The great man after whom this Bandra school is named would have approved of the means employed by its sport teacher to get his wards tackle a foreign game. He is using swadeshi skills,which his athletic students possess in ample measure,to take on rugby.
Physical education teacher Suhas Joshi hit upon the idea of introducing his students,who excel in khokho,kabaddi and mallakhamb,to the rigours and mauls of rugby,associated with men kicking and shoving for the ball,or employing the full-blown tackle
Though nothing in the proceedings hints at violence,the sport has a contact-element. But Mahatma Gandhi,who wasnt without a sense of humour,would have smiled at how boys and girls from the Mahatma Gandhi Vidya Mandir,Government Colony,Bandra (E) dodged their way cheekily around rivals some in the rival team were almost a foot taller and better-nourished to stick their tongues out in merry celebration. Barefoot,the MG ruggers impressed with their scissor-passes and snaky runs at the recent touch-rugby tournament.
The game has been shedding its public school snobbery over the years. The Magic Bus in Mumbai,and the Future Hope in Kolkata,orphanage-institutions that have risen to higher levels in rugby in the country. Their ruggers have made it to the All India championship.
The MG school experiment is the latest to storm the bastion. Most MG school students are from nearby Dnyaneshwar slum cluster,where basic nutrition and footwear is hard to come by. For these students,it was all about adapting their inherent strengths,flexibility and agility gained from kabaddi and khokho,to rugby manoeuvres.
MG school is the winner of multiple shields at the prestigious Hind Karandak,the venue for kabaddi and khokho honours,which is not exactly a haunt for the upscale schools. But now,they are aiming at scorching the Bombay Gymkhana pitch,having managed a runners-up finish and a clutch of quarterfinals at the weekend rugby meet.
Rugby gives players a chance to travel abroad, says coach Joshi,himself an NIS kabaddi coach,who was persuaded to introduce the sport by national player and Mumbai cop Sandeep Deorukhkar.
Playing the under-14 quarters in the girls section against the likes of the privileged Dhirubhai Ambani School,it was evident that the MG school girls,with their kabaddi-like raids,outran their rivals.
With 11 teams to field and a week to prepare,the MG coach managed with footballs and volleyballs available in their dusty cupboards.
Like their preparation,the cheer-calls too are unsophisticated. No come-on-you-can-do-it here. The team-mates happily chide a slow mover with names like chicken-leg.
The tricky rugby rules are dealt with in a very academic fashion,by rote. They recite the rules alongside arithmetic tables! The vernacular school holds English-speaking classes to ease the students into the rougher,social world,though on the rugby pitch,its all decided on pure grit and unbridled action. Rest assured,the MG School ruggers rarely lack in either.