With less than 10 female polo players in the country who hail from either Delhi or Mumbai, south Delhi boasts of a good number. A big leap for the female polo players was a recent polo cup which had all women’s chukkers (periods into which the whole game, roughly two hours long, is divided) for the first time.
An important transition came about when the game of polo was adopted by the Indian Army. When the Indian Army became responsible for the development of the sport in the country, it ensured its survival especially in Delhi and Mumbai. However, the rich man’s sport has seen a lot of female participation in the recent years.
For Amira Pasrich, 17, a resident of Chattarpur, horse riding is like playing with the wind. Watching all horses racing in the same direction overwhelms her every time she is part of the game. For her, polo is about the bond she shares with her horse Taqdeer. She found him at a rescue centre a few months back and decided to bring him home.
“Polo is the only game where your gear can choose to not cooperate with you. It is all about your friendship with the animal. I won’t be able to do well if my horse and I don’t get along. It’s two heartbeats merge in one during a game,” said Amira, who recently participated in the Junior Indian Polo Association Championship.
Sports like polo often struggle for recognition in a cricket crazy nation like India where its origins can be traced. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the traditional Manipuri game, Sago Kangjei, is the mother of modern day polo. Polo has been a male dominated sport since 1843 and women players were few and far in the early days of the sport, but that is beginning to change now. For many women polo players, the game is a symbol of empowerment.
“It is one of the few sports where men and women play on the same field. It is a platform where you can beat men and get the kind of gratification that you can never get after beating a bunch of girls. I would like to represent India in polo and excel in all aspects of the game,” said Amira, a professional horse rider for 10 years.
For women, polo is not among the sought-after choices unless it runs in the family. For actor and dancer Shivani Wazir Pasrich, it was important to get her daughters into horse riding to keep the family tradition going. “Women can do anything they set their eyes on. I have been riding all my life, but the sport took a back seat when I got other responsibilities to take care of,” said Shivani, who has been riding with her father since she was four.
“A number of top riders of the world are women. It takes a lot of courage to be on the field and it’s not complicated. Everyone should follow their own calling. People have become device centric. Polo teaches you to be at one with the animals. Everything else goes away and it is like meditating on the field,” said Dia Bora, a polo trainer for six years.
Women polo players see it as one of the toughest games where one has to be a fantastic rider first and have the physical strength to endure the rest. It is much more than hand-eye coordination and controlling the dynamics of the field. While for most of them, polo runs in the family, many associate a glamour factor to it.
“Polo is developing as a hobby amongst women if not a career. Women getting associated with the sport is actually good for its recognition. It is an expensive and glamorous sport,” said Manisha Pattu, a Sarvodaya Enclave resident, who represented India in tennis at the Olympics.
Her love for horses drew her towards polo four years back. Being a sports administrator, she feels juggling her domestic life and job while keeping your passion alive is an art. “It’s possible to live the best of both worlds, follow your passion and stay true to yourself. Once the sport seeps into your bones, it never leaves you. Polo demands caution and precision to be exercised quickly. It’s like playing hockey on a horse back,” she said.