Government High School Sainj in the Satluj basin is known for producing one of the finest volleyball players in the state. There was a group of very fast friends who incidentally were also good players of the game and together represented the school volleyball team. Harish, Sohan, Maru, Balbir and Budhu together practiced for the upcoming tournament in Fagu. As the date came close by, their practice session became more concentrated with a determination to lift the trophy.
The tournament began with over a dozen teams and the Sainj school team very clearly could be spotted with their superiority in practice and training. After winning the initial rounds, the Sainj team played well and reached the semifinals. In the semifinals they defeated Bhadrash school team with a clear 2-0 win in a 3-game match. Budhu, born on Wednesday and thus named so, was declared man of the match in the semifinals as he was the main lifter for the game. The final was slated for the evening.
The final, a 3-game match, took place between Tiali and Sainj schools. The match was quite interesting and looked like either side could win. The first game was won by Tiali and the second one by Sainj so both were equally poised to win the third one to lift the tournament trophy. The 3rd game came to a close finish with a razor-thin margin and deuces from both sides. Finally the Sainj team was able to win the tournament. Budhu was named man of the series and a separate trophy was prized for him. The entire team was elated and in cheers congratulated each other.
Since the tournament ended late evening, it was difficult for them to leave the place and decided to stay back at Fagu. The coach would also stay with them. This is a practice in the countryside that the most influential family of the village would become the host for any kind of function that takes place in the village. The entire team was to stay at Khashias place. Khashia is probably derived from the name Khashas a tribe that dominated the Himalayan region forlong.
Now the team that played in unison was scanned and sanitised. The man of the series Budhu and Maru were identified as unfit to stay in the main rest room of Khashias’ place. The rest climbed the wooden stairs up to the first storey and rested there. In the hilly region the houses are constructed in such a manner that the animals i.e. the cattle, are placesd in the ground floor and the first storey is where the residents themselves live.
So Budhu and Maru, since they were Dalits, after serving the dinner, of course separately, (though the entire team used to dine together during the course of their tournament) were provided one bedding and were asked to sleep besides the cattle in the cowshed. Whole night Budhu did not sleep and kept gazing at his shining trophy and the cattle and thought “is he worth just an animal despite playing so well”. Later on he stopped playing the game and devoted his entire time and energy for democratic movement and kept the fire burning that got lit during his stay in the cowshed for equality and emancipation of mankind.