Pastime Members of the Coimbatore Bridge Association celebrate its 18th birthday and hope its future in the city is bright

“Bridge is like religion. You should strive to do your best with cards Karma gave you.” Inscribed on a wall inside a block in Mani Higher Secondary School, are these words written by Mahatma Gandhi. Bridge is indeed treated like religion inside the GKNM trust office building and striving with cards is what the members of Coimbatore Bridge Association do here, every single day. A game that is commonly misconstrued as gambling is a way of life for the 45 odd members of this association that turned 18 years recently.

Dr.S.Sadasivam, Secretary of the association, talks about the history of the club. “Prior to the 90s, bridge was played only by members of a few clubs in the city. Philanthropist G.K.Sundaram (GKS) set the ball rolling for a club exclusively for bridge players.'”

In 1993, along with seven others, he founded the Coimbatore Bridge Association. “GKS wanted the members to develop and popularize this gentleman's game. He arranged for coaching classes for the existing players and offered sponsorships to the bridge players in the city, whenever they went to play tournaments outside,” reminisces Dr. Sadasivam.

Patron of the game

The members of the association declare that bridge would have died a slow death in Coimbatore, had it not been for GKS. “GKS often used to remark that his brain remained sharp even in old age because of bridge,” says Prakash Bajaj, a businessman. “Even on the day before his death, GKS bid a slam and made it,” smiles Sadasivam.

Bidding a slam is like hitting a six in cricket, he explains. The Coimbatore Bridge Association organizes tournaments, on the second Saturday of every month and an annual National level tournament in September. “Teams from Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad and other cities participate in our GKS-ND-ARJ Gold Trophy tournament,” says Dr. Sadasivam.

Coimbatore Bridge Association also organizes Bridge camps. “We go to a guesthouse in Courtallam once a year, for three days and immerse ourselves in the game. It's such an enjoyable experience. It has become a tradition of sorts. GKS started this custom 18 years ago and it continues till date,” says Dr. Sadasivam. “We have a good collection of books on Bridge in the library here. In fact, Subbiah Naidu (the person who taught GKS to play the game) has written a book on the basics of Bridge,” he says.

Senthil, the “association club boy”, works with the Trust office in the morning and in the evenings, spends time with the members of the association, changing deals and serving them tea and coffee. Asked if he knows how to play the game, he says no. “I know to deal. I know to arrange boards. But I don't know how to play,” says Senthil, who has been a part of the association since its inception.

“The members come here on all days. It doesn't matter if it is Deepavali or Pongal. We are open on all days of the year,” he adds.

Dr. Prakasam, Principal Scientist, Sugarcane Breeding Institute, is one of the members, who represent the association in national level tournaments. “I, along with Afshar Majeed, S.R.C. Shekhar and Dr. Subbayyan (President of the association), have won in a lot of championships held in other cities,” he says and jokes, “This game is very addictive. It has ruined my career! Even now, as I talk to you, I am playing a Bridge match online.”

Varadarajan, an industrialist and Vice President of the association, is also a star player. “GKS had appointed Mr. Tilak, a national-level player, to coach us. My most memorable moment was when I represented Tamil Nadu, along with my coach and two other members from our association. We played against Sri Lanka, in an annual tournament held many years ago and we won!” he says.

Brain food

There are also people like Dharmarajan Mohan, and R. Jagadeesan, who play Bridge to sharpen their analytical skills. Dharmarajan, who suffered from dementia believes Bridge helped him regain his memory.

“GKS wanted players to learn different strategies every day,” says Swaroopa Rangathan, one of the few lady members in the association. She unfailingly comes everyday to play the game and learn more from her peers.

Dr. Sadasivam regrets that the game is not as popular as it should be. “More youngsters need to involve themselves in this intellectual pursuit. In Calcutta, people play Bridge even on the streets. We need more awareness. We need more participation,” he concludes.

Coimbatore Bridge Association also conducts coaching classes. Registration is free.

For details, call: 0422-6579503.