Rinaa Shah: India's first professional female Polo player is also a DJ and a Kathak dancer

In an exclusive interaction with Mumbai Live, India's first professional female Polo player - Rinaa Shah - talks about how it was an impossible journey for her along with her dreams and future plans

  • Rinaa Shah: India's first professional female Polo player is also a DJ and a Kathak dancer
  • Rinaa Shah: India's first professional female Polo player is also a DJ and a Kathak dancer
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'"I was charmed by Polo, the first time I saw it. I used to watch it with fascination and that's when I knew I had to play Polo. But it was an impossible task for me.

This is how India's first female Polo player, Rinaa Shah explained her first-ever interaction with the sport. At an age when everybody looks to settle down and gain stability, Shah decided to pack her bags and fly to Argentina to learn Polo, professionally.

It was difficult for me. Most of the people interested in learning Polo begin their training during teenage years but I decided to learn professional Polo in my late 30s," she said while explaining that she had never even ridden a horse before.

She claims that for almost one year, she learned how to ride a horse and at times, her back would hurt so bad, she couldn't even walk properly.

But she never quit and persistently kept going on. When asked about injuries, she brushed it off with just a line, "Injury is a part of every game." Eventually, her hard work and never-dying spirit bore fruit and she became the 'first Indian woman to play Polo' in what can be called 'a man dominated sport'. 

Eventually, after her Argentine stint, she looked towards improving her game and followed it up with more training in the UK and Santa Barbara. And eventually, she was back to the place where she took the first step towards attaining her dream, Mahalaxmi Race Course in Mumbai.

When it comes to sports, every budding player has an idol or role model that inspires them to excel in the sport. For Rinaa Shah, in a sport that is dominated by men, especially Rajputs and Army officials, that role model was and will always be Argentine great, Adolfo Cambiaso who is reigning as the World's Best Polo player.

So after she came back to India after rigorous training, she became the first Indian to own a Polo Team, i.e. Rinaldi Polo. In an effort to push people towards the sport, Shah had single-handedly organised the first-ever Women's Polo match in Mumbai at Mahalaxmi Race Course. The encounter had concluded in a tie with a total score of 8-8.

While she is keen on promoting Polo in a cricket-dominated nation, Shah expresses her concern over the survival of the sport,

The answer to whether the sport will draw more people or not is both, Yes and No. Firstly, it's an expensive sport, so not everyone is able to pursue it. And secondly, the sport is dominated by the Rajputs and the Army officials."

However, Shah indicated that while Polo might be an expensive sport and takes a lot of hard work, people can opt to learn horse-riding,

Before Polo, comes riding. Polo is secondary because if your riding is good, people can do jumping, they can do dressage and many more sports that include horse-riding. So, I always ask people to just come and try riding once."

But Rinaa Shah is not planning to stop in the near future as she seems to have taken the 'Jack of All Trades' a bit seriously. She is India's first shoe designer, she has degrees in Kathak along with Bharatnatyam and she is thriving as a Polo player. But the urge to learn has kept her going as now she is a DJ and plays drums, an activity she seems to have fun with.

However, with so much in her life, her love for Polo hasn't been affected at all,

Due to the ongoing rains, the game cannot be played properly. So we have decided to chill for now. We'll resume practice from September. My dream is to play Snow Polo at St. Moritz. It is very difficult to get in but I am hoping for the best."

Currently, she is planning to arrange another night Polo match at Mahalaxmi Race Course in December. Unlike the previous match organised by her, this time Shah is planning to keep the match in a mixed-format consisting of men and women. 

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