let’s connect to that era, and so I had a couple made to
Little did I know that my chance to wear one
would so soon, in fact, last Sunday when I was invited
to a polo match.
Suitably dressed in my Trachten Austrian jacket and
shirt with big stag-head buttons, a matching hat, and,
of course, the Jodhpurs, I arrived at the Jaipur Polo
Ground on a sunny afternoon in New Delhi.
Entering the pavilion, it was a different world:
‘pukka’ army officers, young millionaire studs,
elegant women in hats and flowing saris, young
damsels dressed to kill, cameramen clicking for the
social pages, and a baritone announcer interrupting
his polo commentary to proclaim the arrival of
so-and-so princess, a maharani, an ambassador or an
They all knew each other quite well.
Hugs and air kisses were the usual greetings.
Tea and cold drinks were served on your seats by
After taking it all in, I tried to make sense of the
game in progress.
Each team had just four players on horses, two
mounted umpires in striped polo shirts near the goals, a
referee watching from the stand, and a scoreboard that
read 2 goals by one team and 2 and a half by the other.
Half a goal?
The half goal is the deficit between the two
handicaps of the two teams - all worked out by a formula
which most of the players are quite happy to leave to
Soon the chukka was over.
Each of the six periods of play lasting for seven
Chukka comes from the Indian word ‘chakkar’ or a
circle or round.
The players return with a fresh pony after each
Pony? No, actually these are thoroughbred horses.
Galloping full speed, the players swung mallets of
bamboo cane four to five feet long to hit and score a
goal with a white plastic ball less than four inches in
They dashed from one goal to another at full speed,
stopped and turned while chasing the ball.
Accelerating to full speed in just a few strides and
turning around rapidly is very strenuous for the rider
and the pony.
No wonder the chukka is over with a hooter in seven
minutes when they change their pony.
Everyone claps gently when a goal is scored.
At the end of the game, the players pass in front
of the main guests raising their hard and padded
helmets with face guards.
Looking closely, I saw them wearing special brown
boots with raised heels to keep feet in stirrups
topped by leather Knee Guards to protect their legs
Their Jodhpurs were in white, by rules.
On scoring a goal, the player gets all the praise.
But no one mentions the pony as 80 per cent of the
credit is due to its agility and speed.
A military band played during the interval between
the two games.
For the prize giving, a tractor pulled up a stage in
front of the pavilion with the chief guests.
The VIPs went on the playground, climbed the stage
and handed over the prizes with polite applause from the