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Book Review: My Golden days by Gurbux Singh (1/16/2018)
--K. Arumugam
An elegantly produced coffee-table book entitled 'My Golden Days: The life of a hockey player', dwells on the life and times of bespectacled Olympic gold medallist Gurbux Singh.

Son of an Army officer, Gurbux Singh took to hockey early in the life though his first love was badminton. His story, effortlessly and elegantly prosed by seasoned journalist Subroto Sirkar, revolved around hockey in Meerut, Mhow, Lucknow, Indore and other hockey centres of last century as his father would be posted there.

The book gives a glimpse of Indian hockey as it existed from 50s through to last decade. Gurbux was born in Peshawar (now in Pakistan) and had to migrate to India due to partition. His description of partition and personal trauma, are moving.

The highlight of the work is how India could wrest Olympic gold in 1964, which it lost to Pakistan in 1960. And then the Asian Games gold two years later.


The hockey politics of 60s and 70s is well-evident as one flips through the book. Sidelining of Harbinder Singh in the 1962 Ahmadabad Internationals, humiliation handed out to Dhyan Chand there, unknown faces in the Indian team that toured Sri Lanka, appointment of three vice-captains for national team, internal squabbling that led to poor finish (third) at Mexico, and how Ashwini Kumar, then Indian Hockey Federation President’s whimsical selection of team officials spoilt the Mexico run up, and all are there in the book.

The graphic details that led to Prithipal Singh and Gurbux Singh being appointed joint captains of Mexico Olympics, then how Gurbux almost gave away all his rights to Prithipal Singh in the interest of the team, add more valuable substance to what we know so far.

But in the end its sports that won when Gurbux describes how Prithipal wept after India lost to Australia in the Mexico Olympic semifinal.

'Prithipal had been bothered by a back strain the night before the match (semifinal of Mexico Olympics). He felt he should not play, but I forced him to agree. Once on the ground he did not worry about his discomfort. He had an outstanding game. When the match ended, he was wiping his tears as he told me, I have failed to replay your love and effort. I was at a loss for word to console him. Why me alone? None of us know what to say. Th man whose life was hockey was weeping like a child'.

This is the kind of anecdotes that we deserve to know, and the book provides a lot.

In a sense, more than the 1964 win the details of 1968 Olympics is the icing on the cake.

Gurbux Singh has the habit of writing diary daily. He used them in the book, which anchors a touch of originality to the text.

Portrayal of heroes such as Joginder Singh, Balbir Singh (Services), Harbinder Singh (his return goal in Lyons is well captured), legendary goalie Shankar Laxman, and unpredictable Inam-ur-Rahman, makes interesting read.

In hindsight, it looks dropping of Shankar Laxman for Mexico Olympics without suitable replacement, seemed to be the main reason for Indian decline rather than joint-captain issue. This is a worthy part of the book.

If he were to be selected, Shankar Laxman would have played his fourth Olympics, but it was not to be.

Gurbux's view of leading players of his times, and also of some administrators, collated in the last chapters make a good read. He has also added a section called Decline of Indian hockey.

The book generously gives enough space in write up and images to all contemporary greats, which is a welcome part of the autobiography. Its not a book of self-glory.

With vintage images in place, and pleasing design, the book is worth its weight.

A must for those who wants to know how hard work and dedication went behind glorious past of Indian hockey.

Title: My Golden Days. The life of a hockey player by Gurbux Singh
Genre: Autobiography
Pages: 232, A4 size
Price: Rs.1100
Published by: Sujata Sett, All Sport Foundation, 91B Chowringhee Road, Kolkata 700020
Designed by: Biswarup Garai
Graphics: Biswajit Ghosh

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