At the outset, a confession – I have never watched a hockey match in my life. But more on that later.

The Saturday Club held a tete-e-tete with Olympian and Hockey Champion, Gurbux Singh who was part of the Indian squad that won the Gold medal in 1964, in Tokyo. He was also the Joint Captain of the Indian team which went on to win the Bronze medal in The Olympic Games held in 1968 in Mexico. In conversation with him was Ms. Punam Singh, the First Lady of the Club.

The one hour plus conversation was taken in by an engaged and participative audience that included guests and committee members from other noted clubs of the city, Saturday club members and its guests. Notably, seated on the front row was Mrs. Gurbux Singh as well as the co-author of the champion’s biography, ‘My golden days,’ Mr. Subroto Sarkar.

Almost from the word go and completely effortlessly, the octogenarian took the audience back into time, narrating every game stroke by stroke, recounting episodes of success and failure and gently referring to hockey stalwarts of that time, almost as if they were all occurrences of only yesterday.

Interesting nuggets from his life were culled out in the chat, such as how he started out as a sportsman by playing badminton and hockey came only later; how he enjoyed photography and possessed a Yashica camera with which he captured moments and how he fastidiously maintained all paper clippings in an iron trunk, never throwing them away.

What was breathtaking and inspirational was how lightly he chose to wear his stupendous success, emphasising only on how he was grateful to God for having allowed him to contribute to the sport and his country.

Gurbux Singh shared how his Olympian reward was a princely sum of 30 British Pounds; each British Pound then being about 18 rupees, making his total booty all of 540 rupees! In fact, the players hardly got any support from the Government and so, he had to trade an extra pair of hockey sticks that he luckily possessed for a pair of studded Puma shoes that kept him going for four years and multiple tournaments. He shared how the team pumped itself up by singing the patriotic song, ‘Watan ki raah mein watan ke naujawan shaheed ho,’ from the movie Shaheed, before every game when they were taken in a bus to the stadium.

Also on display were all his precious medals and several other memorabilia from his field days. As I’ve said earlier, I haven’t had a chance to witness a live hockey match. But the conversation with Gurbux Singh wasn’t just about world class hockey – it was about the dogged perseverance that is required to chase a dream and the ability to accept success and failure with poise. By the rousing applause at the end of the chat, it was quite clear that the 84 year old Gurbux Singh had hit a winning goal yet again!

Photo Credits: Supriya Newar