one forget Franklyn Stephenson, who even played as a pro... Serious golfers all."

In the evening, addressing the donors, the winners and the rest, Shastri emphasised that it had been a "humbling experience" for him and that the CHI initiative would give the children in question "the chance to embrace society."

Explaining that he'd always "touch base with reality," Shastri felt that the CHI Cup would grow bigger. "This is about 'we did it', not one person saying that 'I' have done it."

The speech was short, but high on passion.

Among those present were CHI president Kavita Lund and the straight-talking Urmi Basu, who heads New Light.

CHI, meanwhile, is also associated with the Society for Indian Children's Welfare and Shishur Sevay, both working out of the city.

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