I am writing this as a fond memory of a person who was instrumental in me picking up a game which I wasn’t aware at that time (1991-92), although it was short lived.
Meet, Dr. KrishnaSwamy, a highly respected doctor, who was revered for his skills as a doctor in Chintamani, Kolar district. He retired and spent later part of his life with each of his son’s place. (3 to 6 months on a shift basis).
To me, he was known as a person whom I heard my cousins calling him ‘Doctor Thatha (Dr. Grandpa)’. This was how I knew him when I was barely 3 years old. Since, I do not remember much time spending with him till I reached 7 years; I am unable to recall any sort of interaction with him prior to this.
It was 1991 and towards the end of the year, I vividly remember, he was staying at our place. By this time, I was famous or say infamous at times for my antics both at home and everywhere my parents took me along. Dennis the Menace, my nickname and co-incidentally Dennis is also the name of one of my sporting idols (Dennis Bergkemp from Netherlands).
Flash Back 1991-92:
Early morning, I used to wake up. My grandpa would be chatting with my mom. He used to be a helping hand to my mom, making her task a bit easy by cutting the vegetables and catering other needs. He just loved doing all such things especially pertaining to kitchen stuff.
I fondly remember, one day, unwittingly I asked him; ‘I am 7 years, how old are you?’
I didn’t get an answer, he just replied, I am too old. I didn’t question him further.
He wasn’t the urbane sort of doctors I had seen previously. Doctors to me were the people who were associated with syringes, vitriolic tablets; which my mom used to crush and dissolve it in hot water for appeasing me whenever I refused to swallow a tablet.
I never believed the fact that he was a doctor. He never dressed up like one and never had a clinic. Although, I did see him go to our neighbour’s house now and then and do a routine check up, mainly through words and at times by prescribing few medicines.
He was bald, had a charming face, and used to smile very often. Never, I saw him get depressed either with his age related problems or any other issues. He was vivacious and that helped me because I never liked people who were idle and morose. I wanted everyone to play alongside me or at least allow me to play my pranks.
555 was his brand which I wasn’t aware till I caught him once in the restroom and asked him, what’s this smoke doing here and why it is smelling bad and vitiating our restroom ???
He was embarrassed and later my dad told me, it’s same as what your uncles do. That was it, I mean, it was an explanation for what we call ‘smoking’ and somehow I wasn’t curious ever after in my life to find out what exactly it was or how it tasted.
One thing I was fascinated about my grandpa was the way he used to feed me right after I returned from school. He used to make a glass of hot milk for me, it had boost in it. I used to love boost because it was associated with cricketers. I am not sure, whether Sachin used to endorse it in 1991, but I am sure after 1992 World Cup, Kapil Dev and Sachin did endorse the brand.
Later, I had a penchant to the taste of Bournvita powder compared to boost; hence I stopped drinking boost, instead started eating lots of Bournvita powder for which my teeth used to be coated with brown powder and my mom and dad used to blast me.
Till the age of 15, I was addicted to eat Bournvita powder.
My grandpa hated me for one reason. I used to run away with his walking stick whenever he wasn’t using. Be it while he was at our neighbour’s place or at our place, he was always being vexed by me and especially when I used to snatch his walking stick in front of him.
He used to shout and I knew, it was momentarily, because he wasn’t vindictive in his approach, not even complaining to my parents. But whenever I did this in front of my parents, my mom used to give me a glare but my dad never said anything.
Now what was in this stick that made me go crazy over it? I was a fervent follower of sports, mainly cricket and tennis at that time.
I had my cricket bat but I used to use this stick to imitate an innings of a cricketer when he had scored big runs, replicating shot by shot, giving commentary to myself, (it had similar words those used by the commentators) and used to enjoy vicariously what a cricketer went through.
Sometime, after 1992 Cricket World Cup, I read a funny name in one of the sports columns of Deccan Herald. In local language his last name sounded funny. ‘Pillay’ and I used to call many people as Chota Pillay (small dwarf). I was 8 years and look at me; I used to call my peers by this name.
He played a game, what I called as ‘stick game’. And believe it or not, the hockey stick resembled my grandpa’s walking stick.
After a yearning Cricket World Cup for the Indian team and us having to watch others play, Olympics was something which everyone were looking for. I was sad not to see India in the 1992 World Cup finals, but cricket was my priority and religion, so it didn’t matter at all.
After getting impressed with the game of hockey, I used his stick to play hockey in our house compound. Using tennis ball, I used to dribble and scored goals with wall being the goal post.
I never played this sport outside our compound because, only I had the stick and not even a single friend had a grandpa who used walking sticks. Quite healthy those grandpas I must admit. Mind you, it wasn’t easy at that time to buy a hockey stick because; we had just bought a cricket kit and my parents and my friend’s parents didn’t agree when we asked for a hockey stick.
So hockey happened to be a solo sport for me.
But, crazy that I was, few months later when we bought cricket wickets, we used that to play hockey.
My grandpa’s hockey stick, I mean, walking stick served my so called ‘an insane’ ambition of playing hockey.
This routine of stealing his stick continued for months.
Oct, 1992. A grand party was arranged at our terrace. All possible cousins and relatives gathered on this occasion. The occasion was: ‘Grandpa’s birthday’.
On top of the chocolate cake, these words were creamed –‘Grand Dad 82’. The party was organized by my father and my paternal uncles.
“My grandpa is 82 years”, wondered I.
Instant ramification of the party was to see my grandpa being shifted to one of my uncle’s house. Although, it was very close to our house, I could sense a void of him not being there. Of course, it wasn’t just for the stick, but I really missed him.
Four months later, in Feb, 1993, he passed away at our uncle’s place while my mom was feeding him with a glass of water. He was diabetic and hence the heart attack he suffered didn’t come to our notice. I was at home sleeping when he departed.
Next day, it was just hard to believe that he was no more. I had seen people die in the movies, but, to me, this was the first time I ever had to witness the lamenting situation.
Being a grandson, I was made to do some rituals, just like my other cousins performed.
The stick was burnt along with his body and except for few photos and memories; there aren’t any vestiges of him left with me.
Some years back, I did find few letters which he had written to my mom while he was at our uncle’s place. He used to mention my mom as ‘DIL’ (Daughter-in-law) in short, while he wrote his daily routine and other things.
I haven’t seen the movie, ‘Chak De India’ till date. I haven’t seen full promos of the movie till date. All I have heard is, it resembles the life story of Mir Ranjan Negi, former Indian hockey player, it’s a good movie and Preethi Sabarwhal played by Segarika Ghatge is hot.
But the whole notion of the movie being based on our national game brought back those days when I used to snatch the walking stick from my grandpa.
In hindsight, I feel, I would have enjoyed a lot more talking many things about life with him if he were to be around today.
Rather than cribbing about him not being there, I was at least destined to have met him even if it was for a short time.
I never played hockey from past 13-14 years, because it never suited my fellow mates, also, we enjoyed cricket, soccer, tennis and baseball more than hockey.
I hope the trend changes and soon we see hockey reach the heights once again and add more Olympic gold medals with 8 already being won (World record – 6 in a row from 1928 Amsterdam to 1956 Melbourne). The last one was at Moscow in 1980.
This is to my grandpa and his wonderful walking stick. Hope grandpa’s walking sticks can do wonders to reignite the passion of hockey which is at its nadir at the moment.