Monday, November 22, 2004


We were in fairly good time – my time ! – for the exhibition match. Polo at Kangjeibung, the world oldest polo grounds! Oh my.

The International Style was on. Then they removed the goal posts and played Pana Kangjei, the traditional style. The players wore white turbans with cloth chinstraps. They wore Khudei instead of trousers, with leather shin guards. The Manipuri ponies, which stand about 11 hands as compared to 14 in most mounts, wore little pom-poms about their faces, guarding, as Dr. Chourjit pointed out, vulnerable pressure points. The saddles were old Manipuri. When we went down to the field to say hello before we started, I saw the players had chandon marks on their faces.

Dr. Nara showed up just in time, wreathed in smiles. He was carrying 6 baseballs. Apparently he got my message about Mike already bringing baseballs a bit too late. Darn sweet of him. The balls were large and red though, like none I had seen before. They did have baseball written on them, so who knows?

Pabung Khelchandra was there, confirming we were on for the tour of Kangla Fort. I asked him how players were to wrest the ball away from a player since they were allowed to carry the ball by hand and gallop away. “Oh, you are allowed to beat each up”, he said casually. “King Chourjit died in a polo match”, he added, ever the historian. A dangerous game.

He tells me my grandfather instituted two fouls – riding your mount across the path of another and raising the polo stick in a threatening manner or something like that. Seeing Mt. Nongmaijing loom in the distance over the polo field reminded me of the picture of him and Mr. Blackie the Telegraph officer. Apparently the goalposts were an addition that the proper rule-abiding British made up. Britannia does not always waive the rules it seems.

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