(Angeline Chauhan)

“I am become a name;

For always roaming with a hungry heart

Much have I seen and known; cities of men

And manners, climates, councils, governments,

Myself not least, but honour’d of them all.” [Ulysses- Alfred, Lord Tennyson]

Jodhpur Polo caught up with Col. Umaid Singh Ji just as the festivities of Diwali were winding down; one cannot help but feel a sense of being on a journey of self-discovery and learning every time one meet’s him. His contribution to the Blue City’s Polo heritage is conspicuous season after glorious season, and it is fitting that we pay tribute to one of Polo’s finest gentlemen!

Born on 10 October 1936, this Saturday’s child worked hard for his living- from Bikaner where he graduated from the Rajasthan Veterinary College in 1959 to be commissioned on 24th  April 1962 in the prestigious Remount and Veterinary Core (RVC) of the Indian Defence Forces, he continued to pursue further professional value addition by earning a post graduate degree in Veterinary Science from Assam in 1969. “ I was commissioned just before the 1962 Indo-China war- a time of character building- both for India, as a Nation, and for us as soldiers who served to protect Her borders and citizens.”

He candidly shares with us that his first choice of career was the medical field, but not having the requisite marks cost him the opportunity so he chose to study veterinary science instead. “I made the best of the opportunity and this was my stepping stone into the Armed Forces. I was given the chance to put all my knowledge to the test as well as gather experiences for a lifetime. It was especially advantageous to train for mounted sports, dressage and polo, all of which I loved immensely.”

Umaid Singh Ji’s illustrious career which spanned thirty five years in RVC saw him hold many offices of great responsibility. Beginning with an Instructor tenure at the  prestigious RVC Centre and College, Meerut (established in 1942, but whose history can be traced back to 1779), he was deputed as part of the Equitation and Animal Management Faculty. Under his charge, Col. Rathore was responsible for imparting basic and advanced training in equitation and horse mastership to all ranks of the Corps and to Officers, JCOs and OR of other Arms and Services, Para Military Forces and friendly foreign countries. “Your readers will be pleased and proud to learn that the RVC with such a grand history has been compared to the famous French National Riding School at Saumur. I spent a memorable tenure there and learnt much from it,” reminisces Col. Rathore fondly, adding that “I was a scratch player in polo while I was an Instructor, but show jumping and dressage were my forte. I passionately continued to take part in  dressage and eventing till 1990, shortly before retirement, competing in the Nationals as a sportsperson and later as a judge for show jumping and eventing.”

Another tenure that was full of learning and added to his professional experience was when he held the Office of Deputy Commandant of the Remount Training School and Depot at Meerut. The history of the Depot can be traces back to 1843, currently  this establishment is designed to hold 3620 equines including 445 breeding stocks.

Col. Rathore continued to hold the portfolio of Deputy Commandant at Remount Training School and Depot ,Hempur situated near the Jim Corbett Park in the Terai region of Uttarakhand (then Uttar Pradesh).

After leading a full life in the Forces, the Colonel hung his boots in November 1992 after holding the envious post of Commandant of Asia’s largest depot where he was once Deputy Commandant- the Remount Training School and Depot at Saharanpur.

An impressive and illustrious career in the Army came to its close and Col. Umaid began his second innings, post retirement.

“I was in Delhi when I retired, and was a part of the Equestrian Federation of India including some charitable institutions in the Capital. A few years down the line in 1997, I decided to return to Jodhpur as my parents were aging and I needed to look after them.”

This was the turning point in Col. Rathore’s life as this was when he met Bap Ji.

I met His Highness on the very day I arrived in June 1997 in Jodhpur, and  he offered me the grand opportunity to oversee Polo and related equestrian activities in the City. From that day and year to the present- I have remained committed and devoted to the Office that was granted to me. We have left no stone unturned to uphold the Jodhpur’s polo legacy nationally as well as internationally.”

“I had the opportunity to go to England with the Jodhpur Polo Team and have travelled all over the Indian polo circuit. December spells polo in the Sun City and this is the time when everyone gathers on the grounds of the Maharaja Gajsingh Ji Sports Federation polo ground to celebrate the sporting heritage and culture of Jodhpur.”

He goes onto tell us how polo has evolved over the decades especially in India, with women’s polo events gaining momentum.  “Baijilal has been the tour de force that has engaged women players from all over the World to come and play in Jodhpur. You must understand that neither the beast nor the mallet- differentiate between the genders. Polo was played by women all through history everywhere, especially in the North East- as is evident by the women’s polo teams there. So Jodhpur is synonymous with some very competitive women’s tournaments.”

Also in the wake of the Pandemic, we will see more changes. No sport can flourish in isolation, we need players, and we need spectators-whether they watch a game live or on television, we need people to watch. The IPA has been at the forefront of aiding in chalking out a much needed contingency plan that shall make it possible for Polo to be played as well as witnessed by spectators, with requisite restrictions in place.”

The conversation meanders to the Marwari Horse Society, as Col. Rathore serves as the Secretary General. “The development of the Marwari breed is at the core of all activities of the Society. Scientists and doctors, breeders- have all pitched in their best efforts over the years to preserve the purity of this magnificent Breed.”

He shares with us an interesting anecdote that demonstrates just how loved the Breed is, “Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cornwall, who is the Patron of the Society, grew fond of a Marwari horse when she visited in 2006. We were willing to present it to her, however, international laws forbid that livestock be imported into the UK from anywhere else in the World; we were therefore unable to gift her the horse.”

As we inch to the close of our meeting, Col. Rathore’s spiritual side comes to the fore as he shares with us how he spends days on end at his family’s ashram which he loves to visit each year at the end of the summer. “In the months of July- August I make it a point to visit my Guru’s ashram for two months. I live at the ashram and look forward to learning from the frugal, simple life there. It is a stark reminder of how we take small things for granted and how one must remain humble, over everything else.”

We couldn’t have said it better, Col. Rathore. Hats off to your indomitable spirit of commitment and devotion! Jodhpur Polo wishes you the very best in the long years ahead of you!

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