Some people's "World Cup" has much simpler terms, life or death.
A great story out of India and a great reminder of the true spirit of Rugby as we build to the four year crescendo of national passion.

Future Hope unearths international stars 27 JULY 2007

With a population of around 14 million, Calcutta is a city teeming with life, but it is also home to some of the most poverty-stricken people in the world; huddled by railway lines in desperate conditions is a way no one should have to live.

Especially children and it was the sight of the many children sleeping on the streets that prompted Tim Grandage, then a branch manager of a bank in Calcutta, to found the Future Hope charity more than a decade ago.

“I was posted to Calcutta with HSBC as a branch manager,” Grandage told Total Rugby on their recent visit to Future Hope. “There were lots of children sleeping on the roads and streets, I felt rather guilty, that I should try and do something for them.”

“A chance came when one boy was very sick and I had lots of doctors who were customers of mine, I rang one up and he was so pleased I wasn’t talking about his overdraft, he said ‘yes, bring the boy around straightaway’.

“So I took him, they treated him, the boy was happy, the doctor was happy. We started taking many children off the streets to treat them medically, but they came back about two weeks later with the same problems, so we thought we’d better take them to our flat and that’s how we started.”

From the streets to Test rugby

Two of the first boys rescued from the streets were Bikash Mondal and Saidul Sheikh, the latter a frightened and ill child of only seven or eight when found by Grandage in the early hours of one morning at Howrah Station.

“He took me to his house and I saw a lot of children were sleeping there, so I thought that place is really good for me,” Sheikh remembers of that night.

The intervention of Future Hope and its rugby loving founder has certainly had an impact on the lives of Mondal and Sheikh, introducing them to a sport in which they have now represented India.

Mondal and Sheikh have both played for India at Under 19 level and were also members of the senior national squad that beat Guam 47-0 in Division 5 of the Asian Nations Series earlier this month.

“When I started to play rugby I thought yes this is a really interesting game. From there I started to play rugby and I’m really fond of this game because through this game I can do better in my life,” Sheikh said.

A second chance in life

Future Hope has also grown enormously since its founding days with six homes now offering more than 200 former street children a place to live and enjoy life, including Sunny, one of their recent additions to the family.

“We knew that the mother and the child, little Sunny, was living on the roadside but we didn’t want to take someone as young as that away from the mother,” explains Grandage. “We went down to see her regularly and to see him to check he was ok.

“One day we found him on the pavement shaking her, trying to wake her up and we obviously thought there was something terribly wrong with her. We got her immediately into one of our cars and into hospital, but tragically she died two or three weeks later.

“He’s got nobody in the world except his elder brother, who again is a good rugby player. He’s always happy, always enthusiastic and runs as straight as anything on the rugby pitch.”

Perhaps another international for India in the making has been given a second chance of a better life by Grandage and the work of all involved with the Future Hope charity in Calcutta.