Friendship over Volleyball

It’s 6:30 am on a Sunday morning, the time of the week I look forward to the most. A group of 25 odd men between ages 30 to 70 (including me) are excitedly gathered around in a seemingly large circle at Kanthi Bhuwan, Ghatkopar. Even after 38 years of following this same schedule each week, the childish enthusiasm never seems to dim. The captains and their teams are chosen, the rules are set, the coin is tossed, its game time! Its time for some volleyball!!

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I remember playing the game as a kid. Back in those days, we’d play all day long and then gulp down glasses after glasses of sugarcane juice that costed as less as 30 paisa. From being strangers then to knowing each other by nicknames to today being like second family, we’ve come a long way. We come from varied professions – engineers, chartered accountants, doctors, businessmen – but that doesn’t matter; the game unites us – it is our Other Side. Today, we celebrate various occasions together like birthdays, anniversaries, kids graduation, their marriages; some of us are already grandfathers!

Coming back to the game, we play for close to 5 hours around 4 – 5 games – 12 players at a time. And don’t go by our ages. Our stamina can put a lot of youngsters to shame. Some of us are good at netting, some with long shots, some are good at service while some are all rounders – everyone doing what the team needs them to do. The loosing team pays Rs. 20 per person per game which goes into the fund pool for snacks. Plus, there are penalties for members not showing up or coming in late or leaving early – the amount is minimal, idea being to keep the players disciplined and also to maintain the sanctity of the game! We also plan biannual outstation trips to play beach volleyball.

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One of our friends, Sharadbhai aged 68 passed away some time ago. He played on Sunday and passed away on Wednesday. Secretly, all of us dream of such a death – being able to play till the very end.

Volleyball has given us a sense of joy, a solace which is sometimes too difficult to put in words. Channel your passion into a sport and nurture it with discipline; all I can hope is that someday, maybe 38 years later, when you reflect over your own sport story, you will be able to see what I exactly mean.

— As told by Ashish Gopani, on behalf of VB Champs, Ghatkopar

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