The highlight of the Mudoorayam social calendar was the annual polo match between the planters and the summer government visitors. It took place on a maidan above the town and everyone who was anyone was there. It was also one of the few ostensibly British social occasions when Indians were well represented—probably because they invented the game.
Tony was captaining the planters' team. He claimed not to be a great horseman—more used to walking his horse sedately around the tea gardens—and wasn't awfully keen on polo as it didn't involve firing guns or sticking spears into pigs, but he loved a chance to compete, and the rivalry between the planters and the snootier government officials was rife.
I knew nothing about polo, but was soon caught up in the excitement of what was a fiercely contested match. Hector turned out to be something of a non-playing expert.
'I've had plenty of practice as a spectator, darling. It's a good way to sort the men from the boys.'
He ran through the rules with me and offered a running commentary on the individual players' styles. Tony's second-in-command at the plantation, Jim Walters, was a bit of a miss-hitter and Hector diagnosed too strong a grip on the mallet, causing him to give away a series of fouls to the opposition. I couldn't work out the science, but I could certainly see the difference between Jim's swing and that of the undoubted best player on the field, Jagadish Mistry.
Mistry was fast and perfectly balanced on his pony, perched slightly above his saddle, the pendulum swings of his mallet cutting smooth arcs through the air and always making perfect contact with the ball, sending it on a straight trajectory. He was riding a grey thoroughbred, frisky and nimble, which he was able to turn on a threepenny bit.
From Kurinji Flowers
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