When The Crows Visited The Kiwis

Jungle Crows Adventure in New Zealand

by Nanda Lal Majhi and Sarfaraz ‘Tiger’ Ahmed

The Jungle Crows Foundation (JCF) has played host to students and teachers from Auckland Grammar School three times over the last six years or so. See a post on their last visit to Kolkata here on KheloKhelo.

This year the tables were turned and two Jungle Crows got the chance of a lifetime to spend four weeks in Auckland. Khelo Rugby Community Coaches Nanda and Tiger tell their story.

Tiger and Nanda to NZ

Tiger and Nanda Ready to Fly

Nanda: I was very nervous to get on a flight; it was a new country and new people I did not know what to expect. I was happy I knew Ben Skeen our host from his past visits to Kolkata. I think I had packed half the clothes in Kolkata because everyone told me it’s so cold in New Zealand and for sure it was cold for me. I think the moment I stepped out of the plane and the cold air hit my face I took a step back in the plane, lucky Tiger was there to push me back into the ‘Ice Age’. Ben picked us up from the airport and we drove in his car. At times looking out of the window I thought what kind of land is this, I had never seen such a beautiful place full of green nature, it did remind me of the Kolkata Maidan in the rainy seasons where my club the Kolkata Jungle Crows practice.

Tiger: We got on the flight from Kolkata and had our transit in Singapore where we met a Sri Lankan guy who told us that we should not take anything like food, plants or even dirt to New Zealand, not even the mud on our shoe soles. I remembered that years ago Virender Shewag from the Indian Cricket Team had been stopped at the Auckland Airport in New Zealand for dirty shoes. So you can imagine what me and Nanda ended up doing…yes we were in the Singapore airport toilet cleaning our shoes and the people around us thought that we have gone mad. We’re laughing now when we talk about it, but in that toilet ready to get on the plane we had a real panic.


Day 2: NZ v Aus

Nanda: I didn’t understand everything in New Zealand and one of the funniest things which happened with me was when I was at Ben’s home and tried to turn of the light in front of the Garage one day before going to bed. I think I pushed every switch in the house to turn the light off but it would not turn off. And every time I moved away from the light after some time it would turn off by itself but then as I moved closer to it, it would automatically turn on. This carried on for a good ten minutes until I realized it must be some sort of motion sensing system and unable to defeat it, and a bit confused I went to bed.

Tiger: We spent most of our time at the incredible Auckland Grammar School. We were just amazed by the schools educational facilities and even more by the sporting facilities. In total twenty eight sports are being played in the school and the children had the full right to choose any sport they want to play. Mr Tim O’Connor the school Principal was such a down to earth guy….one day we saw him picking up the garbage left over by the children. It showed that everyone was equal and what mattered was the school and not the position.


Nanda, Tana, Tiger

Nanda: We were so lucky to be spending time with the boys who had travelled to Kolkata and their families, they were so kind to us. We had such a good time with each family and they really took care of us. I would really like to visit them again one day, it will be nice. I loved how all places in New Zealand are like small villages it reminded me of my village. My village has only four thousand people in it and the funny thing is I am the only one who has a passport. When I got back I showed them the pictures of Auckland and they were so curious.

Tiger: One of the biggest reasons I am in love with New Zealand and would like to visit again if I get the opportunity is how people look at sport and specially Rugby. I have been lucky to also visit England but it was different in New Zealand it felt like Rugby was not only a sport it was a part of life. I hope one day we get to make it something like this in my city of Kolkata.


Nanda:  We moved to live with different families every 4-5 days and our stays with all the families will be one of the most memorable parts of our trip. We had such a wonderful time and every family and its members made us feel at home and took really good care of us. We visited so many places with them and got to do so many different things like going for fishing, getting to drive a boat, going to the All Black vs Australia match, meeting Tana Umanga – “VERY SPECIAL”, skiing in snow planet, going up Sky Tower, caves visit, playing football with the boys who had visited Kolkata and the list goes on. We will always remember them and keep these wonderful memories in our heart.

Nanda and Tiger: Our experience has been such a positive one. We have learnt so much which we will use in our work with the Khelo Rugby children and share with the people we work with and we know they will pick up so much positive from it. We have so many new ideas for our Crows Academy and our Khelo Rugby children. Just how everything is managed in Auckland Grammar, all the sports and academics working together is really special to see. And how all the boys and teachers get on and respect each other is very different to here in India and we liked this friendly but respectful attitude everyone has.

