By Vivekanand Jha*
Choudhary was also pivot for the elevation of Mahendra Singh Dhoni
In 2015, I was looking for the giants among Maithils who can qualify to be portrayed as living legends and someone informed me about Amitabh Choudhary, the head of the Jharkhand Cricket Board. Significantly, I had heard about him, yet hardly had the faintest of an idea about his hailing from Mithila. Incidentally, someone furnished me with his email id, and I forthwith wrote a mail to him, expressing my intense desire to portray him for my upcoming book, The Living Legends of Mithila, which was already in the process. The very next day I received his response: This is my number, please come to meet me at the International Cricket stadium at Ranchi.
While I entered the stadium, I must admit I suffered from some sort of palpitation, for the upcoming meeting with the Cricketing Czar, despite his benignancy in welcoming me, was laced with an element of uncertainty for me: how should I interact with the prominent Cricketing Czar, with versatility being the ingredients of his persona As I waited outside his chamber for his green signal, despite my best effort to keep the avalanche of premonition at bay, I would still suffer from the palpable elements of trepidation. In the meanwhile, I was ushered in his chamber. Presently, after an exchange of pleasantries, I was just sitting opposite him, and a conversation started. Lo and behold! his baritone voice did surprise me as much as his flawless communication in English. A while later, expressing his vexation for prolonging our conversation in English, he observed with a sense of finality, “When both of us are in Maithil, why speak in English, why not in our mother tongue?” Knowing the name of my village, Bhakhrain, he immediately burst forth, “Oh, my relative Jhari Babu is from the same village.” I nodded. Significantly, much before I sought his permission to leave, we had developed a close fraternal bonding.
Later while portraying him, I met him a couple of times. He would always greet me like his younger brother. He informed me how he graduated BTech from the Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, and later stood third all India rank in Indian Police Service. Given his overwhelming interest in cricket, he resigned from his police job. Often he would tell me, “If I had not resigned, would not I have retired from the position of DGP [Director General of Police]”. I would invariably shot back, “Sir, how many DGP’s are known once they hang their boot? See how you are known across India.”
Significantly, once his chances to become the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) president cropped up, where Sourav Ganguly had put his foot down. He appeared a little morose, and without taking names, he insinuated that how his prospect of reaching at the top, was scuppered by the ‘Prince of Calcutta’–Geoff Boycott had conferred this moniker upon Sourav Ganguly. Remarkably, in 2016 when I would meet him frequently, he would show his deep resentment for Narendra Modi, often speculating that the latter will bite at the hustings.
However, one fine morning I received his call to come and meet him. I went to his chamber in the stadium: Lo and behold! gone was the Modi baiter, stepped in a Modi Bhakt. Also, the entire office had a refined look: The photographs of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh leaders adorned his chamber. As I settled into the chair next to him, Choudhary burst forth, “Vivekjee, how could you get me the ticket from Darbhanga?” I stood crestfallen; rendered speechless for a while, I wondered, how could such a renowned man seek the help of far lesser mortal in getting the ticket to contest the election? He persuasively argued, “You can discuss the same with Anjani Babu in Bihar.” I still looked perplexed; comprehending the significance of his conversation, I was still ruminating, “How could a writer who has hardly any knowledge about the distribution of political tickets, could help a celebrity like him to get the ticket?” Yet I assured Choudhary that I would to the extent I could, put the words across for his nomination from Darbhanga, yet in the heart of my hearts I knew that it was impractical, if not Utopian, to discuss about the ticket for someone who, despite hailing from Darbhanga, visited his home place once in a while. He recommended me to the president of the Jharkhand Cricket Board, a Sikh gentleman, with an instruction that if he could make me the head of media for Jharkhand Cricket Board. Barely had I sat with that Sardarjee, he resentfully burst forth, “Look, you become the President, I am not interested; almost six months into my tenure, I have no place to sit also. Of what use this position is for me?.” I could sense the acerbic tone in his voice. I understood the whole game plan: Since Amitabh could not himself become the president, he had floated a proxy. The day before the book launch of The Living Legends of Mithila, he had called me up to wish me. I requested him to come on the venue, he remained elusive. After the general election of 2019, I never met him; however, the news pertaining to his elevation to the chairmanship of Jharkhand Public Service Commission reached me, I sent him a congratulatory mail.
The last time I had heard of Choudhary, was his felicitation by the staff of the Jharkhand Public Service Commission. Sadly, his entire life was revolving around hankering after power and positions, yet he died with his dream to become an MP remained unfulfilled. In the blind pursuit of his dream, he had, imprudently though, joined Babulal Marandi’s political party in the past and consequently met with a crippling defeat. Worse still, exhibiting his brazen restlessness, he quitted Babulal’s party in no time. Moreover, unable to hook himself onto the Modi bandwagon, he landed at the door of Hemant Soren and became the president of Jharkhand Public Service Commission.
All said and done! his love for cricket was legendary and therefore his contribution towards Jharkhand Cricket was phenomenal. He was also pivot for the elevation of Mahendra Singh Dhoni. He recommended me to Mahendra Singh Dhoni whom I presented my copies of Yes, I am Bihari and The Living Legends of Mithila.
Unfortunately, he is no more with us today, his absence creates a big void which will be difficult to bridge.
*Vivekanand Jha is the author of The Living Legends of Mithila, wherein he had portrayed the life of Amitabh Choudhary, the Cricketing Czar.