Vol. 37 No. 241
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  October 21, 2014
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   FROM A SYCE TO... INDIA'S TOP JOCKEY

A. Sandesh leaves a lasting impression on Mysore

Ace Jockey A. Sandesh was seen in action at the Mysore Derby held this Sunday. He was specially called to ride Dr. M.A.M. Ramaswamy’s horse 'Bold Majesty.' Sandesh proved his worth as he guided Bold Majesty to a brilliant win.

The Mysore Derby panned out to be a cliffhanger with Spreadeagle ridden by another top Jockey P. Trevor and Bold Majesty being the two fancies engaged in an electric battle, climaxing to a photo finish. Sandesh was at his brilliant best and has left a lasting memory for all those who witnessed the exciting finish.

The young and unassuming lad from Western India was the darling of the mammoth crowd that had turned up to witness the Derby.

Madhukar Bhagawan, Racing Commentator, caught up with Jockey Sandesh for an interview for Star of Mysore. Excerpts...

By Madhukar Bhagawan

SOM: What made you choose a career as a jockey?

Sandesh: My fascination for horses goes a long way back. I am originally from Matheran, one of the most popular hill stations in Maharashtra. Along with its scenic beauty, Matheran attracts tourists for its good weather and joy- rides atop horses and ponies. Like most locals, my father too made a living by offering rides to tourists.

One such tourist was Iqbal Nathani, a passionate race horse owner. My father used to take horses to ferry him and his family up the hill and one day I too joined him and was riding the spare horse along with them. My riding style caught Nathani's eye and I still remember when Nathani Sir walked up to my dad and me and said to me, “You have a good seat and my gut-feeling says that you can succeed as a professional jockey.” He then turned to my dad and said, “Your son should become a jockey when he grows up, I will do all I can to guide him.” I was just a young boy then.

When I turned 15 years of age, my dad reminded Nathani Sir during one of his visits about his offer to guide me in becoming a jockey. Nathani Sir kept his word and soon he took me to his trainer Rehanullah Khan to pick up the ropes of race riding. I worked in Rehan Sir’s stables for almost 2 ½ years before I got an apprentice’s licence. My first learning began here.

I would also like to share a brief tale with regard to my name. My name is Sandesh Akhade. It was at the instance of veteran jockey Vasant Shinde that ‘A.Sandesh’ came into being. Vasant Sir is immensely popular in Matheran and is highly revered by everyone there. We affectionately refer to him as “Appa” in our hometown. He was delighted when he came to know that I was heading to Mumbai to become a jockey. “When you apply for the apprentice jockey school, register your name as A.Sandesh,” he had advised and I did his bidding.

SOM: Do you now feel you have chosen the right profession?

Sandesh: Definitely! Riding is the only activity I know. Being with the horses from an early age, I believe I understand them very well. Riding means everything to me. I was at ease from the very outset. From Sept. 30, 2009, which was when I got my licence, I have ridden over 400 winners to date. The recent Mysore Derby win astride Bold Majesty was my third Derby success, the first two being the Kingfisher Bangalore Derby with Borsalino in 2012 and with Alaindair in 2013. I have won a total of nine classics so far and I am looking forward to add a lot many more.

SOM: Which winner of yours do you rate as the best?

Sandesh: The Governor’s Cup on Hills And Stars in 2012 at Bangalore stands out in my mind. I beat the favourite Toroloco in a thrilling finish.

SOM: Your comments on the different race tracks in the country.

Sandesh: I have ridden in most of the race courses in India. Each track has its own characteristics and one has to adapt to different riding tactics depending upon the course. The Bangalore course has a steep climb. The home stretch at Pune and Kolkata are quite short and so on. The best course according to me is Mahalakshmi, Mumbai. A jockey gets to learn a lot riding in Mumbai. The long straight at Mumbai is the best ‘class room’ for any rider.

SOM: How do you find the Mysore race course?

Sandesh: I haven’t ridden as much here as I have at other race courses. I have had only four winners on this track and two of them have been Classics this season, the Mysore 2000 Guineas on War Command and Bold Majesty now in the Mysore Derby. Mysore is a beautiful city, historic and the race course is one of the most picturesque race courses I have ever seen.

SOM: I am sure you had a plan in place for the Mysore Derby. Won’t you share it with us?

Sandesh: It was a small field. My focus, however, was only Spreadeagle in the race. After all, he had beaten Bold Majesty in the Hyderabad Derby. I was confident I would tackle the other four runners. Our plan was to make sure that Spreadeagle did not have a leeway of more than three to three-and-half lengths on entering the home straight. Spreadeagle did give me a scare as he had that lead entering the home-stretch. I had to ride out real hard to bridge the gap. Bold Majesty too was responding inside the last furlong. I must admit it was a hard task as Spreadeagle too ran a great race. The close finish could have gone either way. I guess I was lucky to win it in almost on the last stride!

At this point, I must also convey my gratitude to Dr. M.A.M. Ramaswamy and trainer S. Ganapathy for offering me this ride.

SOM: You had a stint in England, how enriching was that experience?

Sandesh: I was in England for almost two months. Once again this was possible due to Iqbal Nathani Sir and trainer Rehanullah Khan Sir for facilitating this trip. They were also kind enough to request Jockey Richard Hughes to make arrangements and speak to the professionals there to provide me opportunities. With his help I got to work under trainer Richard Hannon. It was an educative trip.

SOM: One last question. A jockey is required to have a strict check on his weight. How do you manage this issue?

