Autobiography of Hockey Wizard Dhyan Chand
Published by Sport & Pastime, Chennai, 1952
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|My younger brother Roop Singh was having his first
journey by ship, and he spent most of his time in the company of his
colleagues or moving about the ship. He had been schooled in the Indian
custom of not making himself prominent in the company of family elders.
Whenever I made an appearance, I noticed him slinking away. I did not want to spoil his enjoyment and used to make myself scarce, keeping to my cabin most of the time.
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he Indian Olympic team was asked to assemble in Bhopal on May 14, 1932. We were given a grand reception by the people of Bhopal on our arrival at the capital. It was my first visit to Bhopal. Excellent arrangements were made to make our brief stay happy and pleasant.
The Nawab of Bhopal, a patron of Indian sports, was away from his capital but sent a message of welcome through his nephew, Prince Rashid-uz-Zaffar Khan, a hockey enthusiast who played host to the team.
We played two matches - first against Aligarh Muslim University and the following day against a Bhopal Combined XI. We won both the matches, the former by ten clear goals, and the latter by eight goals to two. My share of goals was six out of ten in the first match, while in the second, my brother Roop Singh and I shared between us all our eight goals.
From Bhopal we journeyed to Mumbai, where we played three fixtures. Allen, our number one goalkeeper, joined us in Mumbai. On May 19, we played Bombay City, and beat them 6-1. The second match was against Bombay Presidency, which also we won by an identical margin.
The third match against Bombay Customs was abandoned due to rain after we were leading 3-1. The monsoon had arrived in Mumbai by then, and rain came down heavily on the field.
Around that time riots had broken out in Mumbai, and consequently, the gate collections were small. We stayed in a railway carriage allotted to us. Mr. Hayman was accompanying us, and as a member of the Railway Board he had his own luxurious saloon. This genial personality permitted us the entire run of his coach. We took more than the usual advantage of Mr. Hayman's offer. He himself delighted in very hot curry and rice, and we too had plenty of the same.
Bangalore was next on our itinerary. On May 23, we beat a Combined Bangalore team 3-1.
It is only a night's journey from Bangalore to Chennai. We were very well looked after in Chennai, where for the first time after our tour started we really felt at home.
Our camp was besieged by admirers from morning to night. Autograph hunters predominate in Chennai. Even hotel bearers were not immune to this craze, and we were taken aback at this fraternity presenting autograph books or slips of paper to us.
On May 24, we beat Madras City XI 4-2. On May 25, we played the Madras Presidency team. With ten minutes left for the conclusion of the match, Madras Presidency was leading 4-3. We started making frantic attempts, at least to equalise. We did more, and ended up defeating our opponents by 7-4. All were agreed that the Olympic team played the best hockey of the tour in those ten minutes, scoring four goals in that brief time span.
Mr. C. V. Nagaraja Sastri, the Cambridge boxing blue and editor of a weekly called The Field, and whose wife was a well-known tennis player, acted as our friend and guide throughout our stay in Chennai. The two Chennai matches made a substantial contribution to our tour fund as a result of the large attendance at the games.
Pankaj Gupta, our assistant manager, joined us at Chennai, and we were all glad he came. We all felt that at last we had someone to look after us. As I said before, Mr. Sondhi, who was accompanied by his wife, stayed separately from the team, and we were feeling rather neglected.
The IHF decided that the team should itself elect its vice-captain. Accordingly, we met at the retiring rooms at Egmore railway station where we were staying, and chose Richard Allen for that post.
After a hearty sendoff at Egmore, we travelled by the Ceylon Boat Mail for Colombo. As we passed through Tiruchirapalli and Madurai, I was reminded of the ancient glory of these cities and their architectural wonders. When we boarded the small ferry steamer for Talaimanaar, I was reminded of the conquest of Lanka mentioned in the Ramayana.
We reached Talaimanaar shortly after sundown. For the onward journey to Colombo, our purse did not permit us the luxury of travelling by sleepers, but all the same we expected the Ceylon Railway authorities would give us the best accommodation available and make our journey comfortable.
