Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Early mornings and rowing

In the summer following my higher secondary exam and prior to starting classes in college I had a sudden desire to spruce up my sporty side and joined the rowing team at CRC. Now for those of you who are not aware of this, Calcutta has three real good rowing clubs near the Lake that were established in the late 1800's. My Dad was a member of the Calcutta Rowing Club (CRC) since I was a kid and I have the most fondest memories of beautiful evenings and Sunday lunches on the lush lawns. CRC was established in 1858 by the British and still maintains its original clubhouse and boathouse, and carries on the tradition of hosting regattas all year round. Right down the road are the two other rowing clubs, Lake Club and Bengal Rowing Club. A stiff competition exists between the rowing teams of all three rowing clubs.

When I joined the rowing team at CRC there were a handful of women who used to row. Most of the rowers were men. Now for those of you who are picturing me as one of those huge athletic rowers that you see in the Olympics let me clarify that I was one of the tiniest rowers on the Lake. At 5' 2" and 100lbs I did make a sorry picture with my oar in one hand and making my way down the ramp to the boat. The captain was a really nice man who believed that you required a complete workout before you could be let out on the boat. We would have to report at six in the morning and then go for a sprint around the Lake. Now one side of the Lake (the one next to Southern Avenue) is populated in the morning and makes for an interesting journey. However the other half is the not so desirable area and none of us were comfortable on that end. So what we used to do was instead of circling the Lake, we'd run up to the "Top" which was supposedly the half way mark and retrace our path back to the club. On our return we would have to do a series of free hand exercise before we earned the right to lay hands on the oar. Soon after I joined I discovered a friend in P. She was the same size as me and had just finished her class 12 boards and we became fast friends. We decided that the run up and down the Lake was time consuming and an exhausting affair. So we found a way of getting around it by taking a brief stroll by the Lake, then splashing ourselves with water so that it would look like we were all sweaty and tired from the running and rush off to the boathouse. I don't think the Captain ever found out!

We would always go out on the Junior fours with me sitting up in the Stroke position and P in the Bow with two other females which would depend on whoever was available. The most popular cox was Billu. Billu had a name which no one knew; everyone called him Billu. Billu was fun and would constantly chat and joke around with us. He would take us to the "Top" this time by water and then we'd go all the way down the Lake. It was invigorating and we'd come back tired but happy. The rule was once you returned to the ramp each team would have to lift the boat out of the water, flip it over so that the water would drip off, and lift it over their heads and carry it into the boat house. Considering my size I found that a real challenge and most of the time we would have to request the guys to lend us muscle power and get our boat back where it belonged. The person in charge of the boathouse would be most displeased and constantly told P and me that we would require more strength if we were to do this. But we got through the entire season by taking advantage of the guys.

The most exciting part were the few weeks before the regattas (which are these rowing championships held every year). We'd practice like crazy and fight over who gets on whose team and who gets Billu to cox the boat. We'd argue over who caught a "crab" and who could not set the rhythm. The main competition was between the teams of CRC, Lake and BRC. And since there were such few women rowers, we usually ended up winning a trophy. There would be a real official awards ceremony where the President of the Club would hand out the trophies and there would be a sumptous dinner and music later that night. It was fun, it was exhilarating, it was refreshing.

I stopped rowing soon after I started my first year classes. I still would go to CRC everytime there would be a regatta, if only to cheer the rowers from CRC. In fact there was this one time when the womens team could not participate because they were missing one member and I volunteered and we ended up winning the race! I haven't been to any of the regattas in many years now and I have totally lost touch with all my friends from the rowing days. But I hope that rowing remains in Calcutta and that every morning the lake still remains the battle ground of eager enthusiastic rowers who dream of winning the next trophy for their club.

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Blogger Sagnik Nandy said...

i have just gone to CRC for a marriage anniversary party :) btw, i'll repeat it - you describe Kol in an amazing way

3:17 AM  
Blogger Rimi said...

you know what's...um, humiliating? you sit pretty so far away, and talk abt places right here in cal i've never visited! never been to CRC in my life. but then, i'm more a north cal person. JU is my only south cal link.

biplab--and let's not forget the dog bhulo!!!

12:10 AM  
Blogger La Figlia Che Piange said...

I've never rowed but I remember waking up at 5 to go see the inter school regatta at lake club.

10:39 AM  
Blogger J. Alfred Prufrock said...

Did you ever do pairs?

If you have the right partner and you get the balance, rowing away from the sun rising over Balaka at the 'top' is one of the better experiences in life.
When the rhythm kicks in, you forget the 'hands-body-slide'. It's punch-glide-punch-glide, skimming like a bird, the sun burning patterns in your wake ... exhilerating.


12:55 PM  
Blogger Arindam said...

ever spent lazy afternoons on that bridge? we used to trip on that - compared it to the bridge on the river kwai and such. :)

2:16 PM  
Blogger totti said...

Tricks to avoid turmoil. In undergrad days, we used to have NCC. i was lucky to escape NCC (cadet thing) but my friends were'nt. Every saturday afternoon they used to come back with tales of who fainted and how they avoided the gruelling 15 lap run. Nice one

12:54 PM  
Blogger Sagnik Nandy said...

agree with biplabbabu - where have you disappeared????

11:14 PM  
Blogger Rohan Kumar said...

Nothing new for a long while, just checking if u were fine

6:09 PM  
Blogger M (tread softly upon) said...

Yeah I am alive!!! Just stressing over life's challenges. Thank you all for visiting.
Will post :)

7:54 AM  
Blogger Tabula_Rasa said...

Dropped by...

12:45 PM  

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