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Photographs: Sandipan Chatterjee

Stress Buster

Team Player
Shree Cement's Hari Mohan Bangur loves playing volleyball with his childhood buddies

Krishna Gopalan

"Volleyball has become a family tradition and we are all just taking it forward"- Hari Mohan Bangur, MD, Shree Cement

Even at 63, Hari Mohan Bangur retains an infectious enthusiasm about sports, and that is even more evident when the discussion revolves around volleyball. There is an instant transformation visible in the Shree Cement MD when he talks about playing volleyball with people who he has known for over five decades.

It is a universe far removed from the cement business but it is one that Bangur loves to talk about. In the past, every Sunday, a group of around 20 people, all pretty much in the same age group, have gathered at the Bangur home in Kolkata for a volleyball session. “It is a tradition that my father started and he would play with friends and cousins.I was always a substitute until someone older showed up,” laughs Bangur, who must have been barely 12 back then.

There were at least 15 people who would show up religiously, although he is not sure about how it all started. Till his father was 75, playing volleyball was a ritual he followed every Sunday morning. “My 31-year-old son also plays the game and my four-year-old grandson throws the ball around. It has become a family tradition and we are all just taking it forward.”

The game starts at 7.30 am every day and goes on for two hours. “But in the winter, we begin at 8 am. Breakfast is served after we are done and it becomes an impromptu social gathering,” he explains.

Bangur, who started playing the game in the mid ’60s, took the game seriously only after graduating from IIT Powai. “I would have loved to play at college. It was just that the team was too good and there was no place for me,” he grins.

Bangur calls volleyball his “stress reliever.” He says it gives him a chance to play with his friends, sit back, relax and laugh with them. “The captain will not spare a chance to scold me if need be,” admits Bangur, somewhat reluctantly.

With time, the only liberty he has given himself with respect to volleyball is taking a break after a couple of games. “I wouldn’t do that when I was younger,” he says. Typically, four to five games are played each day and most of the players, including Bangur, take a break after two sessions. 

Volleyball has become a part and parcel of Bangur’s life and is something that he looks forward to.“Once I leave office on Saturday, I do not carry work home. It is necessary to compartmentalise one’s life and that is exactly what I do,” he quips.

At times, due to the fair amount of travel involved in his business, Bangur does end up missing the odd game. On such occasions, when he’s stuck at one of his cement plants, he makes it a point to play with his subordinates.

“I team up with the workers and staff, and this happens all the time when I am in Rajasthan. Some of our people have played at the state or national level,” he says. Just as you are wondering how he matches up against these more energetic folks, Bangur laughs, “They allow me to win, although there is no mercy in Kolkata.”

Unlike the corporate protocol of confirming meetings, for these games, there is a different story at play. “A player drops in a message if he is unable to show up. Else, everyone’s participation is taken for granted,” says Bangur.

He dismisses the excuse of intense work pressure and the constant refrain of being busy that people hold up. “It all comes down to managing time well. If you do your job well, there is always time for other things,” he says.

Apart from volleyball, Bangur has developed an interest in Bridge, which he has pursued for 15 years now. “I do enjoy it and play at a few tournaments, although nothing comes close to volleyball.” And what about his thoughts in the middle of an intense match? “The whole set-up is friendly and extremely competitive at the same time. I think we all want to win at the end of the day,” he trails off.

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