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Kolkata pub Five Mad Men aims to raise the spirits of para athletes

Walk into any pub in India and chances are you will the TV screens showing you mainstream sports events, be it cricket, football or tennis.

Well, Five Mad Men in Kolkata, India's first gastro pub, is out to change the rules of the game. There are six TV sets inside, including a giant-sized 200 square feet one, all of them beaming para sports events.

That's not all. Also prominently displayed are tent cards featuring para athletes, even a program where patrons can sponsor a para athlete.

Sayan Roy, who is one of the five 'mad men' behind this venture says their aim is to contribute something back to society and to enrich people's lives through sports.

We are five school friends who have come together to start this. The idea was to do something related to food and sports and we also wanted to give back to society in a meaningful way. We have also started this initiative to promote para sports and under this Rs 10 is added to the final bill and this money is used for the welfare of para athletes. This is completely voluntary and so far, none of our customers have refused. - Sayan Roy, Co-founder, Five Mad Men

The trigger for the initiative was a report by the Civilian Welfare Foundation (CWF), a city-based organization, that works on disability issues.

"The report had documented instances of how para sports are helping people with disabilities achieve a better quality of life", says Shuvojit Mallik, a key member of CWF. "One of the pub's founders read it and asked us how they could support us. We got talking and hit upon this idea ".

Empowering para athletes

As Mallik points out, funding apart, there is a need to create awareness and build support for para sports, which is missing in mainstream coverage. The events shown are from the online channel called Paralympic TV. When there are lie events being broadcast, those will be given priority.

"There is no awareness that disabled people participate in competitive sports", says Mallik. "When they see how seriously competitive it is, they are impressed. By displaying it in this way, Five Mad Men is helping to bring that glamorization that is missing in para sports. When para athletes come to the pub, they feel empowered".

The pub is also helping out with the CWF's Adopt a Para Athlete program. The program facilitates a direct donor to athlete transfer program, under which a person can support a para athlete for a period, not less than a year, with a monthly donation of Rs 2,000. This condition is that the money is to be used only towards their training, nutrition and other sports related expenses.

So far, 27 athletes have benefitted. Among them is blind footballer Sanjoy Das, who has found a patron for a year. "She saw me play and decided to support me. This will not just help me, it will help 10 more boys," says Sanjay, for he plans to use these funds to buy some equipment and even some food for his boys. "This sponsorship is an honour. We will reward Dipanwita and Five Mad Men with good performance on the field".

Five Mad Men has also helped organize a sponsor for national-level swimmer Ajibur Mulla, who is deaf. His mother Anwara is happy. "This will help him work harder and achieve the dream of representing India".

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