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the light has gone out over the Ooty golf course
Last evening a meeting of the tournament committee was interrupted with the news that our beloved Captain who had been fighting cancer for some time was sinking. Although some people wanted to call of today's tournament, we decided that Captain would not wish it - in fact he would have expected us to play regardless of whether he was alive or not. But we decided to play - and if he passed away during the match we would pay our respects in the place he loved best and then call off the match. Morning came with news that he was still lingering on, so we teed off. Some how I was hoping for a miracle - and with my thoughts on him I wasn't worrying about my swing and was playing beautifully. After 5 holes I felt that it would be ok. As I was lining up my approach shot to the 3rd green the siren wailed. I was not sure whether it was the club siren or the HPF siren. Then it wailed again. And again. We picked up our balls and walked back to the club house. The long line of golfers from every part of the course walking back to the club house with heads bowed is a sight I will never forget. Somehow I was hoping it was still a mistake, but when I saw the club flag flying at half mast the reality sank in. There was a ceremony planned at the club house, but I could not bring myself to attend. I came home and am sitting here to pay my personal tribute to a great man. The newspapers will be full of his history and achievements, so I will not mention them here. All I want to record here is how my life was touched by his greatness - and I hope by recalling it some of his wonderful spirit would have rubbed off on me.

I first met Captain back in 2000 when I was interviewed for club membership. At that time I was of the opinion that the clubs in India were populated with brown englishmen wearing suits and eating with knife and fork. But I wanted to play golf - so I had to become a member of the club. The club has two classes of members - golfing members, who pay less, and social members who pay more. So a lot of bogus bandicoots apply under the golfing category and Captain was strict on making sure the applicants were genuine. Ashok coached me up on the diameter of the ball and the radius of the hole and the proportion between the vertical and horizontal measurements of the club head. Moolchand had proposed me and he told me I would have to wear a suit. Too much. Anyway I compromised and told him I would wear a blazer which I took from his shop - I still have not paid for it though. I was nervous, so played a round of golf before the interview (nothing like a round of golf to soothe the nerves). Then I put the blazer over my tee shirt and was ready for the interview. Moolchand was not happy - but I told him that his attire would cancel out my plebian look. When my name was called, I was in panic - I had forgotten the diameter of a golf ball. But at the head of the table was Captain - having just finished his round he was in a tee shirt. And he asked me just one question: 'Why do you want to play golf?' And I said: 'the doctor recommended exercise so I took it up - and then one day I hit a 230 yard drive and was hooked'. He laughed and said:'I will bet anything that you never hit another like that'. I said: 'yes - but my day will come'. End of interview.

So I was a member, but I felt that the yardages of the course were not right, so I borrowed a GPS instrument from my godson Pavan and tried to check the yardages. In those days (2002) I was getting wildly innacurate readings. One day when I was banging my head in the bar in frustration, Captain asked me what was wrong. I told him. He didn't say anything.

A week later I was playing a round. When I was putting on the 17th, I realised that I was inadvertently wearing blue jeans - which those idiots who run IGU had banned - and the ban had been enforced in OGC. I was complacent until I hit my second shot on the 18th. Go for my third shot and find Captain practicing putting on the 15th. How to escape? I decided to hit my 3 wood OB and escape via the ladies tee. In the stupid way golf balls have the OB shot landed 2 feet from the pin. I putted out for par and saw Captain was summoning me from the 15th. How the hell did he detect my jeans from 150 yards? I was thinking maybe he won't suspend me if I promise good behavour in the future. Anyway I approached him as lamb to slaughter, and he hugged me with his iron hands and said: 'I have brought my laser range finder - it is in the clubhouse - get the course marked.'

to be continued ...