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Kabbadi Story 2

I am not a sportsman. In fact, after observing my potbelly and excess fat, not even the most imaginative person can visualize me playing an active sport, least of all Kabbadi.

I was in India working as a missionary doctor when I first came to know of the existence of the lively sport Kabbadi. I had been posted in India for nearly six months. The village in which I was working had a small dispensary in which I practiced. The natives were very friendly people with their supple brown bodies and ready with their pearly white smiles. I did not mind the diet so much as the food. I am quite fond of exotic food, but the pervasive heat and humidity was often quite unbearable.

It was in connection with a festival in a local village temple that I first witnessed the game of kabbadi. One of the villagers by the name of Sivan had formed a strong bond with me. Hw was a young lad of twenty. His skin was very dark, like deeply polished mahogany, his face was very pleasant and his smile brilliant. He tried his best to teach me the local language without much success, though I really did put in an honest effort. But my attempts to teach him English were more fruitful, more due to the fact that he had studied in a school till the seventh grade.

He was my constant companion on my jaunts through the village. Sivan had invited me to witness this game. For those to whom kabbadi is unknown, a brief description of the game may b required. It involves two teams of seven members each. These teams alternate between offence and defense. The game is divided into two halves of around twenty minutes duration. When the game starts, a member from the offence team moves into the defense teamís territory and tries to touch the members of the defense team with his hand or foot. The members of the defense team in turn, try to capture this member or interrupt his calls. For this member has to keep calling out ď kabbadi, kabbadiĒ all the time he remains in the defense teamís territory. If they capture him, he has to leave the court, if he succeeds in touching them and escaping, he earns his team points.

I enjoyed watching this game and fro m the first day itself I was intrigued by it. I used to cheer spiritedly and give whoops of joy when Sivanís team struck gold. However I had never considered the remote possibility of playing the game, despite the repeated entreaties of Sivan and his friends. But one day certain events occurred which led to the most important game of my life.

Sivan had a younger sister called Chippi. She was a beautiful lively girl of about thirteen or fourteen. One day, Sivan came to me and his usually pleasant face was as dark as a monsoon cloud. On questioning him he told me that his parents had agreed to let Karamban, the village witchdoctor marry Chippi.

I was aghast. Not only was Chippi far too young to be married, but also Karamban was in no way the suitable groom for her. He was a rogue. He was in his late forties and a man of very strange principles if at all he had any. He practiced black magic of the weirdest kind, instigating the villagers to do acts of the vilest kind.

From the beginning he and I were at loggerheads, for with my arrival, the villagers were less impressed by his charms and black magic and as a result he lost many of his supporters. But the villagers still regarded him in awe believing that disobedience of his commands would bring great misfortune on them. And Karamban had his methods of bringing misfortune, whether it was an infant that died of unknown causes or a slaughtered cow.

On hearing Sivanís tale of woe, I wasted no time. But no amount of instigation and persuasion on part yielded any result with Sivanís parents, clearly they were terrified of Karamban.

In exasperation, I turned to leave their hut when my eyes fell on the hapless figure of Chippi. Her eyes looked at me beseechingly, she knew and I knew that I was her only hope.

I addressed my resolute steps to Karambanís abode on the hillside. I accosted the scoundrel using Sivan as an interpreter. The rogue listened to my entreaties and in the end his lips curled in a sneer. He said something to Sivan which Sivan translated to me.

I was to participate in a game of kabbadi against a team chosen by Karamban. If my team won, the wedding was off and Chippi would be free. If we lost, I would have to leave the village. Without even thinking, I agreed. The date was fixed for the following morning.

Decisions taken without forethought are often regretted, but the very life of a young girl being at stake, I didnít have much to consider. But, as I put my shorts and vest and stepped out of my house, the crowd of villagers waiting to cheer me unnerved me. I had watched the game enough times to know the rules. But watching is a far cry from actual participation as I was soon to discover.

My team considered of Sivan and five of his closest friends .We all knew that the stakes were too high; we could not afford to lose. The opposite team put together by Karamban consisted of the best players in the village.

The game began; every villager was there to witness the game. Almost everybody seemed to be rooting for our team. Once when I had a fall, the crown let out such a big ďohhĒ, that I felt as if my life depended on this game.

The game was nearing a finish; it was turning out to be a draw. I canít say that I had done much. Sivan and his friends had put up a brilliant performance. But now came the moment of truth. Our team was on the offense, and I was the key person now. It was now my turn to venture into the enemy territory and touch one or two opponents and return to the base camp. If I failed and got captured, we lost; if I succeeded, we won.

I stepped forward muttering the word kabbadi under my breath. In my mind I was praying. The crowd was silent, they must have been praying too. I just wanted to touch one opponent and run.

I inched forward and the seven opponents formed a semicircle around me, their arms open to get me in a defeating embrace.

I took a chance; I darted towards one of the opponents, touched him on his chest and then turned and ran for dear life. A fatal mistake, for the moment my back was turned, the seven of them smothered me. I went down with a thud; they clung to every part of my body. I was weighed down. I forgot to tell you that I well over six feet and quite a mass of flesh and bone. So though I was weighed down I found I could inch forward and just as I was near the base line, I felt a thrust from the opponents and we all tumbled into the base camp.

We had won! The crowd was jubilant; I was a hero. There was no trace of Karamban. Chippi was saved.

Later on when I think about it, I realize that the opponents had actually helped me. Though they had clung to me, none of them had tried to pull me back. Those who adhere strictly to the spirit of sportsmanship must try to understand that when the life of a girl is at stake, some allowances may have to be made.