About Me

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jaipur, rajasthan, India
retired Army Colonel

Monday, January 30, 2012

Golf Royale

Maharani Gayatri Devi, the former queen mother of erstwhile princely state of Jaipur was known for her beauty and elegance but few would know her love for Golf. It was in 1943 while holidaying in Gulmarg, Kashmir that she first had a feel of this awesome game of golf. She got so fascinated by the sport that  she insisted  Maharaja to lay out a Golf Course for her, the first thing after reaching back home. His Highness Maharaja ManSingh II of Jaipur was himself an epitome of chivalry and a debonair horseman who enjoyed an apex handicap of 10 in Polo. By the way higher is handicap better polo player you are, unlike Golf. He obliged his beloved and in the backyards of Lilly-Pool (Maharani’s abode), part of Rambagh Palace Estate, came up a nine holes brown course designed by an Englishman specially hired for the job. He also coached and taught golf. The flora and fauna was sacredly preserved and wild life remained tolerably undisturbed. The pea-hens, pea-cocks, hares, jackrabbits, partridges, squirrels peeped out to watch this funny game of golf with dismay. As the course was slowly taking shape the coterie of Maharani was growing around the game of golf. Some were already showing the signs of being bitten by its bug. Afternoons were now busier and an ostentatiously stylish new social circuit was forming around the royals. Crème-la- town was seen importing golf sets, straw hats, flannels and colourful parasols. A round of golf would invariably author comic stories around some desperadoes, who tried all the magic to be winners and able to draw attention of the Queen. These tit-bids would then be narrated most ludicrously by some of the flunkeys over a sumptuous cup of tea served in silver by liveried staff from the palace. The caddy boys would be sitting at the feet of the feudals and brown sahibs, cleaning their flannel bottoms and stockings of the “Burrs” which used to get stuck while chasing the ball in roughs. The most predominant undergrowth of vegetation in this part of the country comprises of such bushes which have “Burrs” as their pollen bearer. These get stuck with their porcupine looking spikes to your clothes and get carried away afar for better and a healthy pollination. They say the person who invented Velcro straps got his brain wave from these “Burrs” in dessert.
An indigenous extension of golf was found here during those days and may be it came from sheer love for outdoors, that generation of Raj fashioned and enjoyed. Could be, that originally the Scottish shepherds who invented this game also played similar kind of golf. On Sunday mornings golfers clad in flannels, breeches, corduroys, Jodhpurs, Knickers with Pith Hats, Straw Hats, Golf Caps on their crowns would set out to Tee-Off for a cross-country Golf with a final destination about 3 miles away, the Maharani Farms. Mr Malookh Singh Bakshi, one of the survivors of that era fondly remembers those fun days. Each would take as long a shot as possible and the field of fire permitting. The band wagon of staff with extravagant logistics of snacks and refreshments would trail behind the golfers. The incorrigibles would be carrying their hip flasks full. As the whole zing-bang negotiate the woods, jungles, ploughed fields and hutments the natives, specially the children and women with their veils on would come out to see their Queen and sahibs; wondering “ what the hell are they doing in this heat?”.  Usual breaks, enroute for drinks and rest were well organised by some of the rasookdars .  The final destination was well prepared to receive the golfers with the printed shamiyanas and tentage being put up neatly.  Local muddhas were laid out with soft cushions to give some respite. Some ladies would then have joined in driving via the road, for the gup-shups sessions. After a round of high tea and some quipping awhile, golfers will freshen up, change and come out for cooking party. Those with culinary skills will cook their best dishes where as grills and barbecues will be there as part of common affair. Lanterns lit up the area sufficiently enough for people to see each other and dim enough to keep the tranquility of the place intact. Local liquor, distilled by some of the experts with recipes of medieval era vintage, along with scotch used to start flowing as the party got merrier.
Since those days of Raj, Rambagh Golf Club has come a long way and now we have 18 holes green course, a five-star Restaurant, and other at par amenities like pool, gym and air conditioned well stock Bar. But yet I indulge in fantasizing those golden days of sublime style.   

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Morning golf at Rambagh………

The winters had slowly crept in this time; and morning golf at our club has become breathtakingly beautiful. Bleak sun sneaking over the Moti Doongri fortress greets you with a promise and brings some respite from the chill. Blue smoke of the night fires hangs low, and dew on the grass refuses to flee in the face of weak sunshine.  Waiting at the first Tee you see the fourball ahead disappearing into the mist. If you are lucky, you get a cup of hot coffee from Biramn who remain busy taking in/out golf bags from his custody. The caddies get quite squeezed-in and their hands refuse to come out of their pockets. Omprkash advises “sab 10 se chale jaao voh khaali hai” but somehow it doesn’t go well with the body and mind. We wait for some more time.  Some feel happy that they are not immediately behind that profound ‘caddie-less foursome’ who remains undeterred by time and space. Walking through a narrow lane towards Tee-2 an occasional snuff emanating from caddies’ shit hole reminds you of a jungle time. If, you are lucky a cute family of partridges will show up, fast bipedling towards another bush. This is the last of bushy undergrowth that we are left with after a merciless gardenisation of our golf course by some thoughtless people. The natural flora and fauna we had earlier which also yielded as an abode to our little wild life like peahens- peacocks, hares and jackrabbits has been erased to pave way for flower beds, and cosmetic plants. I for one miss them a lot. Tee No 6 has become a permanent Tea-Junction and loud shouts for ‘Killoooooooo’ are heard from the distance. Hot tea and rusks are served here by ‘Chhotoo’ and they come escorted by one ‘Seema’. Her gait has an attitude and eyes have a glitter. Of course, she is going to share that rusk of yours, which is difficult to avoid. While you enjoy a soaked rusk in a hot tea, those who are greedy of playing faster and more numbers of holes keep cursing you behind their plastic smiles. Virendra Luna smartly gauging their mind says “you guys please have tea on me and enjoy the break too”.  Seema is a friend of Killoo and enjoys golf cart rides during logistic trips of the canteen. I wonder that out of the whole gang of ‘dirty-dozen’, the  stray dogs; she has been the only smart one to have won a patronage, not only of Killoo but some of the retired senior bureaucrats who are precariously famous for their second love; the animals. The Killoo’s Tea-Hut is a place for morning     gup-shup and reminds me fondly of Chaupal or Nukkad where grapevines get woven and club-politics is cooked.  The golfers shun teeing off from 7th as they see a ghost haunting in Garcha’s Stables who sucks in golf shots and especially if the ball is a new one. Those who are seasoned will play safe much to the left. By now, the first layer of woollens gets removed, caddies shove them into the bags, and you feel much warm and get rid of that extra piece of clothing hampering your swing. But, one keeps cursing the golf shoes which cannot protect the feet getting wet from the moist grass.
 Most of the Golfers will call it off after nine holes to converge on the gazebo for a hot breakfast and settling of the accounts. Burnt toasts with chopped onions and tomatoes with a generous sprinkling of a special masala imported from Indore by Sudhir Kasliwal is an indigenous topping improvised in RGC cuisine with zero calories. Some, on the other hand will order a sumptuous menu so as to make up for their lost money; you guessed it right: the winners would sign the bills. Neta ji will invariably be seen collecting winnings from those who took the bait and me in particular has been quite a victim of his. The chatting prolongs and get louder as Dr Raghvender Chaudhary walks in announcing the last fourball-in. Tirlok, the waiter in distress will have his hands-full for next one hour.