Mouma Das has just returned home after helping the Indian women’s team to a historic gold at the 2016 World Team Table Tennis Championships in Malaysia. It’s the latest distinction in a long list of achievements for the 32-year-old Kolkata paddler, who holds the record for the most Commonwealth medals by an Indian player (17) and has taken part in the World Championships a record 15 times.
Strangely enough, table tennis happened to her by chance. “I was very dushtu (naughty) as a child,” smiled the diminutive Das. “Just to stop me from doing naughty things, my parents got me admitted to a club where I started table tennis. And over there, I started enjoying the game and regional tournaments. And that is where it all began.”
At the 2016 Championships, the Indian team did not lose a single game through the tournament, making the achievement even more impressive. After breezing past Puerto Rico in the quarter-finals, India faced a much higher-ranked Serbia in the semi-finals. India were 0-2 down at one stage but clawed back to 2-2 before Das won the decider to take India to the final. The team then defeated Luxembourg 3-1 in the finals to win gold.
By virtue of their performance, India will be competing in the Champions Division at the 2018 Championships only for the second time in their history. Das was there the last time the Indian team achieved this feat, back in 2004.
“It is difficult to compare the 2004 and 2016 campaigns,” said Das. “I was very young in 2004 and very much a junior member of the team. But this time, I was much more senior. There was a lot of responsibility on me to ensure that I guided the team properly. And because of the fantastic team members we had, we managed to achieve a historic landmark. “
Though she hopes to participate in the Champions Division in 2018, Das’ eyes are firmly trained on a closer and bigger prize, the Rio Olympics. Her next target is the Asian Olympic Qualifiers in April where she will be hoping to book an Olympic spot. Das is already an Olympian – she was one of the youngest participants at the 2004 edition.
“Because of the format then, I was only able to play one game there,” reminisced India’s number two table tennis player in the women’s rankings. “But playing in the Olympics was something I will never forget. It was a different experience altogether.”
Much of her success has been down to the influence of her coaches. Das said that her first coach, Jayanta Pushilal, shaped her game in the early stages of her career.
And Pushilal is proud of his protégé. “Mouma is the only Olympian among the players I have coached,” said Pushilal. “Now, all I hope is that she makes it to the Olympics yet again, this year in Rio de Janiero. That would be a truly great achievement.”
Apart from Pushilal, Das said that another coach played a big role in her sustained success – Peter Engel from Germany. “There was one period in my career around 2013 when I went into a slump,” she said. “It was thanks to him [Engel] that I managed to come out of it. Apart from learning new techniques, it was his motivation that really helped me. He would always tell me not to doubt my game just because I was growing older and told me about world class players from Germany who continued to succeed at the game even at 35-36 and after having kids. He made me fall in love with the game again.”
Like India’s top male table tennis player Sharath Kamal, who got the opportunity to play in the European leagues, Das also received an offer to play in Spain. But she turned it town. “I am unable to stay alone, away from home,” Das said.
Even so, her advice to upcoming players is to go abroad and train.
“Things are really improving in India thanks to the Table Tennis Federation of India,” said Das. “But getting the chance to train abroad is incomparable. You learn so much by playing with and against the best players in the world. While you can learn the technicalities here, you can really improve the speed of your game when you train abroad.”
Ten awesome TV shows to get over your post-GoT blues
With those withdrawal symptoms kicking in, all you need is a good rebound show.
Hangovers tend to have a debilitating effect on various human faculties, but a timely cure can ease that hollow feeling generally felt in the pit of the stomach. The Game of Thrones Season 7 finale has left us with that similar empty feeling, worsened by an official statement on the 16-month-long wait to witness The Great War. That indeed is a long time away from our friends Dany, Jon, Queen C and even sweet, sweet Podrick. While nothing can quite replace the frosty thrill of Game of Thrones, here’s a list of awesome shows, several having won multiple Emmy awards, that are sure to vanquish those nasty withdrawal symptoms:
There is no better setting for high stakes white collar crime than the Big Apple. And featuring a suited-up Paul Giamatti going head-to-head with the rich and ruthless Damien Lewis in New York, what’s not to like? Only two seasons young, this ShowTime original series promises a wolf-of-wall-street style showcase of power, corruption and untold riches. Billions is a great high-octane drama option if you want to keep the momentum going post GoT.
What do you get when the makers of the Dark Knight Trilogy and the studio behind Game of Thrones collaborate to remake a Michael Crichton classic? Westworld brings together two worlds: an imagined future and the old American West, with cowboys, gun slingers - the works. This sci-fi series manages to hold on to a dark secret by wrapping it with the excitement and adventure of the wild west. Once the plot is unwrapped, the secret reveals itself as a genius interpretation of human nature and what it means to be human. Regardless of what headspace you’re in, this Emmy-nominated series will absorb you in its expansive and futuristic world. If you don’t find all of the above compelling enough, you may want to watch Westworld simply because George RR Martin himself recommends it! Westworld will return for season 2 in the spring of 2018.
