My eldest cousin was getting married in less than a month. Consequently my family was on a cleaning spree, trying to get everything in perfect order for the wedding. Our big, old-fashioned, ancestral house was being white washed and emptied of the molding garbage that lay in its various corners. It was while clearing out the attic that I stumbled upon my old red Frisbee, amidst piles of old books, toys and other nick knacks. The chance discovery brought in its wake vivid memories of childhood … that of my failure in every imaginable form of sports and consequently the delightful afternoons in RCGC (Royal Calcutta Golf Club)…
Even today, I never protest when my friends declare me clumsy in sports. It’s a label I had acquired as a toddler. As a kid, my inability to hit the ball with the bat or to take a simple, short-distanced catch had me ostracised from the unisex cricket team formed by my neighbourhood pals. My only recourse was to join my older cousins in their game of badminton on our warm and sunny terrace or the stretch of the road facing our residence. But considering the number of shuttle cocks that I sent flying, with my random and hopeless strokes, into the gutter or some untraceable corner of that nasty neighbourhood Aunty’s garden, I was soon shunned by them as well.
My success in outdoor games was thus modest and mostly limited to those games of Frisbee which I played on the Royal Calcutta Golf Club (RCGC) grounds.
Growing up in Golf Garden, an upcoming locality in south Calcutta, which lay to the south of Prince Anwar Shah Road, the RCGC grounds lay within the perimeter of our regular evening walk. In those days, the access to the lush green grounds of the oldest golf turf in India was not restricted solely to the members … I spent most of the afternoons of my summer holidays on those grounds and I never went without my frisbee. The frisbee was a safe option for a clumsy player like me. On one hand, its diameter was larger than that of a cricket ball, and thus was easier to grab. On the other hand, it wasn’t as heavy as a football and consequently did not threaten to smash my nose. Being not as light weight as the feather cock, it did not get lost with my random throws. Soon it not only became my favourite game but also the sole one at which I excelled. I heralded myself as the Frisbee champion of my locality and every afternoon dragged my cousins to the Golf club for a game of Fr! isbee.
The grounds were vast and I explored them vastly — particularly after the day’s game was over and my tired playmates refused to throw the Frisbee around, any longer. There were stone benches beneath shady trees, on which I perched myself to savor the fresh air and the twitter of the birds. I loved the fountains that sprang to life suddenly at around 4o’clock everyday to water the grounds. I remember running bare feet on fresh grass and withered leaves… picking up wind-felled flowers, taking them home and preserving them… riding a tractor whose driver chose to be friendly with us… spotting many a jackal hiding in a thick bush, waiting for daylight to disappear…
There was an old gateway into the grounds; at the north eastern corner of the boundary wall, through which we made our way in. It required one to walk past thickets of banyan trees and cow dung plastered walls of mud houses. However, we were not the only ones to visit the grounds for purposes other than playing golf. Senior citizens and health conscious morning walkers and yoga enthusiasts, poets drawing inspiration from its verdant beauty, young artists aspiring to replicate the nodding ‘kash phool’ and the ancient trees that peopled those vast grounds, and besotted lovers, were also to be spotted.
In those days the political parleys between our very own Dadas and Dadis were of a different nature and did not involve building fancy parks in every neighbourhood, as a show of concern. Thus, unfortunately the RCGC grounds served as the only decent playground available to us.
In some of my most random imaginations, the old frisbee served as a kind of transporter, which helped me enter the magical world that lay beyond that ancient entrance. the world which spurred on my day dreams…
It’s been many years since they blocked that ancient entrance… Probably, a few years after I replaced those afternoon frisbee sessions with tution classes.
I left behind my childhood interlude to RCGC… The old red Frisbee alone remained as a relic of those days.