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New Town society had 4 towers facing each other. In the very centre of this box compound was a swimming pool, a small play area for the children and a tiny garden with fancy trees providing no shade though occasional breeze. Parents of young children in the society bought houses facing the garden and the play area to keep an eye on their children. Correction. So that mums can keep an eye on their children.
Slightly removed from the sight of concerned mums and noisy children was the basketball/badminton/ cricket court. The multi-utility court was fenced so that flying balls did not hit passers-by, but it acted more like keep-out-it-is-our-time kind of a fence. And in New Town society after 8:30 it was usually the Men’s time. Also, during holidays, weekend mornings and once every month when New Town’s male members formed teams, wore their team T-shirts and played against each other.
New Town society was a new society with many sub-committees, one of them being the sports committee. The sports committee decided the fees, timing and tutors for the children’s many classes and was also instrumental in conducting sporting events for Men. But this year two fresh voices joined the low-pitch gang – two women in a man’s world. In a stroke along expected lines, the female members in the 6-member sports committee suggested competitive sports for women.
“We can have sports competitions for women this year,” said Garghi.
“What an Idea Madam ji!” quipped Rashmi.
“But who will participate?” laughed Munjal.
“That is correct. We need at least two teams to play cricket,” sniggered Kapil.
“Hahaha,” guffawed all the men.
“Let us put the word out first and then we will see,” tried again Rashmi.
“Yes, we will ask on the ladies’ group and see,” chipped in Garghi.
“Ladies’ group? Your notice will get lost in all those messages about maids,” retorted Munjal.
“At least it will not be lost amongst porn, Munjal,” said Garghi.
“Oh! So, you have been reading our group messages from Mishra’s phone?” asked Kapil.
“No. But you guys are no great mystery, Kapil,” replied Garghi.
“Alright! It is Sunday and let us not sit here and waste time. As Garghi says we will put the message on the ladies’ group and see how the response is. Anything else people?” negotiated Rashmi.
The sports committee accepted this resolution with no further debate since the male members were more interested in convening for an afternoon beer at Mukesh’s place. With chicken nuggets.
But Munjal had one final jest left in him,” Garghi, Rashmi, remember, even badminton needs two players.”
“We will keep you informed on our group Munjal. Bye!”
Garghi and Rashmi decided not to post the notice about the sports event on Sunday, they knew the women would be busy catering to their families’ needs, Or the message was going to get lost in some emergency query about the best steamer for Momos dinner. They did not post it on Monday either as Monday’s were for picking up after the chaos of Sunday activities. Rashmi posted on the ladies’ group on Tuesday 9:30 AM after reaching work.
‘Ready to sweat, toil, compete and emerge victorious outside of your kitchens and workspaces?
Then you must participate in this year annual sports event! Show your grit, strategy and your team spirit. There is cricket, volleyball, badminton and more. Ladies, come, flood us with your enthusiasm and support.
Play and win! Play and prove your worth on a different field!
Give your names and number to Garghi – 1234567890
or Rashmi – 1234567890 Now!’
‘Ding! Ding! Ding…’
“Garghi, what is happening?!” asked Rashmi over the phone
“The response is humongous. It has not even been an hour and I already have 47 women for cricket,” replied Garghi.
“I have another 30 of them wanting to play cricket and volleyball and 13 of them for badminton,” squealed Rashmi.
“Do you think all of them who have given their names will end up playing?” worried Garghi.
“Doesn’t matter. They want to play. We will make sure they play,” encouraged Rashmi.
Garghi shared the news in NT Sports Committee group.
Again, ‘Ding! Ding! Ding…’
Munjal started it. “This is great news guys! Now only we have to teach them how to play cricket. LOL”
Rashmi called Garghi and asked her to gather the names of women participants, formulate the rules and then engage in any frivolity on the group. And so, it continued along the LOL lines unabated on the sports group for the rest of the day.
The sports committee members met that night to discuss the rules. The first decision was that it will be a 14 overs match for women.
“Garghi, Rashmi please don’t protest. Men can play 24 overs. Women will get tired, also they will have other house responsibilities so it is unfair to keep them for that long,” said Mukesh.
“That is true. There are also other games, we will have the same rules for those games for men and women. Only let us not have mixed doubles in Badminton, men will not agree,” said Munjal.
Garghi called Kushboo and then Nithin. Kushboo from tower 3, had agreed to represent all the 83 women who had given their names to compete in sports that year. All the contestants chose Kushboo, some knowing how she excelled literally in any sport she played, and some trusting the other women who had chosen Kushboo. Nithin was the Chairman of the society.
Kushboo came followed by Nithin.
“What is happening, guys?” asked Nithin.
