Dara Bhesania: Life at the Mahalaxmi Racecourse


January 24, 2007

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Bombay | Individuals

It’s not just the members, horses, trainers and jockeys who make things happen at the Mahalaxmi Race Course. There are many others who play vital roles in their own capacity. Sadly, limelight eludes them, though they deserve the laurels.

One of them is Dara Bhesania, the supervisor in the judge’s box. This 71-year-old Parsi Zoroastrian’s tenure with the club reaches a full circle with the Mumbai season this year. A former textile technician with Bombay Dyeing, Dara joined the Mahalaxmi Club as a lift man on a pay scale of Rs 4 a day on every racing day. As his tenure increased (35 years), the pay too has jumped to a princely sum of Rs 114 (on race days).

Scribbling numbers on a board just beneath the judges’ box at the race course, Dara says: “In the beginning it was just this board and everybody used to look at it in enthusiasm as we provided the dividends, the timings of the winners and the length. However, with the advent of computers and TV sets, very few look at the board. But nobody can dismiss the fact that it’s still we who provide all the statistics.”

Dara is on his feet as the horses head for the starting gates. He, and his assistants, now have time to take a few minutes break. They are on their feet again as the horses race towards the finish line. In the next few minutes, Dara and his team are busy, not concerned about anything other than the work at hand. “We might not be in the limelight, but still our contribution to racing is as important as the judges and the other officials out there,” says Dara.

For this man, doting father of a daughter and a son, it was his passion for horses and the galloping sound they make that dragged him to the race course. “I have never been to the tote and betting at all,” he says.

He even used to bunk work to be present for his dedicated job. “It is not the money that lured me. I had enough to feed my family. I simply love the animals,” he says.

Dara made a good move when he invested all the money he had got, when he retired from Bombay Dyeing, in shares. Luckily for him it flourished.

“It was around the time when the Harshad Mehta episode happened. I made some good money, and that keeps me going. The money I get here I spend on my grandchildren. I am happy and thank God for all the good he has done,” he adds.

Dara, however, cannot forget the tragedies that happened on the race course in front of his eyes. “The four deaths which I have seen during my tenure are still fresh in my mind. Three owners collapsed after their horses failed to win and one aspiring jockey, Karl Umrigar, was crushed under the legs of the horses after he fell off. But, the show went on…” he murmers.

The Mumbai season is coming to an end. So is Dara’s tenure. Limelight may have eluded this 71-year-old, but he doesn’t care. He’s happy he could chase his passion.

“I will certainly miss the lawns and the horses and the nice people here,” he sighs

Original article here


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