Of Dhyan Chand's wizardry and Hitler!
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The gold medal-winning Indian hockey team of the 1936 Berlin Olympics practiced on the deck of the ship during their 15-day-long voyage, losing hundreds of hockey balls in the sea.
This and several interesting incidents find mention in Mumbai-based author Laxmi Tendulkar Dhaul's "In the Shadow of Freedom", published by Zubaan.
In this account, Laxmi traces the turbulent time lives of her parents Ayi Tendulkar and Indumati Gunaji and her German stepmother Thea von Harbou, using a wealth of documents, letters, newspaper articles and photographs to piece together the inter-meshed histories of two women, the man they loved and their own growing friendship, and two countries battling with violence and non-violence, fascism and colonialism.
In the August of 1936, Berlin was the venue of the Olympics. The Indian hockey team led by the wizard Dhyan Chand was invited to a reception by Tendulkar and Thea.
During the reception, team member Joseph Phillips told his hosts that during the long bumpy sea journey that took almost 15 days on the ocean liner Aitheneaver, the enthusiastic team constantly practiced on the deck, losing hundreds of hockey balls in the sea.
The book mentions India's superlative performance in the matches as the team registered a 4-0 win against Hungary, 7-0 versus the US and 9-0 against Japan. In the semi-finals, the team blanked France 10-0.
In the final, Germany was pitted to be the favourites and Dhyan Chand was not on the starting line-up as he was running high fever. But Dhyan Chand decided to play and because of the wet ground, he took to the field without his spiked shoes. The Germans were outclassed and India won 8-1 with the unwell and barefooted Dhyan Chand alone scoring six goals.
Legend goes that Hitler was very much impressed by Dhyan Chand's performance and suggested that if he decided to stay in Germany, he would be given the rank of a colonel.