05. Game on

12643002_10201266146531810_4935112817427644002_nPadam, the son of Keystone staff members, joins in a game of football.

By Sinan, Cornell student.

Last week, after a long day of classes, we saw some of the employees of Keystone setting up for a game of cricket. Some of us students, including Rabin, Subin, Mani, and myself, asked if we could join in and were welcomed. However, with our lack of knowledge on how the game of cricket worked and the lack of players we decided to play football instead.

The day before, I had gone to Ramchand (the nearby general store) and picked up a ball that we could play with. Within a few minutes local friends were called up and teams were decided. Two bricks were placed on each end of the red dirt in front of Manda Arae. This was now our football field.

Soon enough we were playing. I myself had not played football in a very long time and was never very good. Instantly, I was regretting my decision of not joining a league when I was young like my parents had suggested. Everyone was pretty solid and had good chemistry. After a while I started picking it up, though I was still the weak link on my team: missing passes, loosing the ball, and kicking it out of bounds.

12646709_10201266147411832_7122447132842101820_oYet as much fun as playing football was, it was not the game that this blog post is about.

During our game something incredible occurred. Beyond one of the brick goals there was construction underway, where the new bathrooms for the Keystone campus are being built. In this construction area was a well about a four meters deep, empty but dark.

One of the shots on goal missed and rolled right into the well. We all watched in horror.

To me, this was a lost cause. The game was over. But as I was thinking that, a discussion broke out in Tamil. Quickly, a decision was made by the group. A sketchy ladder was fetched and placed in the well. Two people held the ladder so that one brave soul would not be lost in the darkness of the well, then we held the hands of those holding the ladder and wrapped our hands around a pole so not to slide in. Soon enough the brave soul stepped on the ladder and made his way down.

We watched in anticipation. Within seconds he was at the bottom of the well holding the ball, and then he climbed back up with the jewel we all had thought we lost. As he emerged from the darkness of the well, we all roared with excitement. Without any thought we were back playing football.

This whole event, from the moment of discussion to the emergence of our hero, only took about five minutes. I was so impressed by the teamwork.

The culture here in India promotes teamwork so well; I feel as though if my friends and I were playing back in Ithaca and we lost a ball in a well, the game would be over – and we would buy a new ball. But here there were no such thoughts. The ball was not a lost cause, it just needed us to work together and retrieve it.

12642448_10201266146451808_8714351681102686470_nThis experience made me realize how individualistic the society I come from is, though I do not think of this as a negative, just as a different culture. In India, the society is much more team-oriented. What I witnessed blew me away, and still today as I write the teamwork and efficiency in which the ball was retrieved from a seemingly hopeless place amazes me.

This simple game of pick-up football gave me a lens through which to see Indian culture. What the NFLC facilitates is an environment in which you live, learn, and experience a culture in a very intimate way, such as an impromptu game of football. I look forward to my remaining time here, in India and at the NFLC: learning and being amazed.