Khelo Rugby has Landed in India’s Garden City of Bangalore
By Zaffar Khan
Khelo Rugby and the idea of it being in Bangalore, well, when it was suggested to me my only thoughts were that it’s a big city and should we be taking Khelo Rugby there? (I’ve now been here since October!) South India according to research has the highest literacy rates and the best level of employment in India. Every time I’d heard any news about Bangalore it would be for some kind of marathon run happening or some multi-national company opening their new office in the city. It just did not come across as a city where the idea and the fundamentals of Khelo would fall into place. Keeping that in mind India always surprises everyone, even its own children and it turns out that Bangalore is just like any other city in India (while of course being totally unique also) though it seems one of the differences is the media and people on social media show less of the disadvantaged side of society here. The first time I was in Bangalore was eight years back for a Rugby 7’s tour with the West Bengal state team. I then remember the empty roads, green atmosphere and clean air and most important the roads which did not have much traffic on them.
Talking about traffic I now live in Sarjapur, almost on the outskirts of the city. To cover a distance of eighteen kilometers in Kolkata it usually takes me more or less one and half hour. I had the first experience of Bangalore traffic, when on my second day I promised my friend that I would meet him at MG Road in two hours max on a Monday evening, I soon realized I was sitting in the bus for the past three hours and we had not even reached half way. I soon told myself that this is not going to work and I should stop promising people. Well untill I got used to the traffic timings. I have got a cycle now and I make it to MG Road in less than ninety minutes. My greatest achievement in the past one month has been beating a brand new red mini cooper on a fifteen kilometer race #BangaloreTrafficZindabad (#longlive Bangalore traffic).
With Khelo Rugby our aim is not to just photocopy the project to new places like Bangalore, but to learn from where we have had success like Kolkata. In Kolkata #Nanda #Hari and the gang have done a great job so we need to look at those good things but also see what works elsewhere. So we try to learn from Siliguri where #Amirul and #Sanu have done fantastic ground breaking work, Pakistan where #MuzamilWazeeri keeps raising the bar for all of us – all the time, and other places where we are using sport to be more than just a part of the pitch. We’re learning again now from Sarjapur, Bangalore. Sarjapur is a rapidly growing area which has many government schools, which are often lagging way behind. For example I had a conversation with the Sapthagiri School Principal where we have recently started to work and she said, “our school and neighboring schools in Sarjapur had lots more children a few years back but children are now dropping out of school and we do not know how to control that. I think it is because Bangalore is developing and people are finding easy low money jobs and children tend to just drift into the money making business. I think it’s not a good idea to leave education without completing it”
We have often faced issues like “school dropouts” in the Khelo communities we work with, particularly in Kolkata. Our community coaches who work with these communities are able to discuss this with children and often have experienced first hand the same pressures. We speak to the children who are going through a rough phase to help them understand the importance of education, being a big sister or brother able to listen, understand and guide. I personally was a school dropout, when I did not do well in my class seven school exams but I am happy I had a family who pushed me and encouraged me to get back into education and I am eternally grateful to them.
At the moment in Bangalore we are focussing on the government schools who we can really support . The idea behind working with government schools is that most of the time they do not get attention or opportunity in terms of sport and outside opportunities. Our aim during 2015 is to have over one thousand kids playing rugby every week in Bangalore. We will also start to implement workshops on health and hygiene, carry out sports development in government schools, tell them about our own child protection policies and keep a close eye on every child we work with so that he or she can achieve what they deserve. This is just the start but already we are working with over 180 children every week.
I have also managed set up a “Brothers and Priests” team just to keep us safe from the evil eye 😉 – a longer story for another day!
As always we are always looking for people who are interested in coaching children and are eager to make a difference to the communities they live in. You do not have to be a rugby coach to be part of the process, if you can bring smiles to the faces of the children or keep them busy in something creative and interesting you are the right person for the job. Please do get in touch with us through our Khelo Rugby facebook page or through the email address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Keep Smiling….Be Happy….Play Rugby