Legend has it that the sport of badminton had its origins on the premises of the Ammunition Factory in Khadki,Pune,more than a century ago in the 1860s. A British army officer,who was enjoying a drink in the out-house of the army headquarters,is said to have stuffed a bunch of stray feathers into the cork of the bottle and tossed it to his fellow officer,who tossed it back. The activity is said to have gained in popularity in the then British garrison town and was found to be the the earliest and the closest association with badminton today. Today,over the founding ground of the sport lies the wet canteen of the Ammunition Factory. Encompassed by a tar road,the factory parking lot and a couple of labourers having their daily swig,the scene shows no sign of being the birthplace of badminton.
All this is about to change,however,if the Pune District Metropolitan Badminton Association (PDMBA) have their way. Plans are in the pipeline to build a badminton museum,the first of its kind in the country,in the area surrounding the wet canteen.
We have sent a proposal to the government for the sanction of the land around the canteen to build the museum. Since the land belongs to the army,it should take at least three months to come through, said SV Natu,secretary of the PDMBA.
In the meantime,the association has planned to start a makeshift museum in one room of the PDMBA office building. I will be travelling to England for the World Championships in August so I will try to get my hands on old racquets or shuttlecocks or anything which is a part of badminton history, said and joint secretary of the PDMBA,Uday Sane,adding that the collection process has already begun.
Sane would always dread international tournaments being held in Pune as his umpire colleagues from different countries would arrive expectantly curious about citys historical importance and desired to take back a souvenir or two. Sane,however,would have to send them back home empty-handed. This is what prompted him to propose the idea.
Natu had been in touch with Gerald Gurney a collector based in Essex,England a decade ago. He met him when he was the manager of the Indian badminton team that had visited England for a tournament in 1992 and they exchanged letters subsequent to that. In a letter sent to Natu on November 15,1996 Gurney mentioned sending copies of documents of laws of badminton that originated in Calcutta,Nagpore,Murree and Poona and that he wanted clarity on the issue of the confusing variations of those laws. He had also mentioned possessing a large shuttlecock of the 1830s and a unique racquet. This racquet was made of rosewood,inlaid with ebony and the throat and the grip were made of ivory and decorated with silver. The racquet was 24 ½ inches long as opposed to the standard 26 ½ inches and had the name Ramsetjees Sons Sialkot (actually Jamsetjees Sons Sialkot) inscribed indistinctly on it.
The letter also mentioned that The Indian office of the British Library were in possession of old photographs of badminton in India in the 1860s of a portrait of a man reclining on a chair holding a badminton racquet in his hand; in 1939 of a photo taken by Edward Hilder Colebrook of a distant view of a badminton game in progress and in 1903 of a view of Europeans playing badminton at a garden party at the time of the Delhi Durbar. The letter also had an attachment of a newspaper article in 1986 which mentioned the existence of the 7th Poona-Snauwert Open Tournament showing that the badminton fraternity in Europe also recognised the origin of the sport in Pune.
The association is also in possession of scriptures which show the evolution of the shape of the court. The earliest games of badminton were played in small halls where the doors opened only on the inside. That is why the court had an hour-glass shape where the outside lines slanted towards the net. The court obtained its rectangular form after it was launched officially in England, said Natu.
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