The second edition of “A Toast to Hockey”, a tournament for Anglo-Indian teams across the country, is on February 17 and 18

The Anglo-Indian community is again raising a toast to hockey. The two-day tournament for Anglo-Indian teams across the country — “A Toast to Hockey” — received eagerly by the community in 2010, has returned. The second edition takes place on February 17 and 18 at Mayor Radhakrishnan Hockey Stadium, and will be graced by two Anglo-Indian hockey legends Trevor Vanderputt and Leslie Claudius. The announcement has already created a buzz and excitement among members of the community — some are making plans to come from others countries to watch the tournament!

Around three years ago, when the tournament was just a roughly-cut idea in the mind of Harry MacLure — editor of Anglos in the Wind (AITW) — he faced no difficulty in creating an enthusiasm for it. Everybody he discussed it with, warmed up to the suggestion of using hockey to forge Anglo-Indian unity.

Hockey partly defines the Anglo-Indian identity and almost every Anglo-Indian family remembers some of its forebears by framed photos of them wielding hockey sticks. As a result, the majority laps up opportunities to unite over a game of hockey.

Writing in a special AITW issue dedicated to Anglo-Indian hockey, Malcolm Murphy from London narrates how a group photo of the Madras and Southern Mahratta Railway Rifles Hockey XI awakened deeply buried memories of his childhood in Madras. The photo was from 1918 — which is “before my time” — but he remembers personal encounters he later had with some of the players in the photo.

In fact, any group photo of a Madras hockey team before the 1950s is likely to have more Anglo-Indian faces than any other. In a commentary about Anglo-Indian hockey, historian S. Muthiah writes: “From the mid-1920s till the mid-1950s, the Anglo-Indians dominated Madras hockey. A joint European-Anglo-Indian team in 1925 had eight Anglo-Indian players.”

Given this, is it any wonder that the stick-and-ball game figures prominently in the collective memory of this community? And, it was the memory of Anglo-Indian hockey glories that MacLure and his friends — including Richard O' Connor — tried to stoke before presenting the possibility of a tournament. They visited Anglo-Indian localities — such as Bow Barracks in Kolkata — that still foster a hockey-playing tradition.

Positive response to the first edition — not just within the community but also outside — provided the encouragement for continuing with the effort. The tournament culminates in what is called The Grand Hockey Dinner Dance (scheduled for February 18 at Greenfields Resort in Thirumullaivoyal), a social gathering that displays the Anglo-Indian penchant for dance, music and good food. It's an open ticketed event, and this gives a chance for MacLure to build bridges between the Anglo Indians and the others.

For details, call 4208-0058.

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