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U Mumba joins Swades Foundation in a celebration of Rural India

Ravi Shetty and Bhaskaran

SIX CARS, A 140-KM ROUTE MAP and an appetite for fun – that is how a sunny Saturday morning began for the MumBoys. Between catching glimpses of the scenic route, grooving to chart-topping Punjabi Pop numbers and engaging in entertaining conversations, the members of U Mumba made their way into the villages of Raigad to celebrate the wonderful work that the Swades Foundation has been doing in the region to bring about sustainable Rural Development.

With a mission to create a permanent, irreversible change in the lives of 1 million people in Rural India, the work of the Ronnie and Zarina Screwvala led Swades was clearly visible as the boys made their way to the Javal High School in Mangaon. Pocketed in a thick cover of green, the school played gracious hosts to a plantation drive by the team, few of the 20 Lakh trees that the foundation plans to plant in the region.

“Swades Foundation has been working tirelessly develop Raigad in a way that the change becomes a constant. We have directly impacted the lives of a majority of the people in the area but we believe it is just a start and there is a lot of ground still left to cover,” said Zarina Screwvala.

Proving to be a much needed escape from the heat of Mumbai, the rain Gods also joined in the celebrations as the team donned the traditional Marathi Pheta while watching the U-17 district teams show off their Kabaddi skills to their idols.

“These children have so much skill, it’s unbelievable. Looks like they will give us a run for our money very soon,”

laughed Rakesh Kumar before he got ready to lead his team in the Tug-of-war Challenge against Team Jeeva Kumar. In addition to the captains, both teams were made up of the local farmers. Though it was Team Rakesh that pulled the Tata Motors Xenon Pick-up truck effortlessly beyond the finish line, the fans cheered and congratulated both equally. The team then made their way ahead, bidding goodbye to the children with happy memories and happier selfies.

Next stop- Swades Ruralshore Gramin BPO. Providing job opportunities to the youth in Lonere, this BPO not only excited the boys but also impressed them at how the community was involved in utilizing resources and creating their own income-generating platforms. To get a real feel of the place, Rakesh even put on a headset and enquired about the daily activities of the workers.

Not far away was the next destination IL&FS Swades Skill Development Centre in Lonere where the ‘Bindass BPO’ team, that had enthralled the team a while back, took on the ‘Lovely Lonere’ – the school team in another exciting Kabaddi match. Expressing his gratitude towards the warm hospitality, Coach Bhaskaran thanked the people of Lonere and also encouraged them with stories of hard work that each player has put in to be who they are today.

“All of us were like all of you not too long ago. Remember in life, if you work hard there is no stopping you. Rakesh, Jeeva, all of us here have worked very very hard and have experienced both the good and the bad side of it. We have also realised that there is no way around it either. To be the best that’s all you will ever need. Hard work. I wish all of you all the best and hope you succeed in whatever you want to do,” he said.

After calming the appetite for fun and excitement, now was the turn for the real appetite to be satisfied with a traditional meal next to the Water Plant installed at a remote village nearby. Greeted with the sights and sounds of the traditional Lezim dance, the team was in for a surprise as Coaches Bhaskaran and Ravi Shetty joined in, along with Rakesh Kumar, and matched the dancers beat to beat. The team along with Owner Ronnie Screwvala, Zarina Screwvala, and CEO of U Sports, Supratik Sen sat down to treat their taste buds to traditional Marathi delicacies cooked by the people of the village. While the food reminded everyone of the joy of having home-cooked meals, it also reminded the players about their journeys that had similar beginnings.

As the team started to make their way back to Mumbai, the boys reflected back on the day with smiles and happy anecdotes.

“What an amazing day. Reminded me of my home, my village. I had never been to rural Maharashtra, and what I saw today was just amazing. The work that Swades Foundation has accomplished towards development of the region is truly amazing and I’d be delighted to come back in the future and be able to help in any way I can,” concluded one of U Mumba’s newest recruits, Gurvinder Singh as the team drove into sunset.

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