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.