M A I N   N E W S

Gaadiwalas on fast track
Nirupama Dutt
Tribune News Service

Kila Raipur, February 20
There is more to the annual February fete at Kila Raipur than just sport as was evident today when the sun stopped playing truant and smiled brightly in the clear blue sky as the three-day event came to a happy finale.

In fact, the sports festival here is a slice of the agrarian way of life in Punjab combining the medieval and modern elements with the paltry and the benign emotions with a joyous shout of ‘Jee ‘O Jawana’ at a tough feat like pulling a Maruti car with the ears is achieved.

The highlight of the festival, which has its roots way back in 1933 when a Kila Raipur team won a silver cup in a hockey tournament held at Jalandhar, has always been a colourful bullock cart race. This is a race that reminds one of the pastoral life picturised by Mehboob Khan in Mother India of the fifties with the coy singing of Gaadhi waale gaadhi dheere haank re. The song was picturised on Sunil Dutt who drives the bullocks so fast that the cart collapses.

Perhaps it was the actor’s presence yesterday in his new avtaar as Union Sports Minister at the games that cast its shadow on the Sunday race. A bull accidentally fell into a well in the fields adjoining the stadium. However, a crane was rushed to the spot to pull it out and veterinary doctors attended to it. In comparison, the tractor race, sponsored by an engine oil company, was a tame affair.

Over the years, the festival has been extended to rural sportspersons and artistes from the adjoining states. So the highlights today were folk dances by vivacious Rajasthan belles and two gun-totting grannies, Chandro Tomar and Prakashi Tomar from Uttar Pradesh. Races by veterans in the seventy plus age group were cheered with enthusiasm. However, some trouble arose when a couple of winners could not produce the proof of their age. A first-time star at the fete was a 72-year-young runner who has over three hundred medals to his credit and had come all the way from Brampton in Canada to win a race here too. “I have enjoyed running here and hope to come again next year,” said Punia.

This show, which is dominated by the Grewals of the village, has a lot of non-resident Indians as patrons who keep giving on-the-spot prizes to the participants ranging from Rs 100 to Rs 1000. One of the patron’s of the fete this time, who was responsible for bringing Sunil Dutt to the games, was Gursharanpal Singh Nat of Los Angeles. “This is the village of my nanakas (maternal grandparents) and I have many happy memories of watching the games here in my youth. I was a hockey player before I migrated in 1969,” says Nat. While he is talking, his sister Pinky Grewal quips in and says: “See he has done so much for the games but no newspaper has even published his name.”

This adds to the ambience of the typical Punjabi bonhomie laced as it is with a complaint or two. So it is goodbye until the next February meet with elephants giving the salute, a hundred kites flying on one string in the air and packed lunch of aaloo-baingan bhaji in a chapatti sandwich.

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