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ExpressIndia.com Feature on Harvard's Squash Trip

January 17, 2010

Blog post by Sandra Mumanachit '10

Today was the final full day the Harvard women???s squash team would spend in Chandigarh. The plan for the day was the same as the past few days, a solid morning practice at coach (Satinder) Bajwa???s club of skill sharpening, weight training, sprinting and cardio work and then an afternoon session with the children from the Khelsala Kids??? Squash Program. The team has had an incredible time with the young boys and girls of the local sector, teaching them proper techniques and a little bit of American culture. Everyday each court is filled with smiles from ear to ear on each member of the women???s team as well as every child in the program.

Each day of the trip, starting from Mumbai, the women???s team has seen new types of lifestyles about which we read, hear, or see pictures. Bus rides from our hotels to the local clubs and nearby attractions unveiled a life we have never imagined. We sympathize and appreciate what we have perhaps taken for granted however we struggle to fully fathom what lies right in front of us. We have admired the colors of India, the pinks, faded blues, greens and yellows that hang across wires outside of buildings; this is their laundry. We laugh, smile and adore the children running up and down the streets; this is where they play. Feelings are jumbled as we have traveled from city to city, experiencing and seeing the best of India and observing the difficulties of people striving to make it each day.

The plan for today was the same as the past few days, however today everything we have seen became more of a reality. Despite a little bit of exhaustion from the past few days of training, we were rejuvenated as soon as we saw the kids from the program. We jumped off the bus eager to high five and fist-pound the boys and girls we have gotten to know and love from the past two days. Everyone immediately got on court with the kids, to teach them as much as we could about squash.

After wrapping up today???s session, we removed our squash shoes and took a walk with a group of the kids to see their neighborhood. Prior to this, what we had seen was simply something we could only empathize about however today after getting to know the kids, seeing what they came from each day was an experience the Harvard Women???s Squash team will keep with them forever. We walked alongside the kids, through alleys divided by a narrow stream of dark cloudy water--aka their sewer line. We stopped at a few of the kids??? homes, where their families stood in the doorways with dimly lit rooms behind them. Each home was perhaps the same or even smaller than the dorm rooms of the Harvard Yard. A room that perhaps two students shared was the space for a single family. We passed a school, an older woman writing letters of the alphabet surrounded by a group of fifteen boys and girls on a blanket outside the homes. What the women???s team saw today is something that is indescribable in words. It is difficult to understand how the children of the program, ranging from the ages of six to fifteen, arrive to the program smiling so big with such happiness when each day they return to a home, a life that required so much effort.

Perhaps it is clich?? to say that we hope that the kids learned as much as we have from them. The children find joy in the smallest things; we hope we can embody the same attitude hereafter. Today and each day we have spent with the kids and our entire time in India thus far has been transformed by what we have seen today. The experience was eye-opening to say the least.

This entire season, coach Bajwa has been emphasizing the idea of personal accountability, the idea that each player is responsible from themselves for the greater good of the team. We are a team of young, dedicated, hardworking women who love a sport so much we spend each day striving to become the best. As a team, we have embraced the principle that a championship is reached if we stop making excuses. Sometimes this becomes difficult, sometimes we forget this. What the kids learned from us the past few days was squash. What we hoped to have instilled in them was that they were capable of great things that squash was something they could look forward to in their lives. What we learned from them was even more powerful; it was that each day in the lives they live, they have to do it no matter how difficult. For them, there are no excuses in the lives they live.

The Harvard Women???s Squash team walks away from today???s experience with not only a greater appreciation for their own lives but a new strength, a new fire that will inspire us to achieve all we can as individuals and as a team.

Courtesy of Harvard Athletic Communications

The Harvard women's squash team is traveling to India for an 11-day training and service trip. Members of the team will post regular blog entries on GoCrimson.com during their trip over the next few weeks.
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January 15, 2010

Blog post by Sarah Mumanachit '13

The Harvard Women???s Squash Team woke up excited for another day in Chandigarh. In the morning, they had a great practice session including drills, game play (singles and doubles), plyometrics, some yoga, and ending with court-sprints. The team was able to complete a highly efficient practice on just two courts. After the productive practice, the team headed to the seamstress. After being measured for traditional Indian outfits, which coach (Satinder) Bajwa planned for the women???s team they returned to the seamstress for final alterations. The team was amazed by the beauty and uniqueness in each garment???s design, a combination of cream-colored cloth with of course embroidered crimson patterns.

