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"Naval Tata's loved hockey": His Secretary Skandan (5/3/2009)
--K. Arumugam
"Naval Tata's loved hockey": His Secretary Skandan

Skandan is not a run of the mill personal secretary. His long association with Tata’s supreme makes him a special. Just retired, he has time now to move down the memory line, and savour the greatness of Naval Tata with whom he served first ten years of his nearly four-decade old association with Tata clans.

Nava Tata Ji had only one passion on sports, that is hockey. He liked the sports tremendously. As long as he was the president (of the Indian hockey Federation), India won the Gold at Olympics. The moment he left the IHF, India lost the gold to Pakistan in the next Olympics itself”, reminicises Skandan.

Tata was impartial. He was against regional selection. He went by the merit. So much so that sometimes he did even injustice to his own staff.

Skandan goes further: “Randhir Singh Gentle was a Tata staffer. Though he played three Olympics, Tata has never made him captain. Gentle always felt he could have been. When one day he mustered enough courage and asked Naval Tata reasons for this. Tata said, “You are my man. People will misunderstand that I am promoting my own people”.

Skandan says it is rare to see such a balanced and genuine gentleman in our society as was the case with Naval Tata.

It is because of his love of hockey, he continued to be the president of Bombay Hockey Association for long even after relinquishing the Indian Hockey Federation Chair.

It seems the Royal family of Patiala, Rajkumar Amrit Kaur and the wily Ashwini Kumar all conspired against Tata to move him out of Indian Hockey Federation. Skandan would not let you know in so many words, but one can thus make out after a long discussion with the retired gentleman.

Naval Tata had an excellent relationship with then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. They discussed hockey on many occusion. The following conversation is very interesting for its content and portend.

When India won the 1956 Melbourne Olympics hockey gold defeating arch rival Pakistan in the finals by “one goal to nil”, Pandit Nehru got upset and spoke to Mr Tata over the trunk telephone for half an hour that night expressing anguish of India not winning by a big margin. Nehru finally asked Mr Tata , “Is our standard going down ?“. For which Tata politely replied : “No sir, the standard of other counties is going up “.

Skandan is in possession of a copy of a letter Nerhu wrote to Tata after he sent a heft cheque to Nehru which he mobilized by organizing a floodlit hockey match in Bombay.

Note: we will shortly come out with a comprehensive write up on this subject

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