Disclaimer: I suck at blogging. Well, I mean, I guess I can be OK at it, but lately, I’ve been not-so-good. My bad, readers.
A couple weeks ago, Stephanie and I boarded a Friday morning flight to Ahmedabad, capital city of the Indian state of Gujarat. We were preparing to go on a longer holiday in less than 10 days’ time, and had a ton of work and trip prep yet to do, but I convinced her that this was a weekend trip we had to make.
We were going for the Ahmedabad Ultimate Open, an ultimate frisbee tournament. You might be wondering…”you mean to tell me you flew all the way to Ahmedabad, spent all that money on flights and hotels and the rest, to play frisbee? You must be kidding.”
I’m not, and let me tell you, it was worth it. The Ahmedabad Ultimate Open is organized by Ahmedabad Ultimate, an amazing community service organization affiliated with Indicorps, ANOTHER amazing organization.
I’ve known Indicorps and its founders for some time. I met co-founder Roopal Shah back in February of 2010, and one of my Georgetown friends (Neil) was an Indicorps Fellow in 2008. Here’s my NextBillion post about Indicorps – and how it’s an opportunity to combine the best of Gandhi, King and Kennedy into one fellowship opportunity.
Roopal’s brother and Indicorps co-founder Anand played ultimate when he was an undergrad at Harvard. When he moved to Ahmedabad in his early 20’s, it was in the aftermath of the 2002 Gujarat violence, a dark time in India’s history of Hindu-Muslim relations. In Ahmedabad, Anand found a highly fractured society – Hindus associated only with Hindus, Muslims only with Muslims, upper class with upper class, lower class with lower class, etc.
As an ultimate player, Anand wondered if the sport’s ethos – spirit of the game – could be leveraged to bridge the gap between classes and socio-economic levels. It may sound absurd, but in many ways, it makes sense. Think about it. No one knows ultimate in India, so it’s a new sport and a fresh start for everyone. Furthermore, it has no referees and a strong emphasis on teamwork, unlike cricket, the national sport of India.
Anand and Roopal started Ahmedabad Ultimate as a community building tool. It has since been enhanced by the hard work of Jaidip Patel, a British Indian who has taken the reins of Ahmedabad Ultimate from Anand as Anand continues to run a handful of social and other enterprises.
To make it work, Ahmedabad Ultimate emphasizes spirit first, winning second. Its best players are local guys, recruited from junior high and high schools – who then turn around and coach the younger players, some of whom are in elementary school. Not that the team isn’t good – at the AUO tournament, a national-level event, they placed 3rd.
Stephanie and I are hoping to play again soon with the Ahmedabad Dreamcatchers, maybe even at a March tournament in Kodaikanal, Tamil Nadu. Until then, many many thanks to the Indicorps team, from Anand, Shilpa, Jaidip, Geeta to the Dreamcatchers themselves, especially Dushyant, Naren, Jaidip, Jonah and the rest of the crew. We can’t wait to see you guys again!