Falling in love with the game of hockey all over again

India’s astounding performance in hockey in Tokyo Olympic brought back memories of my growing up days in 70s when hockey was our national pride.

Though I never held a hockey stick in my hand, but was an enthusiastic fan of the game of skill, speed and stamina during my school days. Close to my school Kendriya Vidhyalaya at the farthest end of Jalandhar Cantonment, there is a small village called Sansarpur, hailed as the ‘nursery of hockey’ in India. My school had outstanding hockey teams –both girls’ and boys’- comprising players mainly from Sansarpur. It was the passion and performance of my school mates from the village that got me hooked on to the game.

Later when I entered college, my allegiance shifted to cricket but the game remained a passion in rural Punjab. While watching a friendly match between the visiting West Indies and North Zone teams at Burton Park, Jalandhar sometime in 1974, I overheard a burly policeman speaking to another cop on duty, “Aa ki game hai?” I can’t forget the expression on his face as he wondered what kind of game cricket is. Absolutely bewildered he was with the pace of the gentleman’s game. Even the firework from batsmen like Clive Lloyd and Vivian Richards failed to excite him. Quite obviously, he was missing the energy and speed of hockey.

I remember how boisterous celebrations broke out when India won the World Cup at Kuala Lumpur in 1975. The players were given a resounding welcome on their return. Like any youngster, I was super excited to see Ajit Pal Singh, the captain of the victorious hockey team along with other players from Punjab taken around the city in a procession. Another commemorative moment was when India won the Gold medal in hockey in the 1980 Moscow Olympics, though in less competitive environment. Thereafter began the downfall of Indian hockey.

Incidentally, around the same time, I entered a new phase of life. Neither did the performance of the Indian hockey generate much interest nor was there time to watch matches due to job and family compulsions. It is only now; the first Olympic Games after my retirement that I could afford to watch hockey matches.

After four decades, I followed every match our teams played. Most interesting was the way my husband and I woke up during India matches starting at 10 30 a.m. Tokyo time, not with customary bhajan alarm on our clock-cum-radio but with radio commentary. We would quickly freshen up to watch the live telecast of the matches from Tokyo.

Indeed, it was a thrilling experience but the most exciting was the high voltage match against Germany. With hearts thumping, we remained on the edge of the seat while watching the intense drama unfold on the field. What a moment of relief, ecstasy it was when the Indian men’s hockey team defeated Germany in a nail-biting finish on 5 August to win a bronze medal in Olympics after decades. A bronze medal not less than gold in terms of emotions and nostalgia! And no less remarkable was the performance of the women’s hockey team that could not make a podium finish, but won millions of hearts for its grit and determination.

The dramatic turnaround in Tokyo has infused new confidence in Indian hockey and restored national pride in the game. I, too, have fallen in love with the game all over again.

(Published in Times of India, Readers’ blog and also on Momspresso 

( won Gold Star on Momspresso )

21 Replies to “Falling in love with the game of hockey all over again”

  1. Wah ma’am,you write very well,Every time touching a different topic.
    Yes ,when I was a student, everyone was crazy about hockey as our country performance was outstanding.Later cricket occupied it’s place. Then ‘Chak de India’. Our country’s men and women hockey team played good.
    I enjoyed reading this article,madam.

    1. Thank you so much Garima .I am glad you enjoyed reading it. I remember we were hockey fans till mid 70s but later we became cricket crazy. You are younger to me yet you found it relatable .. so happy i am .
      I liked the expression ‘Chak de’. Wish I had incorporated it in the article. I did see the movie on women’s hockey and loved it.

  2. Rama you have weaved in the bumpy story of hockey in your own engrossing style . Hockey was the main sport of Punjab and Jullundur was the hub of sports goods Your reminiscences of Jullundur cricket match were almost the same as I could remember. We went from Chandigarh to watch the match. My memories became alive Your articles always revive our memory lane

    1. Thanks a ton Mrs Chopra. Can’t express how happy I am for when I penned down my reminiscences, I was sceptical about the response.We belong to the same generation, hence you could relate to the post.
      It feels so wonderful that we were together in the stadium watching the match.If I remember correctly I watched the match with my friends from an exclusive stand meant for girls .

