Slum Golf: The sport that invaded the streets of Mumbai • Parlay Game

Anil Bajrang Mane grew up in a slum in Chembur, a suburb of Mumbai. His one-room house, 10 feet by 10 feet, was just above the 10th hole wall of the member-only Bombay Presidency Golf Club, which extends over 100 acres of prime real estate. in a city where the average population density is 31,700 people per km2

When Mane was just 14, he left school to become a cadet on the other side of the wall. But it was only three years later, when he was 17, that he had his first shot, when a member of the club gave him an iron and told him to try. The 150-yard shot has changed his life, he said: he realized that golf was his shot to glory and glory, the chance of a better life.

There was only one problem: the club did not allow the caddies to play on the course, insisting that it would hurt its "exclusivity". Mane made a living in a world that would not allow her to participate. Every evening, he returned from the verdant and distinguished club in his own world of one-room accommodations, corrugated iron roofs and poverty.

"My mother's health was fragile and my father had been burned by the burning of a kerosene stove in our kitchen," he says. "I had no choice but to give up school and work."

Slum golfers in Mumbai.

Slum golf is exactly what it looks like: playing golf in the narrow streets and lanes of an informal community. A photograph: Ritesh Uttamchandani

But that did not hurt his love for golf. So he and his friends have come up with a different game, a game that they non-ironically call "slum golf".

Slum golf is exactly what it looks like: playing golf in the narrow streets and lanes of their informal community. Golfers sometimes dodge the anatomy of the street, but they mostly benefit. Their "lands of departure", "alleys" and "hazards" include houses, walls, drains, construction debris, parked vehicles, sleeping dogs, dumps, stray cows and potholes. . They play with cheap plastic ping-pong balls and building sticks with handle hoses.

When Mane and his friends play, they bet 50 rupees (£ 0.54) their heads. The winner takes the loot.

The first hole is in front of the friendship of Suresh Ramesh Mehboobani, a friend of Mane. Like Mane, Mehboobani was a caddy while he lived in the slum of Sindhi Camp, a refugee village originally located on the golf course.

Slum golfers in Mumbai.

Slum golfers sometimes avoid the anatomy of the street, but they mostly benefit from it. A photograph: Ritesh Uttamchandani

"Golf in slums is what we do for fun," says Mehboobani. "It started as a way to try the game when the club rules did not allow the cadets to play on the course."

Since then, the club has slightly relaxed its rules – it now allows caddies to use it on Monday, when it is closed to members – Mehboobani says they continue to play golf in slums "for fun, especially during monsoon month, the rains are wreaking havoc in Mumbai.

For example, when German golfer Norman Dick came across a YouTube video of Mane and his friends leaving a "hole" in the shattered concrete of their city, he immediately saw a younger, more energetic and freer alternative golf played by middle-aged businessmen and decided to find a way to invite them to Paris for the Urban Golf World Cup.

Players compete in the Paris Urban World Cup in September.

A player participates in the Urban Golf World Cup in Paris in September 2018. Photo: urbangolf-shop.de

Urban golf is reminiscent of the slum gulf: a version of the urban guerrilla game using the endemic natural obstacles of any city.

"In Europe, we have a wonderful community of urban golfers who meet in tournaments on the streets of European cities," said Dick. "All these tournaments have one thing in common. Everyone who wants to play can play. Even if you do not have the money, we find a way. "

He contacted Mane, Mehboobani and four other slum golfers and invited them to Paris to represent them. India. The European teams participating in the tournament collectively participated to pay the flights, visas and hotel of the Indian team.

The tournament was held in September 2018 and of the 10 national teams, the Indians placed fifth. Even more than the result, they enjoyed the experience as a glimpse of a life far removed from their daily reality in Mumbai.

10 national teams participated in last year's Urban Golf World Cup; the Indian team finished fifth overall.

10 national teams participated in last year's Urban Golf World Cup; the Indian team finished fifth overall. Photography: urbangolf-shop.de

"What I liked the most in Paris was that we felt free. The streets were clean, the traffic was steady, we could play golf in the streets without worry, "explains Mehboobani. "We could even have a beer in the open air. In fifth place, the organizers surprised us with tickets to the Ryder Cup, where we could see Tiger Woods play. It blew us away.

Back in Mumbai, life goes on. Mane became a professional in 2010 and now teaches on the course, while most of her friends are still younger, rising every morning at 5:30 pm to go to the draw that takes place in the draw. One day, they earn 1,000 rupees (£ 11), including tips.

They dream of becoming professionals like Mane, and many professional players of the Indian circuit are old caddies from disadvantaged backgrounds. However, participation in professional tournaments is expensive, often at 50,000 rupees (£ 550) or more, and if a select few manage to find sponsors, others must rely on private support from generous club members.

Many slum golfers are also caddies and dream of becoming professionals.

Many slum golfers are also caddies and dream of becoming professionals. A photograph: Ritesh Uttamchandani

Training is also expensive and time consuming. "You have to hit at least 1,000 balls a day as part of your training to become a professional," says Mehboobani. He says it's a luxury that most people can not afford.

Until then, they play golf slums. Mehboobani is the current undisputed champion.

"My dream is to become a professional and win an international tournament," he says. "Thousands of caddies have succeeded each other over the decades. Nobody remembers it. Nobody knows who they were. I want to win a cup for my club and I want my name up there. "

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