As a reward for the day???s hard work, the team had an incredible time with the Khelshala kids both on and off the court. The fun ranged from Simon Says, Duck Duck Goose, Animal Crackers, target practice with prizes, yoga, and homework help. To top it off, Khelshala had a special visitor, the Governor of Pujba. The governor came to observe the program in action and to express his support for Khelshala and its purpose. In the end, coach Bajwa presented the kids of Khelshala with Harvard Squash???s donations, which included apparel, shoes, goggles, and more.

With days like this in India, the team is not looking forward to depart in a couple of days.

January 14, 2010

Blog post by Johanna Snyder '10 and Katherine O'Donnell '10

Our first full day in Chandigarh exceeded our already high expectations. We started the day with an intense training session at the Bajwa Mind Body Game Center that opened in August 2009. The facility has a singles court and a doubles court as well as a yoga studio and fitness center.

After our squash session we paid a visit to the city center where we met a tailor to be fitted for our special Indian outfits. The shop was alive with color with so many different fabrics and designs. A few of the girls purchased one of a kind Indian dresses to take back with them.

The highlight of the day was working with the kids from Chandigarh in the afternoon. About 20 local children ranging from ages 8-15 came for their daily after school squash practice. Though there was a language barrier we were able to bridge the gap through squash, games and yoga, including a fun game called "Animal Crackers" and learning the "macarena." This was such a great opportunity for us to really connect with the local children and culture and the entire team is looking forward to working with these children for the next two days.

Blog post by Bethan Williams '11

Today we had the earliest start of the trip, getting up at 4am to make our flight from Chennai to Delhi. We arrived in India's capital at around 10am, and the first thing we noticed was that is was much colder there, being much further North. We were met by a large bus and began our long bus trip to Agra, the home of the Taj Mahal.

After a long and sleepy drive, with many fascinating sights along the way, we reached Agra, and were stunned by the amount of people and traffic in this busy city. We drove past the Agra Fort, which is a grand fort not far from the Taj Mahal. We met our tour guide for the day, and he started his history lesson.

We left our bus behind and traveled to the Taj in a battery powered vehicle. The sheer number of people was overwhelming, but we were all incredibly excited about what we were about to experience. We entered the site, and walked towards the main entrance gate to the Taj. When we first saw the incredible marble structure, it seemed as though it was a mirage in the distance, since it was surrounded by a foggy haze. None of us could truly believe that we were at the most famous of the seven wonders of the world , and everyone was immensely impressed with the building and its surroundings. We learned from our guide that the Taj was a tomb built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan for his wife, in the 17th century. We walked around and inside the building, took a lot of a great photos, and learned a lot from our tour guide.

The team was in awe of the size and beauty of the Taj Mahal, both inside and out, and it was an incredible experience to share with each other. By this time it was evening, and the sun began to go down as we had to leave because the site was closing. The team said goodbye to our tour guide, got back onto the bus, and began the journey back to Dehli, where we were staying the night. The amazing sights we had seen made the 10-hour round trip journey to Agra more than worth it, and after the same journey back, we were ready for a good night's sleep in Delhi, and more sightseeing the next day.

January 12, 2010

Post by Johanna Snyder '10

Our first day in Chennai was full of exciting new experiences. We woke to a beautiful breakfast buffet with lots of Indian treats. Traveling to the squash courts for our morning practice session was always exciting in the crowded streets of Chennai, but we managed as always to make it there safely. We got in a great morning session at the Indian Squash Academy. Though the heat was intense, it was a great experience for our team to play in these conditions. Upon returning to the hotel we were greeted by a luncheon feast consisting of a variety of international foods including Indian, Japanese, Italian, and American. As a bonus there was both a magician and a DJ.

During the first part afternoon, we went to an Indian cultural center named Dakshina Chitra. The cultural center was especially enlightening as we saw the living styles of various regions of India such Kerala and Tamil Nadu. On this day there was a dance exhibition and a specialist painted beautiful henna designs on our hands. The craft fair also gave us the chance to purchase many traditional handmade goods from each of these areas.

We ended the day with a visit to a crocodile farm where we saw both snakes and many varieties of crocs. Coach Smitty (Chris Smith) delighted us all by paying for a crocodile to be fed raw meat during which we saw these otherwise lazy reptiles actually move their bodies. It was quite a surprise when two actually engaged in a crocodile quarrel snapping at each others' mouths. Overall, the day was a huge success.