  3. Dear Rama ji
    Very beautifully written reminiscences.you are a multifaced personality . You are a source of inspiration forsenior citizens.

  4. Rama you always weave a story with which all of us can relate, specially of childhood or younger days. I remember enjoying the hockey commentary on Radio. I am happy to see the revival of our national game. It’s remarkable that youngsters from small towns or with rural background, with little resources are reaching the Olympics level and for once the government supporting them.

    1. Yes Alka, memories of younger days..Still remember how we sat mesmerised listening to the radio commentary by legendary Jasdev Singh.
      It is a matter of pride to see the revival of hockey and overall heartening performance in Olympics.

  5. It felt like a tour to the historic days of our country. Mam, the blog is written in a very beautiful manner. Hockey had been an integral part of our indian sport history but the enthusiasm in the youth was faded somewhat, but thanks to olympics we are cherishing our old known sport. Thank you mam for sharing such a rooted story with us.

    1. Thanks Sumedha . I can understand for your generation it is a history but for me it is part of my memories of growing up days.Thankfully, performance in Tokyo Olympic is a turn around in Indian hockey.

  6. Very well written article about hockey. I have never watched a hockey match only cricket even when I was young . But this time it was different. Tv ppl have so much coverage to this game that one felt like watching it . For the first time I have felt so much enthusiasm for hockey among ppl other than cricket. Credit goes to media who have made them real heroes. Was shocked to see the reality from what kind of struggle they have to come up to this leve . Ppl from rural background r giving importance to games bringing laurels to the country.

    1. Thanks Romila for reading and leaving your insightful comment. You are not the only one to have not much interest in hockey because the time you were growing up , hockey had already lost its sheen. Cricket had become a craze. Even for me it has been a revival of love for hockey.You are right this time there are so many athletes and players from rural and impoverished backgrounds who brought laurels for the country fighting all odds. Salute their spirit and determination!

  7. This is so sweet..from my school mate and friend..I guess you are Uma. I never played hockey but have been a hockey fan .Yes these reminiscences are a part of our collective memory . Thanks a ton dear.

  8. You write wonderfully well Rama. Each and every piece written by you is masterpiece in itself. Same applies to this 🏑 story. Revival of memories to each one of our age group can relate to.

    1. Simmi , I am touched . There is nothing remarkable about the post but it is your appreciation and love that makes it wonderful.All love and hugs.

  9. Rama very good description of the journey of Indian Hockey as revived my memories of the reception given to the gold winning Indian Hockey team In 1975 by P. U. Department of Zoology where I was doing my doctorate. I was fortunate to meet personally captain Ajit Singh &his team. I still remember the lady singer who held the cup high& sang in punjabi “Adda Wada Cup Sadde Veer Jeet Ke Liaye. “and the audience danced in unison with her. Wish the same glory comes back to Indian Hockey.

    1. Thanks Mrs Sharma.I am so happy it revived your memories of universality days. Wow! You vividly remember the celebrations and also the celebratory song. It is nostalgic…
      And yes , we all wish for the revival of Indian hockey.

  10. Wonderfully articulated Ma’am. Loved the history you traced and the personal emotion through it! Rare and precious account.

    1. Yes Aastha, attached to the piece are my memories and emotions …
      I know you can hardly relate to it yet you chose to read and leave your comment. Thanks Aastha.

  11. A very vibrant piece.
    Your enthusiasm for sports is a new revelation for me. Difficult to reconcile with a delicate frangipani image of Rama, especially of those days.
    Be happy with your refound passion.

    1. Ma’am, what can I say ? I am stumped .. ma’am , I never played any game but like any other youth of my generation, I too was hit by cricket fever and in school a hockey enthusiast.Thanks ma’am .

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