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Monday, June 09, 2008

In memoriam

Most predictions did not envisage it would be this bad, though at least one from a Federer fan did! But, heyyyy, Wimbledon's going to be really exciting this time around!
After watching yesterday's debacle, I recalled an old match from another sport.
Polish wrestler Stanisław Jan Cyganiewicz (aka Stanislaus Zbyszko), having had a dubious 'draw' in an earlier encounter, held a return bout in 1928 with the great Ghulam Mohammad, better remembered as Gama Pehlvaan, in Patiala. Zbyszko went down in 42 seconds (the earlier, 'drawn' bout had lasted 3 hours!) ...
I can recall hear my daada (a great fan of wrestling, too, among his other vices), telling us: The gong rang and those of us who looked at our watches to check the starting time looked up and had missed the fight! 
The defeated Stanislaus, in his later life, delivered a surprisingly impressive performance in an early 50's movie, Night and the City. But while Hollywood audiences may have gotten over his wrestling defeat, Bollywood was not so forgiving: The villain in Amar, Akbar, Anthony, who makes beautiful Parveen Babi's life miserable, was named Zbyszko.
The victorious Gama - honored as the Rustamé Zamaan since his win in Patiala - migrated to Pakistan, in 1947, training and mentoring his nephews, the famous Rustamé Pakistan Bholu, Aslam and others. 
Soon, however, Free-Style Wrestling overtook the classical tradition and the akhaa∂aas lost commercial support. The Bholu Clan tried, semi-successfully, to adopt itself to the new rules of a seemingly rule-less ring but purposely losing 'fixed' matches - a given in this 'entertainment sport' - was not something they could really take to, being true pehlvaans ... and, so, they soon faded away.
The Great Gama died in the mid- or late 50s, uncelebrated in the country he chose, with little money for treatment. During his last days a small news item, buried in the pages of Dawn, informed us that Georg Zbyzsko, nephew of Gama's rival, had sent a donation towards his medical costs, having heard his uncle always praise Gama's strength and sportsman spirit.

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Blogger Sidhusaaheb said...

I heard a bit about Gama pehalvaan from my daada, who lived in Patiala for most of his adult life.


Gama is still remembered as the wrestling great preceding Dara Singh ( ), in Punjab.

09 June, 2008 09:08

Anonymous Anonymous said...

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09 June, 2008 11:15

Blogger Fawad said...


Thanks for this piece particularly the part about the desi wrestlers. Growing up I heard many stories about Lahore's famed pehlvan families, their akhaara exploits and their famed diets but wondered after reading your piece if there is anything written on this entire tradition in Urdu or English. I think this is a topic waiting to be written about interestingly by someone.

I still remember the fight between Jhaara pehlvan and Japanese wrestler Inoki (who also fought a strange prostrate duel with the boxer Muhammad Ali). I think Jhaara lost in the first couple of minutes.

11 June, 2008 00:03


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