Sandesh: In that respect I am very lucky. My riding weight is 49 kilograms and my body composition is such that I don’t have any problem in maintaining my weight, thankfully, without many sacrifices.

   ‘MS. RASHMI IAS, YOU ARE NOT ALONE, THE HONEST ARE WITH YOU’

By Dr. A.S. Dasan, Professor of English

The media has widely reported about the incident of assault on Ms. Rashmi V. Mahesh, IAS, Director-General of Administrative Training Institute (ATI), Mysore.

I do not know her personally. I have not met her till date. But, I salute her for the stance she has taken vis-à-vis exposing the financial irregularities at ATI, Mysore. I know, and the public know that these days are, indeed, hard times for persons of professional integrity. It is all the more so for a woman of character committed to public service. This is what is implied in the saga of Ms.Rashmi.

An assault upon her personhood is an affront to probity in public life. Such assaults, left unpunished, shame those who govern, and they should prick the conscience of the public.

Look at her saga: She has the wisdom and courage to bring it to the notice of the higher ups about the alleged glaring indulgence of another senior IAS woman officer in the misappropriation of public funds worth crores, who seems to have done it in connivance with willing stooges who, perhaps, are given their share of the loot. She has the capacity to take corrective measures and streamline the administration of ATI within certain legal and ethical parameters despite resentment from the gang of corrupt practitioners who feel uncomfortable with the initiatives of the bold officer.

She keeps the higher ups informed of her moves, every move. But, the ‘higher ups’ give an impression of indifference insinuating that it is a case of personal egos of senior IAS officers. The effort of Ms.Rashmi to go public through the media seems to indicate her exasperation with the indifference or snail-speed of the higher ups. It is bizarre and disturbing to know that there was a move to transfer her immediately out of ATI as if she were the culprit. It is unfortunate that the higher ups use transfer as the Damocles’ sword against an officer who conscientiously performs her duty. They are likely to bully and indict her on the count of going public through the media about her findings without any prior permission or approval of the higher ups. An outlandish rule in the name of the code of conduct may land her in trouble. This is India.

The attack on Rashmi is a ploy to divert the attention of the public and the government from focusing on the issues she has raised in her correspondence with the higher ups. It is important to note that she has placed her reporting straight with facts and figures. It is important that at least the gems among the higher ups come forward to appreciate the audacity of the IAS officer who avers that she ‘cannot understand the government’s reluctance to order a probe into the scam, which is to the tune of Rs.100 crore during a span of about five years. But the same government acts with alacrity when a Panchayat Development Officer (PDO) is accused of misusing Rs. 25,000 under MNREGA, and suspends him.’

Her findings are so meticulous that they show how crooked corrupt practitioners have been in ‘utilising Rs. 65 crore by splitting the same into allotments of 765 works of less than Rs.1 lakh to circumvent the transparency act and to eliminate the necessity of floating tenders,’ a corrupt way of ‘completing works’ indulged in by quite a number of autonomous bodies including Universities in the State. These are the issues the higher ups should address immediately with a sense of objectivity and probity.

If the higher ups behave as if they were deadwoods while dealing with the reporting of financial irregularities, it will embolden looters to reiterate their belief in Jeffrey Archer’s eleventh commandment, ‘Loot but thou shalt not be caught.’ It will also give room for the public to think that officials close to powers can enjoy illicit fruits and still claim immunity from indictment by virtue of their proximity to political bosses. Recent judgements are a pointer to those who indulge in corruption that they should not forget that the third eye of our judiciary, as long as its reading is not blurred by extraneous ‘influences’, can haul them up and put them behind bars for their corrupt practices. They are a caution to all those who seek ‘convenient bureaucratic positioning’ for personal gains.

All said and done, no one can forget or ignore the fact that ATI is the ace training institute that taps human resources to ensure that our bureaucrats are proficient in their performance and upright in their conduct and should not fall into ignominy by dint of scams indulged in by tainted minds. It is shameful that they have the tacit blessings of the higher ups by virtue of their spouses being close to the powerful. This is how officers with taint can survive in one and the same post that yields private earnings for more than stipulated normal tenure. It is disquieting to know that these influential officers, higher ups and powerful politicians are ‘honourable men,’ to use a phrase of Shakespeare that is full of irony, in the Indian polity, in the art of governance.

And finally, a word of consolation to Ms. Rashmi: She is not alone. There are a few more gems in the cadre of KAS and IAS who will support her. Two or three among the ones I know preferred to quit just after joining and opted for teaching profession because they could not cope with those around indulging in corrupt practices. In the midst of maladministration, there are also officers who have opted for deputation to the Centre. Rashmi’s continued presence in Karnataka would augur well for the public who are the ultimate guardians of morality, ethics and probity in governance.

It is heartening to note that one or two forums have come forward to do their part in support of Rashmi. But, they have focused on arresting and punishing the culprits involved in assaulting the IAS officer. The Police have already started to do their job after having admitted lapses. Their lapses will have to be investigated. The culprits will have to be booked. But, what is more important is that the IAS officer, as a responsible citizen, has showcased her exemplary courage in exposing the menace of corruption indulged in by public servants. The issues she has brought to the attention of the higher ups ought to be tackled. Collective action is a must to make the higher ups understand that Ms.Rashmi is not the problem and that there is no point in taking any punitive action against her. NGOs like MGP can take the lead.

[e-mail:asdmysore@gmail.com]

 
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