women in sport

Once a naughty child, Mouma Das is now one of Indian table tennis's leading lights

Helping India win gold at the World Team Table Tennis Championships is the distinguished Kolkata paddler's latest achievement.

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.

Higher ground

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.”

Early influences

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.”

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Behind the garb of wealth and success, white collar criminals are hiding in plain sight

Understanding the forces that motivate leaders to become fraudsters.

Most con artists are very easy to like; the ones that belong to the corporate society, even more so. The Jordan Belforts of the world are confident, sharp and can smooth-talk their way into convincing people to bend at their will. For years, Harshad Mehta, a practiced con-artist, employed all-of-the-above to earn the sobriquet “big bull” on Dalaal Street. In 1992, the stockbroker used the pump and dump technique, explained later, to falsely inflate the Sensex from 1,194 points to 4,467. It was only after the scam that journalist Sucheta Dalal, acting on a tip-off, broke the story exposing how he fraudulently dipped into the banking system to finance a boom that manipulated the stock market.


In her book ‘The confidence game’, Maria Konnikova observes that con artists are expert storytellers - “When a story is plausible, we often assume it’s true.” Harshad Mehta’s story was an endearing rags-to-riches tale in which an insurance agent turned stockbroker flourished based on his skill and knowledge of the market. For years, he gave hope to marketmen that they too could one day live in a 15,000 sq.ft. posh apartment with a swimming pool in upmarket Worli.

One such marketman was Ketan Parekh who took over Dalaal Street after the arrest of Harshad Mehta. Ketan Parekh kept a low profile and broke character only to celebrate milestones such as reaching Rs. 100 crore in net worth, for which he threw a lavish bash with a star-studded guest-list to show off his wealth and connections. Ketan Parekh, a trainee in Harshad Mehta’s company, used the same infamous pump-and-dump scheme to make his riches. In that, he first used false bank documents to buy high stakes in shares that would inflate the stock prices of certain companies. The rise in stock prices lured in other institutional investors, further increasing the price of the stock. Once the price was high, Ketan dumped these stocks making huge profits and causing the stock market to take a tumble since it was propped up on misleading share prices. Ketan Parekh was later implicated in the 2001 securities scam and is serving a 14-years SEBI ban. The tactics employed by Harshad Mehta and Ketan Parekh were similar, in that they found a loophole in the system and took advantage of it to accumulate an obscene amount of wealth.


Call it greed, addiction or smarts, the 1992 and 2001 Securities Scams, for the first time, revealed the magnitude of white collar crimes in India. To fill the gaps exposed through these scams, the Securities Laws Act 1995 widened SEBI’s jurisdiction and allowed it to regulate depositories, FIIs, venture capital funds and credit-rating agencies. SEBI further received greater autonomy to penalise capital market violations with a fine of Rs 10 lakhs.

Despite an empowered regulatory body, the next white-collar crime struck India’s capital market with a massive blow. In a confession letter, Ramalinga Raju, ex-chairman of Satyam Computers convicted of criminal conspiracy and financial fraud, disclosed that Satyam’s balance sheets were cooked up to show an excess of revenues amounting to Rs. 7,000 crore. This accounting fraud allowed the chairman to keep the share prices of the company high. The deception, once revealed to unsuspecting board members and shareholders, made the company’s stock prices crash, with the investors losing as much as Rs. 14,000 crores. The crash of India’s fourth largest software services company is often likened to the bankruptcy of Enron - both companies achieved dizzying heights but collapsed to the ground taking their shareholders with them. Ramalinga Raju wrote in his letter “it was like riding a tiger, not knowing how to get off without being eaten”, implying that even after the realisation of consequences of the crime, it was impossible for him to rectify it.

It is theorised that white-collar crimes like these are highly rationalised. The motivation for the crime can be linked to the strain theory developed by Robert K Merton who stated that society puts pressure on individuals to achieve socially accepted goals (the importance of money, social status etc.). Not having the means to achieve those goals leads individuals to commit crimes.

Take the case of the executive who spent nine years in McKinsey as managing director and thereafter on the corporate and non-profit boards of Goldman Sachs, Procter & Gamble, American Airlines, and Harvard Business School. Rajat Gupta was a figure of success. Furthermore, his commitment to philanthropy added an additional layer of credibility to his image. He created the American India Foundation which brought in millions of dollars in philanthropic contributions from NRIs to development programs across the country. Rajat Gupta’s descent started during the investigation on Raj Rajaratnam, a Sri-Lankan hedge fund manager accused of insider trading. Convicted for leaking confidential information about Warren Buffet’s sizeable investment plans for Goldman Sachs to Raj Rajaratnam, Rajat Gupta was found guilty of conspiracy and three counts of securities fraud. Safe to say, Mr. Gupta’s philanthropic work did not sway the jury.


The people discussed above have one thing in common - each one of them was well respected and celebrated for their industry prowess and social standing, but got sucked down a path of non-violent crime. The question remains - Why are individuals at successful positions willing to risk it all? The book Why They Do It: Inside the mind of the White-Collar Criminal based on a research by Eugene Soltes reveals a startling insight. Soltes spoke to fifty white collar criminals to understand their motivations behind the crimes. Like most of us, Soltes expected the workings of a calculated and greedy mind behind the crimes, something that could separate them from regular people. However, the results were surprisingly unnerving. According to the research, most of the executives who committed crimes made decisions the way we all do–on the basis of their intuitions and gut feelings. They often didn’t realise the consequences of their action and got caught in the flow of making more money.


The arena of white collar crimes is full of commanding players with large and complex personalities. Billions, starring Damien Lewis and Paul Giamatti, captures the undercurrents of Wall Street and delivers a high-octane ‘ruthless attorney vs wealthy kingpin’ drama. The show looks at the fine line between success and fraud in the stock market. Bobby Axelrod, the hedge fund kingpin, skilfully walks on this fine line like a tightrope walker, making it difficult for Chuck Rhoades, a US attorney, to build a case against him.

If financial drama is your thing, then block your weekend for Billions. You can catch it on Hotstar Premium, a platform that offers a wide collection of popular and Emmy-winning shows such as Game of Thrones, Modern Family and This Is Us, in addition to live sports coverage, and movies. To subscribe, click here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Hotstar and not by the Scroll editorial team.