Tapsell had his sister travelling with him. She was a hockey enthusiast and thought she would accompany her brother to Colombo and bid him farewell there. Pankaj Gupta's best efforts to secure a sleeper at least for this lady proved in vain. Even the fact that a high official of the Indian Railway Board was travelling with us did not help matters. We found the railway officials at Colombo station, to say the least, rude, uncivil, stubborn and entirely uncooperative.
We reached Colombo on the morning of May 27, where Dr. V. R. Schokman, an eminent surgeon and the president of the Colombo Hockey League, and others welcomed us. Mr. Hayman read out to us a telegram he had received from Viceroy Lord Irwin which said: "Please give the Indian Olympic team my best wishes for a successful tour. We shall watch their doings with great interest."
We were lodged in a small hotel called the Victoria Hotel, opposite Colombo station. We did not have the luxury of staying at the Grand Oriental Hotel or the Galle Face Hotel. But we were all very comfortably looked after at the Victoria Hotel, whose entire Indian staff was wholly bent upon making us happy.
We played two matches in Colombo, one against a Combined Ceylon team, and the other against an All-Ceylon XI, winning 21-0 and 10-0 respectively. After the second match, Sir Graeme Thomson, Governor of Ceylon, who was one of the spectators, remarked, "Is the match really over? I feel I was watching the Indians play for only five minutes."
Sir Graeme later met with a tragic end. He died on board a steamer near Aden, whilst returning home to England after his term of office in Ceylon.
Early morning on Sunday, May 30, we set sail by the ship N. Y. K. Haruna Maru, which was lying in the stream. Our baggage had been transferred the previous day. As we clambered up the gangway, Japanese officers of the ship welcomed us. We proceeded to the main deck where we were presented to the captain of the vessel. He garlanded us, and a group photograph followed.
The journey to Singapore was comfortable. We had Indian food with chapatis when desired and for those used to it. We did not travel first class, but in the third or fourth deck as far as I can recollect.
We spent most of our time on the sun deck, taking our turns on the deck chairs. Unlike the P & O Line, one had to hire out deck chairs on the Japanese liners. Pankaj Gupta engaged eight chairs for the sixteen of us. Mr. Hayman spent most of his time in the cabin, playing chess with Gurmeet Singh.
My younger brother Roop Singh was having his first journey by ship, and he spent most of his time in the company of his colleagues or moving about the ship. He had been schooled in the Indian custom of not making himself prominent in the company of family elders. Whenever I made an appearance, I noticed him slinking away. I did not want to spoil his enjoyment and used to make myself scarce, keeping to my cabin most of the time.
The journey from Colombo to Singapore took a week. On June 3, Mr. Hayman held a cocktail party to celebrate the King's birthday to which were invited the officers and passengers of the ship.
We reached Singapore on June 6. We had a very busy programme during the few hours the ship was in port. The Indian residents of Singapore feted us royally and showed us around the city. The president of the Indian Association, Mr. Menon, excelled as a host. This was the first time I realized the meaning of the term Greater India.
Our brethren residents in Malaya approached our manager to consider the inclusion of one Sadhu Singh, a Malayan-born Sikh, in the Indian Olympic team, saying that he was an excellent hockey player. The Malayan Indians sought support for their claim in view of the fact that Lal Singh, another Malayan-born Indian, had been invited by the Indian Cricket Board to join the All-India cricket team which toured England that year under the Maharaja of Porbandar.
To satisfy our Indian brethren in the Far East, our managers were sporting enough to invite Sadhu Singh to play for India against Malaya. We beat the All-Malaya team by seven clear goals, with Sadhu Singh playing right half-back for our team. Sadhu Singh felt very much honoured and gratified, and this gesture on our part went a long way in pleasing our countrymen in that part of the world.
From the hockey field we rushed back to our steamer, which promptly weighed anchor at sunset and set course for Hong Kong.
Indian Team En Route to Los Angeles in 1932 (Photograph Courtesy Dickie Carr)