Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Kabaddi Kabbaddi Kabaddi….



We are playing what?


Any other name for this sport?

No! its Kabbaddi….Kaa—baa—deee… Its called that in Catalonia, Bucharest and Turkey too!!!

We are given a quick demo of this sport by some 10 yr olds and then thrown to the sharks---the 18yrs olds, our opponents! We tackle and tag, scratch and slide, scream and mumble Kabbaddi in so many accents…even as someone thinks aloud….getting trashed at Kabbaddi isn’t part of this day of giving, or is it?

Young girls run at us then spin our of our tackles, boys throw their best Bruce Lee kicks at us, they drag us backwards just as our fingers claw at the white chalk line, they gang tackle us as we try to run back, they corner us as we exhale ‘kabbaddi’ and try not to inhale.

Chants go up from the home crowd, “Asma Didi....Asma Didi!”. ”Wwwwwwwhat?”, my brain says, ‘she’s here?’. My wife? Asma in this remote orphanage with no air-conditioning and Turkish toilets? As I process this deviant data point, this incomprehensible possibility…I am elevated, I travel skywards…wow a beautiful rushing breeze and then BAM...cough, cough, spit, yell...get off me, Ouch. My thumb, arre hato yaar (get away from me), abbe easy lo yaar (take it easy friend)….I can’t breathe. I am on my back and all of the above is simultaneously happening. Newsflash: Old people don’t play kabbaddi with 18yr olds even if or specially if they are named Asma!

They win 3-0. We win 0-3. That was awesome. The sand in my shorts, shoes and toes, my lithium depleted camera, my dirty shoes, my redecorated hair and my aching thumb fortunately still attached, all stumble back to the locker room…….er…to the bathroom with the Turkish toilet. (Note to self: Have to ask Erman if this is how toilets are in Turkey).

Later, as we drink tea we take inventory and complain…yellow oil paint on black pants, new tan lines, sand sand everywhere, problems with contact lenses, ripped shirt, dead camera….and one broken thumb!

Three weeks later I still nurse that sore thumb and think wistfully of that wonderful evening of kabbaddi.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Hello from the balcony

I write this as I await breakfast on day 30. As I came to sit on this favourite 2nd floor balcony of Giridadan where the morning sun holds the Reliance building in its halo....Lanka follows me here and puts down an ashtray. I dont know if its force of habit for him or if this is a smokers-only balcony ....but he must've been sleepy as he loaded Leen's bags into the car before dawn. The smoker has left the stadium....
Erman headed out with a Morarka bag slung over his shoulder...I can almost hear the transcontinental sigh of relief between him and his new bride as readies to board the plane homeward. 5am and Jen was smiling as only Jen can ....the pregnant and masterfully packed-tight backpack ready for an ascent of mount kerala! He husband is in Mumbai and even as his car broke down from the airport to the hotel.
In the other car Julian was already checking off the calls he has to make before he lands in Melbourne...this guy is a pro. Fay came down with her cool and why-is-everyone-rushing expression ...I wonder if the coolness is cultivated or a result of living the consultant's life.
Last down was Sandra to meet the staff that is now our family and the Captain and his wife who have been our gracious hosts for this last month..

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

... almost the final curtain

Jaipur will be home for only three more sleeps as we get to the tail end of this assignment. Two teams have all but finished their work - final presentations done, results well received and just the inevitable wrap up questions to follow. One team has travelled to Delhi today to provide their final inputs.

Our final presentation is tomorrow - we have been lucky to work with the founders and drivers of Vatsalya on a daily basis, so we are really just putting finishing touches to our work before a final handover and goodbye tomorrow. It's been a good journey, an interesting and challenging one, and driven by the passion of two individuals who are trying to do something remarkable for India's urban poor. I trust that some of this passion has flowed on to Sandra and myself, and in turn I hope that we have managed to provide some insight that will benefit Vatsalya in the long run.

Tomorrow night is reserved for our 'end of term party' - an early flight on Saturday morning for most of us will mean no opportunity for a late one on Friday night. This has been a rare experience - working with a talented, multi-faceted, cohesive and dare I say, funny, team. Together we have shared the assault on the senses that India has brought on - fireworks, food, festivals... and especially with our partners we have made friends.

Has it really been four weeks since we arrived ?