IMG-20140820-WA0009We would again like to thank Auckland Grammar School, its staff and children for welcoming us. We would also like to thank the families for letting us experience a bit of Kiwi family life which is great, the boys were just fantastic and last but not the least from all the Jungle Crows family here in India a really special thanks to Ben Skeen for all the hard work and support he put in to making the trip happen.  We will be waiting with open arms for the next group of boys and teachers to come visit our City of Joy Kolkata.

IMG-20140823-WA0005Both Nanda and Tiger come from difficult backgrounds, Tiger left school when he was ten years old because of a fight in school. He started to work and abandoned his home for one and half years, his relationship especially with his Father was always a bitter one. On the other hand Nanda had a stable upbringing but the financial condition of his family meant he would not have much opportunity to play any sport or let alone travel to a country like New Zealand. He left school at the age of twelve to work as a paper box maker to pack biscuits. After joining the crows and getting jobs as part of the Foundation’s Khelo Rugby programme they both now have their families respecting them for who they are and have become respected within their communities. Both Nanda and Tiger have played 7’s Rugby  for India. Both are also now looking to work out how they get back into education.


Auckland Grammar Show The Way In Kolkata

Through Trial to Triumph

by Paul Walsh

We were lucky to have the chance to host 22 boys from Auckland Grammar School in Kolkata last week and what marvellous Ambassador’s they have proven to be for their school and New Zealand. While they may have been knocked a little sideways by our city we were delighted to be knocked out by their attitude. It’s not often you get to meet 22 young men who are ready to take on and try pretty much anything, even when it leaves them throwing up in a gutter!

On Saturday we packed into cars and headed to Brooklyn a rarely visited spot in the heart of Kolkata’s sprawling dock area. The Brooklyn community has long been abandoned by any mainstream support and is left to get on with life with virtually no resources, including a lack of electricity and running water. I suppose this is why we like it so much, we know that what we do with the children of Brooklyn makes them smile, gives them some encouragement and can make a little difference to their lives.

The boys of Auckland Grammar took on Brooklyn in cricket and we’re delighted to say lost both matches, but as usual when young people meet through a common activity everyone was a winner and lots of new friends were made. Will and Tim agreed to write about their experience with Brooklyn and their blogs are below.

Will Allen writes…..

ags-willWe had an amazing time out at Brooklyn today with the Jungle Crows taking us out to visit the people with which they work with and teach rugby to twice a week. With such a warm welcome by everyone there and after a few good games of cricket, both of which we lost even with the help of some of the Crows, we were then shown around some of the homes and the community hall. It really blew us all away how positive and lively all these people were, the smiles they had on their faces and how welcoming they were to us. Khelo Rugby has definitely made such a huge impact on this community, through their constant involvement each week teaching the kids how to play rugby and helping out wherever they can around the area. I’m sure I’m speaking for all the boys when I say how thankful we are for the Jungle Crows spending the past few days with us and showing us their city, and showing how much of an impact a simple game like rugby can have on people’s lifestyles and attitude.

Tim Burns writes…..

ags-timToday we had an awesome experience visiting Brooklyn. Some of us managed to excel on the cricket pitch and meet some cool new people; I even managed to pick up my first ever international golden duck. Although we ended up losing by a mere 3 runs, the elated spirit was enjoyed by all throughout the match. We were guided by the Jungle Crows who ended up being the stand out players in our team and the best possible people to have around. Visiting Brooklyn twice a week providing a channel for energy through organised sports through Khelo Rugby, their inherent experience with their locals was apparent with their clear communication and leadership especially through men such as Zaffir. It was a pleasure and a privilege to spend the afternoon again with the Jungle Crows with whom we have formed a solid bond, obviously along with the people of Brooklyn who were the most friendly and enthusiastic people you will ever meet. Awesome stuff Khelo Rugby – a Kolkata experience not to be forgotten.

All the boys are blogging every step of the way across India over the next 4 weeks and you can follow their exploits here.

We hope Kolkata through the eyes of the Jungle Crows was worthwhile to the boys. I’d especially like to thank Ben, Rachel and Shane for all their tremendous support in making the experience possible for all of us.