The Balling Effect


As I sat across the table, listening to the Book Bus instructors reflect on their day at Satyawati School in Dhading, a place completely new to us, I tried to think about how my day had gone. I had facilitated a story-writing workshop for grade 9, and all day I had read and listened to stories. I should have had a lot to say about the workshop, but all I could think about was VOLLEYBALL!

From our hotel, Satyawati School was a scenic 15 minute-stroll through mustard fields and across the Adamghat jholunge pul. Entering through the gate, you could see the entire school, the building surrounded by the playground cluttered with piles of bricks and leftover construction materials. Trees around the grounds had been felled, as if to make more space. Right there on the school ground, which was always teeming with players, we would always see balls bouncing from one side to the other.

Non-players would stand around the ground, plainly watching the game, passing time, or taking in the sun. Teachers would become so invested in the game that they would forget about their classes; some would ignore the fact that they were already 15 minutes late. It didn’t matter – completely absorbed in playing, students would forget to go to class.

I must say, everyone was a player on that ground, each with a role to fulfill. It didn’t matter how they participated. They invented their own ways. No ball? Get a chungi! You’re bored of hitting the volleyball from one corner to the other? Make your own rules! Here’s where they kept getting creative.

On our second day there, we joined the teachers in enjoying one of the games. A group of serious and super-focused players had taken up one end of the ground. There were two teams, and one member from each team stood on a chair, while the other players ran in a frenzy, trying to snatch the volleyball from the opposing team.

We didn’t know what the rules were, but the intensity of the game captured our attentions. For a while, we sat there trying to figure out why two people were standing on chairs, simply watching. Finally, one of the players darted forward, dribbling. He passed the ball. It flew over and landed right in the hands of the student standing on the chair.

Everybody screamed in victory and gave each other high-fives. Right then, we realized the students on the chairs were the baskets! They’d catch the ball, and the team would score!

We were all surprised and impressed at the same time by the ingenuity of the game. I’d been to schools focused on sports and extra-curricular activities before, but it was the passion for the game and the creativity it inspired at Sattyawati that drew me in. I became obsessed, and by the third day, I was seeing the ball EVERYWHERE! I’d wake up, brush my teeth and leave for another day at Satyawati School, thinking about volleyball. By the fourth day, I was bouncing from one end of the school grounds to another, just to look at the various versions of games and creative uses of the ball. This balling-effect, as I called it, was the extraordinary effect of the students’ infectious craze for the game.

Later, when we left Satyawati School, I wasn’t sure if I was going to miss being on the school ground. But now, as I write this, all I can think of is VOLLEYBALL!

Nistha Tripathi is a student of language and literature and a Book Bus instructor. 


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