Malappuram: Sitting on wooden logs, the bunch of kids listened in rapt attention as their leader spoke. “We need a new football.” Adin's words reverberated through the playground made uncannily silent by the stoppage of play.
The problem was not new. Every now and then, when the ball got deflated or went missing, the group had to suspend their joy (joyful activity) until a new one appeared. They needed a more permanent solution to this recurring problem.
Luckily, one among them had hatched up a plan that would, in a way, help them get a new football without having to wait too long. A meeting, the first of many the leader informs, is organised at the playground to vote on the matter. Though many are missing, there is no shortage of enthusiasm.
A video of this meeting had been doing rounds of the internet lately. In just two days, the video has amassed over 2 million views.
In the video, the crowd is jubilant. 'Apoos' is seen taking the mic, a branch perched on a small log. He adjusts the branch before presenting the plan: “Everyone must contribute Rs 10 each,” he says. “We will pool the money every Sunday.”
Shared on Facebook by social activist Sushanth Nilambur, the video from Pulikalodi in Mambad, near Nilambur of Kerala's Malappuram district has evoked in viewers nostalgia about the days that they too gathered on the playground to pool money and buy a ball. The responses to the video have also been very heartening. What is even more endearing in the video is that everyone had a voice, and all were welcome. No matter what your background or family upbringing is, they mattered not one bit on the sacred playground.
There was no air of disdain or disapproval as Apoos laid out his plan. In the video, Ananya, the girl in the group, is seen quenching any lingering doubts by recalling how their past efforts have failed. She encourages all to donate what few they can so that they can soak their playground in laughter once again. Arjun, the biggest among them and presumably for this reason also the 'secretary' of the group, calls for a vote which was met with unanimous and rather loud approval from the crowd.
“Ditch candies, save that money,” he says. “Candies are not good for your teeth anyway,” he beams, revealing a missing tooth.
Later, Adin takes over and describes the plan in greater length. He breaks down the plan into tiny steps that are easier for even the youngest of them to follow. “Save Rs 2 every day of the week. You will have enough for Sunday,” he suggests, using up all of his fingers for the math.
That's was not all, there was still the prize distribution. 'Shahidkutty' was deemed the best player that week for his goalkeeping skills. As he made his way to the stage, Adin rummages the ground for a plastic cover (ponnada) to drape Shahid with.
Since the video got out, Kerala's social-media machinery had been running overtime to ensure that these kids, for whom a ball means the world, get one. Actor Unni Mukundan had sent 15 jerseys and two footballs. Spanish trainer Prieto De Prada of Wake Up Academy in Malappuram had visited the playground earlier with footballs and had offered free training at the Academy for the talented kids. Social media is still abuzz with offers of help from different corners of the world.
As our lives become more and more wrapped around a phone or a laptop, it is invigorating to see kids who, despite the lack of facilities and objects that we may deem necessary for play to happen, engage in exactly that with a joyful abandon, unburdened and filled to the brim with the sheer lightness of being.
Play, then, is no trivial pursuit. These 13 kids, internet's new superstars, from a far-flung Mampad has certainly taught us that today.
Kids: Mridul, Athil, Adharv, Ananya, Kashinath, Abhiram, Shahidkutty, Nihad, Athin, Ajin, Abijith, Arjun (Secretary), Adin (President).