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In the era of instant information, the art of reading long essays has become an even more niche activity than it ever was. Those articles have instead been replaced by a plethora of short blogs from various sites which provide instant, crisp information, though often exaggerating the subjects. This has led to the rise of websites like  http://www.scoopwhoop.com/ http://www.buzzfeed.com/ http://www.storypick.com/and the blog section of Holiday IQ i.e.  http://www.holidayiq.com/blog/. The travel sections in some of these sites have become especially popular. Thus today’s youth gets flooded with choices to read on topics like- “10 places to go in January”, or “5 things to do in Delhi” or even “7 things to do before getting married”. This trend has created a sort of mental ‘bucket list’ for the ‘readers’ who need to get as many times of these ticked off to be appreciated within the peer group. The rise of smartphones with high quality of cameras attached plus the ever increasing rise of the DSLR cameras has meant that travel has become a sort of narcissistic pleasure for many.

Among the advantages of this growing trend has been the highlighting of certain events which fell way off the tourist map until very recently. One such event is the “Rural Olympics” popularized across the internet as a sort of local level event participated in by simple villagers across idyllic rural fields. Thus I went to cover the event in search of villagers racing their bullock carts in the backdrop of Punjab’s famed mustard fields.

The reality proved slightly different & a tad disappointing though. The village Kila Raipur which has been hosting the event since 1933 is located about 20 kilometres off the city of Ludhiana. The combined impacts of the Green Revolution & the remittances from the NRIs in the English speaking world have meant that villages in Punjab have long abandoned the rural simplicity. Instead houses are all built of brick & stone, modern facilities including electronic gadgets are abundantly available while farming is largely aided by mechanized tools. Shops are full of the latest FMCG products which any large city in India will be having while farmers ride motor vehicles including some SUVs. In fact Kila Raipur’s population of around 17,000 people as per local records would not even categorize the place as rural according to the definitions set by the Planning Commission.

The other major deviation from the idyllic setting was the choice of sports. Some of the sports on display are not totally rural, though of course they are played in rural areas and are nonetheless fun to watch. The much vaunted bullock cart race which is the showpiece event was banned this year just before the start of the proceedings due to the apparent cruelty meted out to animals. This however did not stop the more urbane sports of horse racing or hound racing. According to one of the chief organizers of the event- Mr. Nikki Grewal- this was a particular blow to poor farmers as they were the stakeholders in bullock cart racing while the other sports are mainly patronized by rich land owning farmers or even urban patrons. The Grewal family has been in charge of these games since their inception in 1933, thus know every bit about these rural Olympics. Some even informed us that due to the growing presence of the event on the internet, the games have become politicized leading to jostling between parties, increased bureaucratization and finally fewer events. This apparent politicization even led to a delay in the opening ceremony to Day 2 of the games and thus not much was on display on the first day. The highlight of the first day instead became the presence of a group of foreign tourists who had come from Australia & USA to India and came to this village in search of the ‘real India’. Our host-Mr. Paramjit Singh- took those foreign ladies on a tour of the village to compensate for the absence of major sporting events on Day 1. In the village, they were shown the fields of mustard, sugarcane, wheat, poplar & teak. Particularly intriguing for them was the milking of the buffaloes and the way their dung (gobar) was used for energy generation. Mr. Paramjit Singh manages a page on Facebook to promote his village-  https://www.facebook.com/pages/Kila-raipur-%E0%A8%95%E0%A8%BF%E0%A8%B2%E0%A8%BE-%E0%A8%B0%E0%A8%BE%E0%A8%8F%E0%A8%AA%E0%A9%81%E0%A8%B0-World-famous-village/209846272489514?fref=ts and thus was happy to take us on a village tour.

Day 2 was where the actual events started. There was the demonstration of Gatka, which is a martial art native to Punjab. There were hockey games, sprints and horse races as well. But the highlight of the day was the famous dog race. Hounds were made to run against others in pairs with the winners progressing to the next rounds in a pure knock-out contest. Hounds are a particular breed of dogs specialized in sprinting, no doubt aided by their streamlined figures. While the hounds sprinted at amazing speeds, what entertained the crowd most were their peculiar names. Dogs had colourful names like Big Casino, Turbo, Bruce&Gandam Style while bitches were named even more flamboyantly- Hot, Gold, Blackie, Noorie& ‘Tabahi’. There was also a display of men riding 2 horses together, and some camel sports. Some school kids showed their prowess with taekwondo as well.

We had to go further to Amritsar and beyond but the time we went at Kila Raipur was a true eye opener. While a lot of typical rural lore was missing, it was heartening to see the economic might of the area. We would love to come back here though with slightly altered expectations than the ‘8 things to see’ blogs recommend us to.

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