Monday, December 17, 2012

Richmond Ramble 4 - at the gymkhana with a dash of India

In my last post in this series, Richmond Ramble 3 - at the College, I said that had we paused for a while to watch a gymkhana but I was not going to give you a photo of that; I wanted to use them in a separate story! This is that story. 

I love the strange arcane connections I find in my rambles! It is interesting how remote India has become to many Australians when the connections between the two continents are so deep. India is all around us. We just don't see it!

Recent DNA testing (An Ancient Australia-Indian connection) shows connections between the Australian Aborigines and some groups in Southern India, suggesting that at least some of the first Aborigines may have come to Australia via India.

The First Fleet included two ships of the East India Company, with the new coFile:Light horse walers.jpglony falling within the company's legally mandated trading sphere. Not, mind you, that the commercial rogues of early Sydney paid much attention to that little constraint! And a good thing too, to my mind.

The first cattle in Australia were connected directly (Zebu imports from the sub-continent) and indirectly (the Cape of Good Hope cattle traced their origins to India) to the subcontinent.

Australian bred horses, the Walers, provided mounts for the cavalry forces of British India, first the cavalry of the East India Company and then that of the Indian Empire. Australian Walers were present during the tumultuous events of the Indian Mutiny that saw the end of indirect British rule through the Company and its replacement by Queen Victoria's great Indian Empire. The photo, a dramatic one, shows Australian Light Horsemen in the Middle East during the First World War.

Like so many things in Australia, the Walers were a mongrel breed drawing from many sources that became a distinct breed under the harsh Southern sun. We Australians are a mongrel breed, and all the better for that!

All this must seem a long way a way from quiet Richmond on a warm and muggy Sunday afternoon. Yet there is a connection. The car windows were down. My friend who was taking me around is an air-conditioned girl. She offered to drive in her new car with its comfort and air conditioning. I declined. I get badly claustrophobic in a closed car. I fP1000929ind that I am both too cold and too hot. It's just not pleasant.

Through the open windows we could just hear a distant noise and see movement. It was a gymkhana.

Now gymkhana is an Anglo-Indian derived from  Jamat-khana, an Hindi-Urdu word. Apparently it originally meant place of assembly, but then altered to denote a place where skill-based contests were held. Today in India it means a gymnasium or, more broadly, to a social and sporting club. In Australia, the term is used to describe a multi-game equestrian event intended to display the training and talents of horses and their riders.

This transmogrification is not surprising. Bore British officials and especially army officers with multiple servants and not a lot in the way of distractions needed an outlet. So they took to hunting and horse sports such as polo with a passion.

Now here I am going to drop down to individual photos. My first shot shows the players getting ready. Now this shot shows the other end of the field. Just a woman standing by two buckets. Pretty boring isn't it? But wait.  P1000932

The next shot is a bad one and I wouldn't normally include it. On go, two contestants ride off towards those buckets. The aim is to get there first.


Then they have to stabilise their horses and take their helmets off.P1000935

Then they have to stick their head in the bucket and grab, I think, an apple with their teeth.P1000936

Then get back where they came from as fast as possible. P1000937

It's actually quite fun to do or watch.

I had enjoyed the sport, but it was time to move on. I will finish this Richmond series in my next post. It's time for me to move on too!                 


Rummuser said...

Jim another very interesting connection is the Australian feral camel.

Jim Belshaw said...

Thanks, Ramana. You are right!