The Sunday evening saw most of HEGT, and even people from Tukawadi, with passes given out to them, converge at the Recreation Centre for the big game of the year. There was a very festive atmosphere. There were food stalls selling wada-pavs and burgers, and plenty other fast food on the grounds. Excited children walking with cotton candy, and wearing matching team t-shirts with their parents were all over the place. There were face and body painting stalls, and people were flocking to get themselves painted green and black, and red and white, in their team’s colours. Everybody was out to have a good time.
The game was Love-key. It was a spin on HEGT’s novel intra-campus ferry system – the love-kits, and hockey. What some enthusiastic HEGT employees had done is that they took the levitation technology in the ferrying baskets and miniaturized it, and integrated it into the shoe soles, elbow pads, belts, and helmets of the players. Then the field creating material that was drawn out on the paths for the love-kits ferry was painted all over the hockey ground. The players were given controls on their palms to adjust the field created from their gear that interacted with the field from the hockey ground. Thus they were able to adjust how high they wanted to be from the ground. Thus by using the controls on their palms, with their fingers, which took them some practice to get used too, they could take off from the ground or get back to it. To move forward, or side-ways, the player would throw their weight in that direction.
It was a beautiful game to look at, as the players flew around the enclosed hockey ground. In fact, it was so aesthetic that the hobby group, HEGT Philharmonic Orchestra, with 27 accomplished musicians, played appropriate pieces depending on the prevailing tempo of the game and broadcast it on a channel for interested viewers to tune in to, on their devices. Those viewers who tuned in – they imagined it was like watching the opera, as the players glided around.
The whole gang was out to watch the game. They were rooting for Lakshman who was the star forward player for the green and black side, and almost all of them had come dressed and coloured in green and black.
The game was shot off, and everybody hung on edge for the key moments.
Suraj never got all the fuss about games anyway. Both teams were HEGT folk. People on both teams were friends with each other off the ground. It was a friendly match. Never mind it was the final match, down from the original 9 competing teams in HEGT. The 9 teams were formed from people from the same departments, or same batch, or just people who played together usually. That didn’t deter the crowds from working themselves up into a frenzy, and fiercely support their chosen teams.
It was all part of the fun, thought Suraj.
Moni, cheeks painted in green and black stripes, and in matching clothes, energetically cheered on Lakshman and his team. She kept prodding Rajesh next to her into action, whenever he wasn’t.
Bethany feigned to be fainting whenever there was a thrilling moment.
Bulbul lustily cheerful them on, waving a big flag.
Hetal was infected with the enthusiasm around and turned to Suraj “I can’t believe I’m watching a game like this. Thank you so much! For getting me here! Ooh! That was close.” She leaned back in her seat as if to avoid crashing into the net, as one player swerved by close to hit the ball back in the game.
“That would be a pretty bad fall if they fall on the ground” said Hetal concerned.
“That would never happen” said Suraj. “You see they have a control to manipulate the strength of the field from their gear. Bigger field, they go away from the ground, smaller they are closer.”
Hetal nodded “Yes, you told me that already. But what if by mistake they make the field zero?”
“Exactly” said Suraj. “They can’t do that. They can only reduce the field upto a certain minimum. Not to zero. There’s a buffer.”
“Oh! That’s clever” said Hetal, getting the idea. “So if a player loses control, they don’t go crashing to the ground. Instead they end up on a cushion of… of … “. She waved her hands in the air to convey the idea.
“Yes. Correct” said Suraj.
Suraj was quite mesmerized by the game. He wasn’t much for watching games, but he enjoyed playing some. He wasn’t too athletic either. He enjoyed swimming. He’d learnt by himself, quite by accident, and late – well into his teens. He had never been scared of water to begin with, and liked to think that he was a natural swimmer. He chose timings to get into the pool when there were the fewest fellow swimmers around. And over time had thoroughly convinced himself that he was one of the best and most graceful swimmers he knew. Perhaps he was too.
He looked at the Love-key players, and made a note to have a go at it. He thought it looked like fun, and something that he might enjoy doing.
Lakshman was a particularly good player. He seemed to have taken to the technique remarkably well. His lean frame glided smoothly and effortlessly between players, and from high to low levels. He would come to dead stops, and accelerate again gracefully, all in a smooth flow. Like a dancer, thought Moni. His frame arched back and forth with remarkable flexibility. He dived, and somersaulted, and pirouetted, and leaped to near full splits – in an amazing show of strength, agility and flexibility. He was indeed easily the star of the game.
Hetal turned to him “It’s wonderful how they can fly around. It a perfect union of technology assisting human skill. Amazing stuff”.
“It’s not so much flying” said Suraj absent-mindedly “as they are swimming. It’s as if they are swimming in that enclosure”.
There was another thrilling moment as two players collided, but they had swerved enough to avert disaster. Hetal was edge of seat again, and let out an “Oooh” with the rest of the crowd, and used this moment to ignore Suraj’s remark. She preferred her own anyway.
“Although” continued Suraj, slowly and thoughtfully – he surprisingly wasn’t done yet – “it can be argued that swimming is like flying in water. Or that flying is like swimming in the air.”
Hetal gave a small “hmmm”.
“Of course, only from the point of the characteristics of the motion” said Suraj, after a small pause.
Hetal gave a small nod, her eyes still fixed on the game.
“But I guess you’re right” he said smiling sheepishly this time “air is flying, and water is swimming”
Hetal turned to him, eyes sparkling, sweetly smiling, and patted his hand. “That’s good Suraj. Don’t break a sweat over it.”
They both grinned.
“I’m really enjoying this game” said Suraj. “I think I’ll take it up.”
He jumped up involuntary and gave a loud roar, as did most of the stadium, as Lakshman smartly dribbled the ball, and maneuvered it into the net.
That was the winning goal, with 2 more minutes to go, and Lakshman’s team in green and black won 3-1.
The crowd went wild. And the whole stadium cheered – no matter their colour – green or red. Moni hugged Rajesh. Shirisha, Princess, Jay, Kedar, Tsogt and others, did some wave thing they had planned to do, as one. People in the stadium cheered, screamed, waved their flags, did their waves, blew their plastic horns, and did whatever it was they had planned to do.