I had the opportunity to watch a polo game some months back. Those of you on Facebook would know exactly how many months back. (Remember that picture with the horse?) Quite an exciting event it was. I have an aunt who lives in Delhi, some 3 kms away from where I put up. She knows a whole lot of interesting people. One of them is a professional polo player. The invitation for the game came from him. I, as the neighbor-in-the-next-door-colony of the aunt, was lucky enough to have the invitation extended to me.
A first time experience of watching a game live, Polo was quite different from any game I’ve seen. I do admit, most games I’ve watched have been on the telly and there is a difference in the overall experience, but the fact that Polo isn’t as popular a game as Cricket, attaches a certain amount of freshness to the game. Watching a sport live is exciting. Not particularly comfortable though. Visibility is also an issue. The distance from the field makes it hard to make out whats going on there. That despite a 6/6 vision. But still, it’s more fun, more involving and definitely more exciting than anything you watch on TV.
Polo is physically challenging, exhausting actually. It’s one thing to ride a horse, but to ride a horse and chase a ball aiming for a goal, is quite another. It requires physical prowess beyond that of an average person. Originating in Manipur and popularised by the British, the game involves two teams with 4 members each. A match has four chukkas (some call it chakkars) of 7 ½ minutes each. That seems like very little time, but because of the fast pace of the game, it’s not. Normally players need to change their horses after each chukka- the horses get exhausted in one chakkar, that’s how fast paced the game is. Teams wear red or black and the two referees striped black & white shirts. In a game that kicks up a lot of dust, oddly everyone wears pure white pants. The horses are colour coded as per their team with red or black strip of fabric rolled around their ankles.
The rules of the game are a mystery to me. With no one to explain the game, I had to figure it out myself. The father of our polo player sat on my right but was naturally too engrossed in his son’s performance to talk to me in the middle of the game. The generous aunt doesn’t follow much of the game either. She and her family attend the game more to encourage their family friend than anything else. The basic fundamental of the game is quite clear- fight for the ball, chase it around the field, hit it into the goal post. To understand details beyond that, one needs a guide. Or Google.
Interspersed with the game were band performances and a vintage car rally. Both contributed the entertainment quotient so essential in sports nowadays. The crowd was, of course, not the usual run of the mill that I interact with. This sport attracts the upper crust of the society. The kind that wears fine shoes, fancy clothes and dazzling diamonds. The match wasn’t a big national level one, but several page 3 faces could be spotted. I think I stood out in the crowd. I was wearing a pony tail and jeans and sneakers.
Here are a couple of pictures from the match.
Everyone makes a mad dash for the ball. Can you spot it?
The refrees intervene escalating the excitement on the field .
The referees take a break to talk to other off-field referees.
Twin excitement at the match.
Some fun with trick riding to end the day.