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Vintage Corner
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Vintage Corner - 4 (4/13/2008)
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On the eve of independence I was transferred from Bulandshahar district that bordered on the Punjab to Deoria that bordered on Bihar. From Deoria I shifted to Kasia or Kushinagar, the last resting place of Gautam Buddha. This was a domestic arrangement. Played hockey and tennis intermittently in both these places. By and large, the two years 1947-49 for me were years of sports holiday, although I played sporadic hockey at both these stations . Moving from Kasia to Gorakhpur as Dy. Regional Food Controller I resumed both hockey and Tennis. A touring job, however, made my sports encounters intermittent. I joined the Katcheheri Hockey Club which still prided itself on the humiliating and unexpected defeat it had inflicted once in the Hobart Cup Hockey Tournament on the redoubtable Aligarh Muslim University Hockey Team. The hero of that match Saraswati was still with us, past his prime of course. "Old rice" they say is delectable. You can discern the past greatness of outstanding sportsmen in the style and the body language, in the artifice and the brain work. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. Nothing is more agonising than the inability to support tactics, technique and ambition with physical vigour. The veterans who in a flush of enthusiasm and ambition forget that age has taken its toll come to grief as did Midhat Kamil Kidwai playing in Bijnor for the Collectorate Club and against the Police. He made a brilliant dash which ended not in a goal but in a painful sprain. Incidentally he was Rafi Ahmad Kidwai’s cousin. Later on he represented India As Ambassador in Sudan and Saudi Arabia. The plight of players and performers who are past their prime but fail to make a compromise with advancing years has found expression in Charlie Chaplin’s Limelight. There is nothing more tragic than falling from popular grace. Midhat Kamil in his heyday was a bright inside-left who represented the Lucknow University and the State of U.P. Another handicap that ageing players tend to collect as Midhat Kamil idwai did, is weight. They are betrayed by their knees. That is why the golden rule for sportsmen, in fact for all those who have taken strenuous exercises in their youth, is to taper them off very gradually and never to discard them completely. Look at the wrestlers. They are miserable in their old age, a bundle of paining joints and aching muscles. I recall the old age anguish of the all-time great wrestler Gama. The Illustrated Weekly of India photographer managed to capture him in his dotage, the world conqueror reduced to a scarecrow. Who would believe that this was the legendary matman who challenged the greatest wrestlers of his time to bouts in London. He demolished five top wrestlers of the West in as many minutes. Age does take its toll. But we can make the transition less painful.

To resume the narrative as a flash-back I managed to carve out improvised playgrounds in Kasia not far from the majestic recumbent image of Prince Siddarth lying in state at the place where he achieved Mahaparinirvan. In Gorakhpur, appropriately we improvised a play ground in the heart of the Collectorate. Improvisations are good but they do not permit regular practice which is the inalienable key to perfection.

Leaving the past behind we are in the midst of the Nehru Hockey series of tournaments, the quintuplets that are easily the envy of the renowned unicellular tournaments like Beghton (Calcutta) Gold Cup (Bombay), Obeidullah Khan (Bhopal). I propose to deal in some detail with the Nehru Hockey Tournament next month.

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