In memoriam It has been a year since industrialist and golf enthusiast G.K. Rajagopal passed away

It was a different Coimbatore I saw, with my father G.K. Rajagopal. It was a city of golf, wildlife and motor sport. In the late 1960s, only a handful of people in our city played golf. They would usually go to Ooty or Wellington to do so.

My father and his friends mulled over the idea of starting a golf course in Coimbatore, and in 1977, they requested the jail authorities to give them a portion of their land to set up a golf course.

It began on a small scale, with contributions from industries such as Pricol Limited, LMW and Premier Mills.

Later, a clubhouse was set up. An Italian coach was brought in to train youngsters and some golf players were supported financially too.

Birdlife

The Coimbatore Golf Club is also a haven for birds. My father, an avid wildlife photographer, used to take pictures of the birds there. He travelled with my son and nephew to forests to spot animals and capture them on his camera. A few years ago, a bird watcher played a game of golf with us. He said he spotted about 50 to 60 species of birds at the course.

My dad often shared tales with us about his adventures in the forests. In the late 1960s, in Dhimbam, my father was attacked by a leopard. He and his friends searched for the leopard by following a blood trail. The leopard suddenly appeared and launched itself on my father's friend.

When my father tried aiming at her, she pounced and landed on his rifle, and her claws went through my father's palm, before she succumbed to the bullets.

Hunters, they say, are the best conservationists. My father, along with G. Rangasamy started a conservation project in the 1980s. Eighty to 100 acres of land were purchased near Anaikkatti.

They wanted to simulate a wild environment there and create a zoo where animals weren't confined to cages. But, the project had to be scrapped due to various reasons.

In his younger days, my father was also very passionate about motor sports. I have once seen him race. Races used to be held at the air base in Sulur. Britishers, who stayed back in Coimbatore after Independence, were also actively involved in motor sports.

As children, we had no means of watching F1 races, the Wimbledon, the British Open or any other international sporting events.

Television arrived in Coimbatore in the early 1980s. We asked friends or family members who lived abroad to make video tapes of these sporting events for us.

R. Gopinath, an MBA from Pennsylvania State University, worked at Lakshmi Mills and Vijayeswari Textiles. He is managing director, Gama Industries Coimbatore Limited. He is passionate about motor sport, golfing, photography, cycling and wildlife.

(AS TOLD TO NITHYA SIVASHANKAR)