The Stick Game!!! Chak De

I am writing this as a fond memory of a person who was instrumental in picking up a game that I wasn’t aware of at that time (1991-92), although it was short-lived.

Meet Dr. KrishnaSwamy, a highly respected doctor revered for his skills as a doctor in Chintamani, Kolar district. He retired and spent the latter part of his life with each of his son’s place. (3 to 6 months on a shift basis).

He was known as a person I heard my cousins calling him ‘Doctor Thatha (Dr. Grandpa).’ This was how I knew him when I was barely three years old. Since I do not remember much time spending with him until I reached seven years, I cannot recall any interaction with him before this.

It was 1991, and towards the end of the year, I vividly remember that he stayed at our place. By this time, I was famous or infamous at times for my antics at home and everywhere my parents took me along. Dennis the Menace, my nickname, and co-incidentally Dennis, is also one of my sporting idols (Dennis Bergkamp from the Netherlands).

FlashBack 1991-92:
Early morning, I used to wake up. My grandpa would be chatting with my mom. He used to help my mom, making her task a bit easy by cutting the vegetables and catering to other needs. He just loved doing all such things, especially about the kitchen stuff.

One day, I fondly remember that 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 sophisticated 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 in hot water for appeasing me whenever I refused to swallow a pill.

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 that I wasn’t aware of until I caught him once in the restroom and asked him what this smoke is doing here and why it smells terrible and vitiating our toilet???

He was embarrassed, and later my dad told me, it’s the 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.

I was fascinated by my grandpa because 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 the 1992 World Cup, Kapil Dev and Sachin did endorse the brand.

Later, I had a penchant for the taste of Bournvita powder compared to boost; hence, I stopped drinking Boost; instead, I started eating lots of Bournvita powder for which my teeth used to be coated with brown powder my mom and dad used to blast me.

Till the age of 15, I was addicted to eating Bournvita powder.

My grandpa hated me for one reason. I used to run away with his walking stick whenever he wasn’t using it. While he was at our neighbour’s place or at our place, he was always being vexed by me, primarily when I used to snatch his walking stick in front of him.

He used to shout and 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 glared at me, but my dad never said anything.

Now, what was in this stick that made me go crazy over it? I was a genuine follower of sports, mainly cricket and tennis, at that time.

I had my cricket bat, but I used this stick to imitate a cricketer’s innings.

When they 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.

Sometimes, after the 1992 Cricket World Cup, I read a funny name in one of the sports columns of Deccan Herald. In the local language, his last name sounded funny. ‘Pillay’ and I used to call many people Chota Pillay (small dwarf). I was eight years and looked at me; I used to call my peers by this name.

He played a game, what I called a ‘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, the Olympics was something everyone was 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 hockey, I used his stick to play hockey in our house compound. Using a tennis ball, I used to dribble and score goals, with the 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. Relatively healthy those grandpas. Mind you, it wasn’t easy at that time to buy a hockey stick because; we had just purchased 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, a 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.

It was: ‘Grandpa’s birthday.’ On top of the chocolate cake, the following words were creamed –’ Grand Dad 82′. My father and my paternal uncles organized the party. “My grandpa is 82 years”, wondered I.

The party’s instant ramification was to see my grandpa being shifted to one of my uncle’s houses (he juggled between his sons’ homes). Although it was very close to where we lived, I could sense a void of him not being there. Of course, it wasn’t just for the stick, but I missed him.

Four months later, in Feb 1993, he passed away at our uncle’s place while my mom fed him with a glass of water. He had diabetes, and hence the heart attack he suffered didn’t come to our notice. I was at home sleeping when he departed.

The 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 corpse, and except for a few photos and memories, there aren’t any vestiges of him left with me.

Some years back, I found few letters 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’ to date. I haven’t seen full promos of the film to date. All I have heard is that it resembles Mir Ranjan Negi’s life story, a former Indian hockey player; it’s a good movie, and Preethi Sabarwhal played by Sagarika Ghatge, is hot.

But the whole notion of the movie being based on our so-called national game (not officially) brought back those days when I used to snatch the walking stick from my grandpa.

In hindsight, I feel I would have enjoyed talking about 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 for the past 13-14 years because it never suited my fellow mates; also, we enjoyed cricket, football, 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 eight already being won (World record – 6 in a row from 1928 Amsterdam to 1956 Melbourne). The last one was in Moscow in 1980.

This is to my grandpa and his fantastic walking stick. I hope grandpa’s walking sticks can do wonders to reignite hockey’s passion, which is at its nadir at the moment.