|On May 6, 2019, Lisa Choegyal, mother of our friends and fellow elephant polo players, Sangjay and Rinchen Choegyal, wrote an article in the Nepal Times about the passing of Colonel Raj Kalaan. He was a legend, gentleman, and major figure in both horse and elephant polo. The article is included below but we thought we would share a few of our own observations about Raj and the Kalaan family.
One of our favorite images of Raj Kalaan is the one below taken at the World Elephant Polo Association Legends dinner at The Four Seasons Tented Camp in the Golden Triangle of Thailand in 2008. Lucy Monro, on the left of Raj, passed away in a 2015 cyclist accident when she collided with two motorbikes on the Sharjah-Kalba road. She was the editor-in-chief of Equestrio Magazine which published complete accounts of the World Cup and King's Cup annual elephant polo tournaments. Claire McNichols, on the right, was the founder of The Nellies which was an all-woman elephant polo team. No one ever said elephant polo players were boring people.
That year Raj Kalaan provided our newcomer Four Seasons Tented Camp team sound advice when we faced the formidable Mercedes Team championed by the Winter brothers. Raj suggested that we avail ourselves of our much higher handicap by not giving the Winter brothers access to the ball. Raj said, "You enter the game ahead because of the big handicap, just keep the ball under the elephants and do not try to score. If they get the ball, they will score." Lo and behold, it worked.
In the King's Cup of 2009, we faced Raj on the field when he was the captain of the Price Waterhouse team. We were fortunate enough to win that competition.
Also, in 2009 our daughters Sara and Katie joined Claire and Vanessa Donkin to form a powerhouse Nellies team. Surprisingly, all of the experienced elephant polo players came to their assistance to offer words of competitive wisdom. The Silver Fox was particularly helpful.
Moreover, Sara's son, Duke, and Claire's daughter, Ines, practiced sticks and balls to bring in a third generation to the sport. There is some form of family commitment to this strange pastime.
Had Raj been with his sons Angad and Uday in 2009, we would not have stood a chance. Raj gave us some good advice about his boys which was, "If they get the ball, they can score from anywhere on the field." The Elephant Story team faced the Audemar Piquet team composed of Angad and Uday Kalaan joined by Major Cameron Humphries in the 2016 King's semi-final match. We were blessed to get the best elephants in the first half and were able to run the scoreboard. As we traded elephants in the second half, a major defensive strategy evolved from our side though they continued to chip away at our lead. It was the longest ten minutes that I ever recall. When the final whistle blew, it was a more beautiful sound than a cork popping from a bottle of Dom Perignon.
The Elephant Story team was runner-up to King Power in the 2016 finals. Our friend, Tom Claytor of the King Power team, observed that the 2016 final match was unique in that of the six players on the field, four of them were Thai which was the first and only time in Thai elephant polo history.
We took that opportunity to gracefully retire from the King's Cup competition. Angad and Uday together with Major Cameron Humphries went on to defeat King Power in the 2017 final chapter of King's Cup elephant polo. Therefore, The Elephant Story can claim bragging rights to being one of the best elephant polo teams as we have been undefeated in the successive Elephant Story Tournaments in Baan Ta Klang, Surin, Thailand.
Raj, you will be deeply missed by all of your friends whom you graciously gave advice and counsel. Moreover, your charismatic charm has left a void in the Asian sports world. Sunny, Angad and Uday, please accept our deepest condolences and we look forward to catching up with you in the near future.
The Nepali Times, by Lisa Choegyal, May 6, 2019
The genesis of elephant polo in Chitwan: Pachyderm polo was Nepal's star sporting event until it succumbed to the tide of public opinion in 2016