It’s a distinct possibility that your first impressions of this show, whether you form those from the trailer or opening sequence, will make you think this is just another sun-kissed and glossy Californian drama. Until, the dark theme of BLL descends like an eerie mist, that is. With the serious acting chops of Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman as leads, this murder mystery is one of a kind. Adapted from author Liane Moriarty’s book, this female-led show has received accolades for shattering the one-dimensional portrayal of women on TV. Despite the stellar star cast, this Emmy-nominated show wasn’t easy to make. You should watch Big Little Lies if only for Reese Witherspoon’s long struggle to get it off the ground.
The Night Of is one of the few crime dramas featuring South Asians without resorting to tired stereotypes. It’s the kind of show that will keep you in its grip with its mysterious plotline, have you rooting for its characters and leave you devastated and furious. While the narrative revolves around a murder and the mystery that surrounds it, its undertones raises questions on racial, class and courtroom politics. If you’re a fan of True Detective or Law & Order and are looking for something serious and thoughtful, look no further than this series of critical acclaim.
As the name suggests, AHS is a horror anthology for those who can stomach some gore and more. In its 6 seasons, the show has covered a wide range of horror settings like a murder house, freak shows, asylums etc. and the latest season is set to explore cults. Fans of Sarah Paulson and Jessica Lange are in for a treat, as are Lady Gaga’s fans. If you pride yourself on not being weak of the heart, give American Horror Story a try.
At its heart, Empire is a simple show about a family business. It just so happens that this family business is a bit different from the sort you are probably accustomed to, because this business entails running a record label, managing artistes and when push comes to shove, dealing with rivals in a permanent sort of manner. Empire treads some unique ground as a fairly violent show that also happens to be a musical. Lead actors Taraji P Henson and Terrence Howard certainly make it worth your while to visit this universe, but it’s the constantly evolving interpersonal relations and bevy of cameo appearances that’ll make you stay. If you’re a fan of hip hop, you’ll enjoy a peek into the world that makes it happen. Hey, even if you aren’t one, you might just grow fond of rap and hip hop.
When everything else fails, it’s comforting to know that the family will always be there to lift your spirits and keep you chuckling. And by the family we mean the Dunphys, Pritchetts and Tuckers, obviously. Modern Family portrays the hues of familial bonds with an honesty that most family shows would gloss over. Eight seasons in, the show’s characters like Gloria and Phil Dunphy have taken on legendary proportions in their fans’ minds as they navigate their relationships with relentless bumbling humour. If you’re tired of irritating one-liners or shows that try too hard, a Modern Family marathon is in order. This multiple-Emmy-winning sitcom is worth revisiting, especially since the brand new season 9 premiers on 28th September 2017.
Headlined by James Franco and Maggi Gyllenhaal, The Deuce is not just about the dazzle of the 1970s, with the hippest New York crowd dancing to disco in gloriously flamboyant outfits. What it IS about is the city’s nooks and crannies that contain its underbelly thriving on a drug epidemic. The series portrays the harsh reality of New York city in the 70s following the legalisation of the porn industry intertwined with the turbulence caused by mob violence. You’ll be hooked if you are a fan of The Wire and American Hustle, but keep in mind it’s grimmer and grittier. The Deuce offers a turbulent ride which will leave you wanting more.
In case you’re feeling vengeful, you can always get the spite out of your system vicariously by watching Dexter, our favourite serial killer. This vigilante killer doesn’t hide behind a mask or a costume, but sneaks around like a criminal, targeting the bad guys that have slipped through the justice system. From its premier in 2006 to its series finale in 2013, the Emmy-nominated Michael C Hall, as Dexter, has kept fans in awe of the scientific precision in which he conducts his kills. For those who haven’t seen the show, the opening credits give an accurate glimpse of how captivating the next 45 minutes will be. If it’s been a while since you watched in awe as the opening credits rolled, maybe you should revisit the world’s most loved psychopath for nostalgia’s sake.
Available starting October
If you’re still craving an epic drama with extensive settings and a grandiose plot and sub-plots, Rome, co-produced by HBO and BBC, is where your search stops. Rome is a historical drama that takes you through an overwhelming journey of Ancient Rome’s transition from a republic to an empire. And when it comes to tastes, this series provides the similar full-bodied flavour that you’ve grown to love about Game of Thrones. There’s a lot to take away for those who grew up quoting Julius Caesar, and for those looking for a realistic depiction of the legendary gladiators. If you’re a history buff, give this Emmy-winning show a try.
For your next obsession, Hotstar Premium has you covered with its wide collection of the most watched shows in the world. Apart from the ones we’ve recommended, Indian viewers can now easily watch other universally loved shows such as Silicon Valley and Prison Break, and movies including all titles from the Marvel and Disney universe. So take control of your life again post the Game of Thrones gloom and sign up for the Hotstar Premium membership here.
This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Hotstar and not by the Scroll editorial team.