Lt Col Faiz Siddiqui: Shaping India’s Horse Power

STANDING ON A DIME: Lt Col Faiz Siddiqui on Awesome, one of the best horses in the country, all set for a scorching burst of acceleration.

Can you think of a game where the winner wins or the loser loses by just half a goal? Can you think of a game which left-handers cannot play? Well, if you are surprised at the questions you need to know a little about the game of polo for all this can happen only in a game of polo.

Lt Col Faiz Siddiqui is that unique polo coach in India who holds a certificate in coaching from the Hurlingham Polo Association which is a kind of governing body for polo and Faiz is out to share his acquired knowledge with every Indian who wants to know or learn the game of polo.

The game of polo originated in India in the state of Manipur where it is known as Sagol Kangjei or Pulu. In the absence of well-bred horses, the game was played on ponies. The tea planters took the game to Calcutta from where the British took the game to their country and refined it further by replacing ponies with horses. Initially, the rules of the game had a restriction on the height of the horses that could be used but in modern day polo the game has no such restrictions.

Today, Argentina is considered to be the home of the best polo players with horses bred specially for the game while polo is a lost game in the very country of its origin. However, one man who wants the game to flourish once again in India and make the people love the horses is Lieutenant Colonel Faiz Siddiqui.

I HAVE DONE IT!: Faiz celebrating after having scored a goal in the Vijay Jyoti Cup, at Bangalore.

Faiz’s association with horses is in itself an interesting story. Faiz was born on 8 January 1978, in a family of educationists in Khandwa in Madhya Pradesh. His father was a professor of Electronics, his mother, Principal of a girls’ higher secondary school, and they obviously had nothing to do with horses. Believe it or not, it was one of the city’s means of transport that drove young Faiz towards loving horses; the tonga (the hoses-pulled carriage). When the graceful animals were let lose to graze on the fields, Faiz, enamoured by these animals, would go and pat them. Perhaps, unknowingly, it was an unspoken communication between the animals and their silent admirer.

Another factor that propelled Faiz Siddiqui’s destiny towards the game of polo was his childhood desire to become an Armed Forces Officer. He had his primary schooling in St Joseph’s Convent School, followed by the next five years in Kendriya Vidyalaya and then two years in Sri Raichand Nagda Multipurpose School. Since the time he was in the sixth standard, he had already started preparing for the National Defence Academy (NDA) entrance examination. Television serials like Param Vir Chakra and Sharukh Khan’s Fauji were instrumental in invoking young Faiz’s patriotic feelings to fight the enemy for his motherland.

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Gp. Capt. Achchyut Kumar
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Gp. Capt. Achchyut Kumar

Gp Capt Achchyut Kumar has been associated with The Teenager Today for more than 50 years; initially as a reader and later as a contributor on varied topics. Having worked in the Indian Air Force and in India’s oldest company, Forbes & Company Limited, he is now practising as a lawyer in Nainital High Court.