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The joy of belonging …

It was almost ten years ago … I was in the fourth grade when I got picked for our school basketball team … not so much for my skill as for the extra half foot that I was taller by, compared to other people my age …
I didn’t do much … As I got an early start, I found myself in a team of sixth graders … guys two years senior to me …
I could hardly catch the ball … leave alone pass or even make an attempt to score …
My job was basically to last out the first quarter, and get fouled out by the third quarter, so that a better guy got to play an extra quarter …
I know … the rules were stupid then, and all the teams did it …
However, we won that tournament … the first ever I played in…
I did my part, getting fouled out throughout the tournament and helping our cause 🙂
I distinctively remember that night … it was a night game … about 9’ish … floodlights … a big crowd … our seniors cheering for us … the adrenaline pumping … the cold sweat breaking down, and the high tension atmosphere …
Our team captain fell in the fourth quarter … very badly too … he was bleeding all over … but he continued …
That was all what was needed – to boost our morale sky high, and get the adrenaline going again …
When the final whistle blew … we had won … The match had been pretty close … how a finals game should be, and that made us happier …
I even remember crying after the match … Half the reason, I think, was us winning, and the other half was, I think, due to my inability to get fouled out that game 😉 …
No matter how hard I tried, the referee looked the other way … I was on 4 fouls when the final whistle blew …
From the next year onwards, I found myself in a more stable position in the team … with the “Kamikaze” tag being finally removed …
Since then, I stuck on … and our team ( no brag intended ) was one of the best in Pune …
We won every single Zilla Parishad ( equivalent to University tournaments in colleges ) tournaments we played in and got to represent Pune everytime …
It is amazing how being in a team, playing basketball … so dramatically … changed my life around …
I was this quiet … really introvert kinda guy before this happened to me …
I haven’t changed drastically, but have done quite a bit …
We played … the same team throughout … 5 years of our school lives and 2 of our junior college days … behind the Gulati Hall … every lunch break and every PT period …
Another match which comes to mind and makes it really nostalgic was one final, played on a cloudy, gloomy Sunday morning on our own courts …
The match started late and in a light drizzle …
All the catholic guys had come to school to attend some Sunday mass … they waited on the courts … past their mass time … rooting for us …
Even our principal was there …
We started miserably …
We were fourteen points down by half time …
Our principal left …
But the guys stayed back …
After half time, we shot the first basket …
That was all that was needed …
Everybody was possessed … it was entirely a different team …
Everybody outside the courts was shouting … I couldn’t hear my own thinking …
On the sidelines, I could see my coach jumping ( literally ) up and down …
The final whistle blew …
We had won by seven points …
We had not let them score even once in the entire second half …
We hugged … everyone in sight …
No one cared how sweaty the other guy was …
We were drenched … partly due to the rain, and partly from our own sweat …
We were stinking … tired … broken … and dirty … and that was the best I had ever felt in my life …
Days went by … we kept winning …
School was over … then the junior college … We are all in different colleges now …
But we have stuck as a team …
We don’t play so many matches nowadays … nor do we practice so often …
But we do meet every once in a while … to play … behind that Gulati Hall … where we have played all our lives … and you know what ?
Its the best feeling … ever … the joy of belonging …

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