Women are slowly and steadily foraying into polo.
I was busy watching the men play Polo at the PoloFactory Amateur Cup when I saw a twenty-one-year-old girl cheering the players. She did not look like a mere spectator of the game. She was constantly shouting out advices to the players on the field.
From our initial conversation, I got to know that her name is Rajvi Sen and she is a budding polo player. She is originally from Gujrat. She does belong to any royal family which is what intrigued me. I asked her about her foray into polo. She said, ‘Four years ago, I remember going to a club in Hyderabad and seeing a horse polo game and saying that I want to learn to ride and play this game. The game was fast and exhilarating which is what caught my interest. The game is not just about chasing a ball but also involves a lot of strategy. It’s something like a combination of chess and hockey on horse back.’
So, how did she learn the game? ‘I learnt polo by doing what is known as working polo. In working polo, you pay half the price of the lessons and the stay since you work for the person hosting you. When I turned 18, I went to the South of France for two months. I was riding and I was also looking after the horses and playing. I was the first Indian girl to get a sponsorship this year from a company for the polo induction program in Spain. This involved a selection process too. Then I went to Prague again on a working polo. But this time I played a tournament which was really an exhibition match in Prague and was a captain of a team. Our opponents were from Hungary.’ I asked her about her mother’s reaction to her choice of sport. ‘My mother was initially very worried at first but now she is okay especially because she understands my passion for the game.’
This made me curious about the status of women polo in India. I talked to Ankur Mishra, a polo player, editor, Jodhpur Polo Magazine, founder, Polo Day Out in Jodhpur. He said, ‘The girls are just beginning to play polo. Generally we believe that ladies are naturally more skilful and elegant riders as far as the horses are concerned. In fact, we have our annual Women Polo Tournament on the December 29 this year. However, this is more of a mixed match because in a team of four we have one man and three women. The reason is that we don’t find enough women polo players.’
Mriganka Singh, an avid polo player and erstwhile princess of Jammu and Kashmir agrees. ‘Why would most people in India want their daughters to play such a dangerous sport when they can do something else or get married? I have a friend who used to play great polo but after becoming a lawyer has completely given it up. Yes, there are lot of opportunities in Jaipur for amateurs and low goal players, people who are just starting out. Arena polo is coming up in a big way because in this you need less players. However we need more women in Polo.’
Mriganka was a part of the Indian team at the Special Women’s Polo Tournament which was held in Manipur in January this year. She said, ‘Polo abroad is so different. This year, women from Canada, Argentina, USA and Kenya participated in the Tournament. There were women of all ages from 14 to 40. I saw three pairs of mothers and daughters from Argentina playing and it was so beautiful. Why cannot we have that in India?’
I asked Jai Singh, the owner of PoloFactory about this strange predicament of women’s polo in India. He replied with a very enigmatic smile, ‘Yes, just like the Amateur’s Cup, we are working on something that will help the new women players of polo to practice and ace the game. But you will have to wait for a formal announcement and it will be very soon.’
There seems to be a new vibe in the air with women raring to make it big in a game like Polo. The question is are there enough women to make Polo a passion amongst the masses? Only time will tell.
Catch the excitement of Polo matches at Polofactory Amateur Cup at the Polofactory Yard, Dhankya. The matches are on till November 17.
Shailaza Singh’s article was published in in Rashtradoot Newspaper’s Arbit Section on November 13, 2019