Oak Brook Polo Team
TRAVELS TO INDIA
PART II - ANANDPUR SAHIB, INDIA
OAK BROOK POLO TEAM TRAVELS TO INDIA
ANANDPUR SAHIB, INDIA
MARCH 10TH - 14TH, 2017
On Friday, March 10th, the team woke early to begin their trek to Anandpur Sahib…the hometown of host Vikram Sodhi Singh. The nearly eight-hour journey straight north gave the team the opportunity to see India’s northern landscape before reaching the gateway to the Himalayan Mountains. They arrived in Anandpur Sahaib early afternoon and was greeted by Vikram and his wife Sumathy at their beautiful enclave resort, the Anand At The Satluj. The resort is just outside downtown Anandpur on the banks of the river Satluj, but still within earshot of all the Holla Mohalla festivities. The resort is made up of multiple eco-friendly luxury cabins and tents. The team settled into their cabins just before rain fall, met some of the Indian team players and enjoyed each other’s company over dinner, drinks, and games of pool in the “polo lounge”, which included a shrine to India’s 2015 visit to Oak Brook Polo Club.
The next day’s polo festivities were cancelled due to heavy rains the night before, which created unsafe and muddy field conditions. As a result, the team and their guides Deepak Udar and David Henderson (Sodhi family friend) ventured into the Holla Mohalla Festival where they shopped, visited the many Guru temples, the Virasat e Khalsa (Khalsa Heritage Memorial Complex) and tried some of the event’s custom food and drink served in Langar (free kitchen) by Sewadars (volunteers), including Dal, Sabzi, Chapati “Parshada”, pickle and a dessert.
L to R: Derek Berg, Horacio Onetto, Tomas "Toto" Obregon and Deepak Udar
The Holla Mohalla festival is an annual Sikh event to fortify the Sikh community by carrying various displays of fighting prowess and bravery and listening to Kirtan, music and poetry. The town of 30,000 people attracts nearly 5 million to the festival every year. During the evenings, martial members display their physical strength through daring acts like mock-battles, sword-fighting displays, archery, and exercising on speeding horses. Holla Mohalla is the time to celebrate and dedicate oneself into community service. The Sodhi Kishan Singh Memorial Polo Cup is one of the many horse-related activities and demonstrations to take place during the festival.
The moment the team entered the festivities they had a fan following. Many of the festival patrons were eager to say hello, shake hands and take selfies with the team. Despite the large crowds and unfamiliar landscape, the everyone felt safe and fans were incredibly polite and hospitable.
On Sunday, the team had a chance to sleep in and physically prepare for an afternoon of polo. Oak Brook’s three players competed in the Sodhi Kishan Signh Memorial Polo Tournament, a mixed three team round robin arena polo tournament that placed each of them on 3 participating teams with other Indian players. Each match was two chukkers. Oak Brook Team Captain, Horacio Onetto represented the Oak Brook Polo Team with guest players Rehat Virk (H-cap -1) and Harry Singh (H-Cap 1) while Tomas “Toto” Obregon played for the Anandpur Sahib team alongside Akshay Malik (H-cap 0) and Vikram Sodhi Singh (H-cap 1). Derek Berg played for Gillcrest Homes (alongside Deepak Udar (H-cap 2) and Col. Tarsem Singh (H-cap 2).
The first match of the tournament was Oak Brook against Gillcrest Homes, which was given a ½ handicap. The arena was large with flat dry mud surface, which made for a fast game with great ball action. Onetto scored the opening goal followed by Berg of Gillcrest in the first chukker. Berg scored again in the second along with fellow teammate Deepak Udar for the win 2 ½ to 2. Obregon umpired the first match.
Oak Brook Polo Club Managing Director, Daniel O'Leary, making friends with patrons of the Holla Mohalla festival.
Tomas "Toto" Obregon umpiring the first match of the Sodhi Kishan Singh Memorial Polo Cup.
The second match again featured the Oak Brook Team, this time against the Anandpur Sahib Team, Captained by Vikram Sodh Singh. The match got off to a much faster start with Onetto again putting up the first goal followed by back-to-back goals from Harry Singh. Obregon answered back to make the score 3 to 2½ at the end of the first chukker. Vikram opened the second chukker with a beautiful backhand goal to nearly tie the game, but Onetto lead the Oak Brook team to victory with two back-to-back goals making the final score 5 to 3½.
The third and final match of the afternoon was between Anandpur Sahib and Gillcrest Homes. The first half of the match was a high scoring chukker, with Gillcrest Homes putting the first four goals of the match on the scoreboard, including the opening goal by Berg. But Obregon kept the Anandpur Sahib Team’s hopes alive by putting up two goals before the end of the first chukker, making the score 4 to 2. Vikram scored the only goal in the second chukker, but not enough for the win. Final score 4 to 3 for the match and tournamnent win for Gillcrest Homes. Onetto umpired the final match.
It was a great time overall with fast competitive arena polo. The entire perimeter of the arena was packed with thousands of onlookers, some watching from roofs of nearby houses. Berg playing for Gillcrest, scored a total of three tournament goals including two in the opening match and received MVP honors, while honorable mentions went to Obregon, who also scored three tournament goals and Onetto who scored a total of four goals.
After a competitive afternoon of polo, the team packed up and returned to the resort to relax and enjoy dinner, drinks and games of pool with other players, hosts Vikram and Sumathy and guests of the resort.
The Team’s final day included a relaxing morning before enjoying the last day of the Holla Mohalla Festival…which was a day like no other. The festival concludes on the day of Holla Mohalla with a long, military-style procession near the Takht Dri Keshgarh Sahib. The procession of Nihangs from various sects where dressed in traditional battle gear, sprinkled Gulal on each other and displayed martial arts skills like “Gatka” within the arena, as well as displays of horsemanship skills.
“The events of our trip were incredibly memorable and once in a lifetime,” explains Dan O’Leary, Oak Brook Polo Club Managing Director. “The team not only had the opportunity to play great competitive polo internationally, but also had a life changing opportunity to experience new country and beautiful cultures rich with history, traditions and life teachings. I think we all walked having had a memorable fun experience and enlightened. An enormous thanks to Vikram and his wife Sumathy for their incredible hospitality and unconditional kindness. We look forward to having them back to Oak Brook this summer!”
The Oak Brook Polo Club will host the Delhi Polo Club Team for the third straight year to compete for the Butler Challenge Cup on Sunday, August 20th, 2017 @ 3:00 PM CST. As part of the festivities, Jorie Butler Kent (daughter of Paul Butler) and daughter Reute (granddaughter of Paul Butler) will be hosting the Friends of Conservation (FOC) annual fundraiser and luncheon at the match for over 150 guests.
Derek Berg on the Hillcrest Homes Team in pursuit of the ball.
L to R: Deepak Udar, Daniel O'Leary, Vikram Sodhi Singh, Col. Tarsem Singh and Derek Berg w/ the Anandpur Sahib Foundation International Polo Cup.