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Shrinking fertility of playgrounds, parks

There was a time when Bishan Singh Bedi and Madan Lal played cricket for Hindu college and Mohinder Amarnath and Surinder Amarnath played for DAV college Amritsar, at Gandhi ground. However some other cricketers like Aijaz Khan and Suresh Deecee, were equally popular. Whosoever has seen Aijaz khan playing would vouchsafe that had he got chance to play for India, he would have proved the best all-rounder. He could play volleyball and Basketball even better and for six long years he remained best athlete of DAV college and it was heard later on that after doing MA English, he went back to Palampur. Madan Lal also remained Best athlete of Hindu college.

Those were the days, when in early 1960s, emerged a legendary athlete Gurbachan singh Randhawa. He won gold medal in Decathlon in 1962 Asiad and was declared the best athlete of Asia. He was the first to get Arjuna Award in 1961.He was national record holder in High jump, Javelin throw,110 metres hurdles and Decathlon. He got fifth position in 110 metres hurdles in 1964 Tokyo Olympics. India is yet to produce an athlete like him. He played in the vast grounds of Khalsa college, Amritsar, which has produced Gold Medalists in various Asian games like Jugraj Singh ,Bahadur Singh,Raghbir Singh Bal , Parveen Kumar,And Kartar Singh. In the last Asiad, Arpinder Singh has won Gold medal in triple jump. It is significant that Amritsar had big open grounds and parks, for the natural sportsmen to nurture their talents. It had Mall Mandi, Phula Singh Burj and pathi grounds. Harbhinder Singh, one of the best centre forwards of the world hockey, used to be the best athlete at Akali Phula Singh  ground sports held annually. Besides being Centre forward of Indian hockey and winning golds in Olympics and Asian games, he was member of the national 4x100 metres relay race.

There were many akharhas in Amritsar. Dara Singh practiced at Akharha located in a public park opposite PBN school near Hall gate. There is a kallu da akharha, there was one in Gheesi Bagh, which was shifted to Pathi ground. In 1971,Vijay kumar Billa from Khalsa college Amritsar created history by winning Bharat Kesari and Bharat Kumar titles in the national championship ,on the same day. I have seen him participating in Khalsa College Athletics meet also, where he jumped over 6 feet bar in High Jump event. Daljinder Singh, who reigned inter-varsity and Amritsar athletics for many years, was first in High jump, and wrestler Vijay Kumar Billa was second.

In Company Bagh, there used to be Gymnastics ground, Volleyball ground and Lawn tennis ground and these produced many national players. I remember in 1950s, there was a boy of about 14 called Bhai Bhutni, who could dive over a bar of more than 5 feet six inches height and his long jump was more than 20 feet. He could take away the shoes placed on a wall at the height of more than 16 feet and on a Persian wheel, he could remain intact at the buckets, even if the ox ran it at the full speed. Sports, thus came naturally to the Punjabi youth. Govt has been formulating various schemes like Khelo Punjab etc. but the fertility of play grounds and parks has waned over the period. This aspect has to be seriously cared for.

Surinderjit Singh Sandhu, Amritsar

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