“We want to play 24 overs too in cricket and also have mixed doubles in Badminton,” replied Kushboo.
“Done,” said Nithin.
“You can’t decide like that, Nithin. Then what is the point of a sports committee? We should go for a vote, ideally,” simmered Kapil.
“I know that a majority of the members don’t want a 24 overs game for women, but then the majority is also 4 men, Kapil. Kushboo is here representing her ilk. And if they say they want to play, what say do we have in that? These women also live in this society, Kapil. Some of them owners. Be careful in the next AGM. Hahaha,” said Nithin.
Nithin effectively put an end to the conversation.
The rest of the week was spent in collecting names, forming teams according to towers, having selections, printing T-shirts. Sports brought the society together like no festival managed to. Women contestants were coming early from work or wrapping up their household chores early and would come down and practice at the common court. Women were vying for a space occupied only by male members so far.
This created a bit of an issue as there was only one court but too many participants. The Sports Committee sorted this out by creating time slots for all the participating teams. So, women’s team occupied the court on Monday, Wednesday and Friday in the evenings from 6:30-10: 30 PM and men on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday evenings. Sunday time slots were also equally divided. Mornings were left free for whoever wanted to come and practice.
This clever arrangement worked fine for men, but women found it hard to manage work, get back from work to cook, clean, feed and then come down and play during specific slots allotted to them. So, most of the women ended up crowding each other after 9 PM in the court. These were women who did not get a chance to play often – may be the last time they played were with their families during a trip, or maybe even way back in college. So, competition amongst women started even before the Sports Day. They wanted to play, and not even another woman can keep them from that. This created all kinds of problems.
“Manisha, let us just play, yaar. If we play against other team members, we can know how they play and plan our moves accordingly. Don’t fret, yaar,” said Rohini.
“Don’t be silly, Rohini. Then the other teams will also know how we play. 9’o clock is our slot, so let others leave,” said Manisha.
“Oh, come on! We are not playing the World Cup. We are playing for fun and competing while having fun. Let us not drag it,” said Rupal.
“No! I agree with Manisha. It may not be the World Cup, but it does not mean we will get lazy about our practice. I don’t want to give up on our slot,” said Tanisha, the other team captain. And so, it continued on the fourth day of practice. There were insults, walk-outs, tears…
That night the ladies’ group was on fire about who was right and who was a grouch, of course, without taking names. There was a flurry of messages exchanged on the sports group too.
“The first thing you need for playing sports is sportsmanship, forgot to inform this important rule to the women,” said Munjal.
“Manisha apparently walked out saying that Blue team can find a new captain. She gave an earful to Kushboo on her way out. I suggest we just have friendly matches for women, no competition,” said Kapil.
Reshma and Garghi got a sense of how this was going to go. They were silent on the sports group but were busy finding a solution on the other group they had formed with Kushboo and all the other participants.
“People, this is our first event. How can we go on if we can’t be in it together?” asked Rashmi.
“My responsibility is to my team, not all the participants. How come men are not fighting? Because they are playing in their slots!” replied Tanisha.
“Then, do you guys want to just play friendly matches without any points?” asked Garghi.
“What nonsense are you talking, Garghi! Will you go to work and be happy if you are never promoted?” replied Manisha.
“Listen, Manisha, we don’t know each other so just stick to the point and don’t talk to me like that again even if we ever get to know each other!” snapped back Garghi.
The issue exploded at once and quite a few women were willing to quit as this was an additional problem they did not need in their life.
“Alright! Manish has a point. I go to work in Marol and I race back home 3 days a week to give instructions to the cook, check if Navya has any pending homework, and then I come down to play. My team’s slot is 7:30 PM. But I wait till the last team leaves at 10:30 to ensure everything runs smoothly and to ensure the return of bats, balls, nets to the society office. Heck! I want to compete and win! But I also want this time away from the chaos that our lives are otherwise. This competition is a chance for me to relax and take a break from my responsibilities. I would be home in the evenings tutoring Navya and making sure everyone is fed, but now Rajesh does that on those three days when I’m playing. We don’t play every day like men to ‘unwind’ from work, just once a year. I need this event,” replied Kushboo.
“That is my point! Let us make that sacrifice and come play in our own slots,” typed Manisha.
“Manisha, not everyone can make the sacrifice that you can within that very specific time slot. My family is not yours so don’t take that call for me. I want to play. And I will not have 2 team captains disrupt that. The world opposes us enough without us going after each other like this!” said Ramya
That message resonated far and wide. These women knew they can play to win even when the other team members knew their strengths and weaknesses. And they knew it too well to be told otherwise. That Sunday morning the women occupied the court to play a friendly dodgeball. Their strength was known.
Image via Quora
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