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Game 42: Nehru Park, Jaipur, India


On our last day in Jaipur , Danny and I made our way down to the Central Museum, an incredible building designed by the bloke responsible for the Royal Albert Hall. There are many green garden spaces in front and to the side of the museum which , on a sunny day like today in England , would be awash with people picnicking , lovers loving and office workers stretching out on the grass in their lunch break ... here it’s a very different story .

Each space is occupied by the homeless . Hundreds of people dotted around, asleep under filthy blankets. Homelessness is so normalised here. Friends chat excitedly just a few feet away from a starving woman , a businessman looks serious as he barks instructions down his gold i-phone, as he strides past a man whose lost , sad hollow eyes beseech him for alms. He doesn’t even notice. Of course it’s not his fault.

India has a near $2 trillion dollar economy and spends $1 billion each year on its space programme , whilst 78 million of its people are homeless and only 1.2% of GDP is spent on public health. What the fuck is all that about ?

We wonder into one of the garden areas and start chatting to one of the several groups of students gathered there. These 5 young men, aged 17/18 are bachelor degree students at the nearby Maharishi College. We ask them for a game and find a space away from where folk are sleeping .

The game kicks off with my Dan, Sandeep C and Amit on one side ( with the occasional cameo from me for comedy value ) against Baskhar, Ajay and Sandeep Y on the other.

Sandeep C is crackers ! How much energy can one boy have ? He’s everywhere , slide tackling , swinging wildly at shots and, just occasionally, composing himself for long enough to actually pass and things like that.

Early in the game and the ball is ricocheting all over the place . Danny gets one right in the eye ball , a real stinger , as the very impressive left footed Baskhar and his team take a two goal lead.

Amit spends most of his time on his phone so I replace him temporarily in nets for Dans team. We claw it back to 2-2. Ajay tried hard in the opposition nets but can’t keep the irrepressible Sandeep C down for too long. By sheer law of averages , he manages to score 3 goals from about 30 shots !

Baskhar continues his brilliant form , weaving in and out of tackles and scoring from acute angles ...the game gets to 8-8 and the lads are loving it ..playing with big smiles and winding each other up. Next goals the winner , which man of the match Baskhar slots away seconds later . A great game .

We chat for a while after with the lads telling us how competitive both education and the jobs market is in India . Their college is all male but they are close to the girls college which frustrates them even more ! Rabid love tigers they are !

I ask Sandeep C if there is any social care at all for these people in the park and he replies not . “This is the life in India” These 5 bright , shiny blokes are amongst the lucky ones.

India has a gigantic human catastrophe on its hands ...still , the mission to Mars is going well.

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