The Game Remains Afoot

Posted by sepoy on July 20, 2004 · 3 mins read

In the Blue Mountains of western Tamil Nadu lies Otacamund or Ooty as it has been known through the centuries. Around these mountains (known as Nilgris) fought the Tiger of Mysore against the Company. The territory came into Company's dominion after his defeat in 1799. Founded during 1815-25 by John Sullivan, this little hill station became the recreation-training outpost for the Company elite. In 1829, St. Stephen's Church was built with the main beam of the church taken from Tipu Sultan's palace in Srirangapatnam.
Nowadays, Ooty is a great tourist attraction. Here are some amazing pictures taken by Mr. Vangal in 2002. One of the attractions in Ooty is the Fox Hunt. The Otacamund Hunt Club, pictured here, was established in 1835 and is the longest running Hunt club outside of Britain and Ireland. Except, since there are no foxes, so they hunt jackals. But the fox hounds are imported from England. The sight of all these proper Indian army wallas prancing around in their impeccable finery (dress code established from 1907) sounds really quaint and romantic. I would love to see it. Still, is it nostalgia that continues such traditions? And after 160 years, can we actually continue to call this a "colonial" tradition? When can the native lay claim to a practice or a custom as their own? I am not sure that I know the answer to that but I would like to think about it.

There are various hill-stations and clubs (gymkhanas) in Pakistan as well that continue the customs and practices of the Raj. Some have the same furniture, I swear. One can go there as witness to a bygone era or one can look at the affect of mimicry gone real. Cricket is often pointed as another Colonial game that persists as a legacy. I have always winced at that. Feeling slightly beholden to the Raj makes me uneasy. But then I remember, I don't play for Queen Victoria.

Curio: My man, Richard F. Burton, visited Ooty in 1851 and wrote Goa, and the Blue Mountains Or Six Months of Sick Leave. He reports nothing about the hunt:

And now, sated with the joys of the eye and mouth, you turn round upon Ootacamund and inquire blatantly what amusement it has to offer you.
Is there a hunt? No, of course not!
A race-course? Ditto, ditto!


Odd. Maybe it started later than claimed by the Ooty people. Do read that Burton piece. It is a great peek into Company life.
update: BBC is also carrying the Hunt story with nicer quotes: "It's bizarre seeing Indians behave and dress like Englishmen from a bygone, forgotten era in Ooty". !.


Bradman | July 20, 2004

It's been a few years since I read it, but The Tao of Cricket addresses your question of "after 160 years, can we actually continue to call this a 'colonial' tradition?" I liked the book a lot, and it, like Alex Bellos's Futebol take sports to make more general national/political/anthropological/and even philosophical claims. The Coop writeup does a better job than I about arguing the specifics of cricket, with its striving to be skillful/win's being frowned upon as ungentlemanly and while the eventual urge to win would, in some way, become a loss to the world as a whole. But it's a fun history for someone like me, and I also took a lot out of the description of the peculiarities of luck and chance in cricket. Nandy also uses cricket to talk about national feelings, showing, I think, that cricket somehow transcends that, as you've noted. But I could be mistaken. Amazon has the first six pages of the intro. If anything, it's a fun summer read at the Point.

sepoy | July 20, 2004

Thanks for that full toss, Bradman. Ashis Nandy has indeed written a ton on Cricket and Nationalism but his brand of psychological-history is not my cup of tea. The whole thing is a sticky wicket, if you ask me.

Nitin | July 20, 2004

This may be an opportunity to write about another Colonial legacy - English. So very often people 'correct' English spoken with an Indian accent. But if Americans, Australians, Irishmen and Yorkshiremen can have their own accepted accents, then surely 300 million Indians can claim to be pronouncing the word correctly !

sepoy | July 20, 2004

HA! Well said. Anyone "correcting" the pronounciation should be told off because how can we make fun of someone if they don't have a funny accent!? Still, your comment made me search for accents of English and I found this awesome site: accents of english. Click on Punjabi and listen to the Pakistani v the Indian. Very strange. Why would Punjabi speakers across the border have diff. accents? The Punjabi language is the same.

Whorf | July 21, 2004

Why should the accents be the same? They're growing up in different countries. Just because the home language is the same doesn't mean that their accents of their second languages will be, too. Compare me, for example, to my youngest brother. Right before he was born, we moved to Massachusetts. Our English sounds nothing alike, but we grew up speaking the same Lithuanian. Anyway, back to Nandy. Granted, I wasn't an elitist graduate student back when I read the book, but I didn't find it too psychological. I found it light and interesting and provocative. But if you're going to hate, you're going to hate. So hate.

sepoy | July 21, 2004

I'm sorry. Let me rephrase: I am too cool for Nandy.