Polo has not only emerged as a great past time for the masses but also a great career option for those who love a fast life and fast horses.
Picture this – You are wondering what to do with your children on a Sunday. The age-old options of movies or malls don’t appeal to you. You have played the tourist and explored all the forts and palaces Jaipur has to offer. What else can you do? Fortunately, you are in Jaipur at a time where polo matches are becoming the latest passion of the masses.
‘Jaipur has more than a century old history as far as Polo is concerned,’ says Digvijay Singh, secretary, Rajasthan Polo Club. ‘I have travelled across the world and the moment I say Jaipur, people say polo. In a way, Jaipur has become a Mecca of polo players today.’
Polo has also undergone an evolution of sorts with the traditional polo being replaced by arena style polo which has three instead of the customary four players. ‘It is not always that huge grounds will be available for polo,’ says Jai Singh, the co-owner of the famous brand Polo Factory. ‘Moreover, if you realize that the maintenance of the grounds is very important because when the horses run, they dig up the ground with their hooves. So, after every match, the ground has to be leveled again which in itself is a marathon task.’
Digvijay Singh agrees, ‘Besides being a very fast-paced game unlike cricket or other such sports, Polo is also a great employment generator. It requires grooms, stable hands, people who can level the field. Then there are tourists and players who come from all corners of the world to try their hand at polo which creates employment for people who are not even related to polo. New riding clubs have come up in Jaipur which teach riding to those who want to learn polo. Moreover, people of Rajasthan are very friendly with horses since centuries. This camaraderie is so inherent here that most of the helping hands including jockeys, stable boys in the Mumbai Turf Club are from Rajasthan. Some people from the Shekhawati region have migrated to Dubai and are now taking care of the horses that belong to sheikhs and racing clubs.’
‘Polo also has a lot of heritage attached to it,’ says Digvijay Singh. ‘His eyes have a far away look as he reminisces about a time when Gayatri Devi, the erstwhile Rajmata of Jaipur used to regularly come for Polo matches. ‘ She was herself a very good polo player. I remember she used to sit upstairs in the stands. She did not like to be disturbed while watching the match. It was because of her that we had to ensure that no children below the age of 12 years could come upstairs. So, her grandson Padmanabh Singh and other children of the royal household had to sit downstairs to watch the match. The rule is still in place today. The grounds parking used to be full of bicycles since the crowds used to love to watch the erstwhile Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II play the game.’
So what does it take to be a polo player for a person who does not have a lot of money or belongs to royal family. Digvijay Singh says, ‘All it takes is sheer talent and determination. Today there are people like Abhimanyu Pathak, who despite having no royal background are top players of the game. This is one game where it doesn’t matter who you are and where do you come from. If you are good, you will soon be picked up by a team or will get a patron who will finance you. You can even learn playing polo by doing something called a working polo which is quite a norm in many countries.’
So, as you watch the horses gallop across the field, you can always think of this alternate career option for your children. After all, this is one game where you can rub shoulders with the royalty and the richie rich, bump into celebrities who are polo aficionados and have a great life travelling around the world. All on a horse back! What do you say to that?
If you are interested in watching a game of polo today, head to the Polofactory Yard at Dhankya to watch the Polofactory Amateur Cup The entry is free for all.
Shailaza Singh’s article was published in Rashtradoot Newspaper’s Arbit Section on 17 November 2019.