January 11, 2010

Our second day in Chennai was just as exciting as the first as we played a match against many of the top juniors and women in India. Before the match, Mr. N. Ramachandran, the President of the World Squash Federation, visited with us and made a presentation to kick the match off. The match took place at the Indian Squash Academy in Chennai and started at 2pm. We played in the five courts they have in the facility, one four wall glass court and four glass backed. There was a lot of unexpected attention for this match as there were three newspaper reporters and one TV Camera.

On top of the added pressure of the reporters, it is quite hot in Chennai, but to make it more like Boston they turned on the air conditioning which certainly helped a little! The match was exciting and we were all very impressed with the women from India, many of whom compete in the WISPA (professional) circuit and are world ranked. After our tough match we ended the session with some court sprints and left the courts tired, hungry but happy with our performance.

This evening we had the opportunity to get to know the girls we played today as well as a bunch of the Indian junior men better at a really nice presentation and dinner at the hotel. Majr Maniam from World Squash and Cyrus Poncha the India National Teams' coach were our hosts. We had a great time getting to know the girls and will hopefully see some of them on the college circuit in a few years! We were given more medals and shirts to commemorate our visit. We also gave lots of plaques, ties, and shirts to our hosts.

Tomorrow we are waking up bright and early to fly to Delhi where we will drive to Agra to see the Taj Mahal and many more amazing places around Delhi.

January 10, 2010

Post by Vidya Rajan '13

Looking forward to training in Chennai, we bid a poignant goodbye to Mumbai and its various sights and sounds after three days of acclimating to the humidity and training under the toughest conditions of the season.

On our final day in Mumbai we took time to drive around the city, visiting Mahatma Gandhi's house and the Chatrapatti Sivaji Museum, where we had an exposure to some Indian history and culture. In addition, we drove by Mumbai's Victorian architecture as we briefly saw Mumbai University, the High Court, Rajabhai Clock Tower, and the Victoria Terminus. Finally, we got a taste of the hustle and bustle as we drove through Crawford Market and Bombay Bazaar.

We immensely appreciated the Mashruwalas' hospitality in guiding us through the city, treating us to meals, and inviting us to their home on the final day of our Mumbai stay. It is thanks to their help that we stayed satisfied and well-fed throughout.

Overall, our Mumbai experience was one that was exciting, enlightening, and enjoyable. Though our food, transportation, and general living conditions sheltered us from the way most of the people live in India, it was a conscious choice to start things off like this in order to ease us into the reality of India.

This decision was a good one, as the team found the transition to a foreign country to be better than expected. "India is not as difficult to adjust to as some might think," coach Satinder Bajwa said, and by the end of our Mumbai stay many team members could not agree more. In fact, the general sentiment was one of enthusiasm and interest in seeing more simply because Mumbai was so different from what anyone had previously known.

There will be more differences to come as we explore Chennai, a city in Southern India that speaks a different language and even boasts a different cuisine. Keeping in mind that the theme of the trip is "adaptability," however, we are ready to deal with whatever we may encounter. Up next is two and half days in Chennai and squash training at the India National Training Center which is home to the best junior and pro players in India. We have a match against the best 12 women in all of India in two days and are really looking forward to the match.

Training Day #1

Post by Cece Cortes '12

Today was one of the most squash-intensive days of the trip with one of the two sessions being a much-anticipated match against CCI. We prepped ourselves for the big day with the hotel's impressive complimentary breakfast spread. A few of us tried the "dosa," the Indian equvalent of a crepe filled with potatoes, onions and spices--yum! Alisha (Mashruwala), our resident Indian-in-training took a break from her rigorous exotic-food-eating regimen to eat smiley-face fries and scrambled eggs; needless to say she was pleased after the interesting dishes of the night before. We packed up, piled into the familiar silver vans, and set off for our first session of the day.

After a brief Hindi lesson and photo op of the coaches in dance poses we warmed up, repeating the new phrases we'd learned to pump each other up--some of the phrases included me bhukhi hoo (i'm hungry) me pyasi hoo (i'm thirsty), and chaltahe, the hindi equivalent of hakuna matata (Baj's favorite). We spent the morning playing matches to adjust our games to the hot courts and dead floors--a lethal combination for those used to the cold courts and spring-floors of the Murr Center. Squash was followed by a quick team meeting, and a stop at the smallest Subway shop to comfortably fit both a customer and sandwich-maker. We napped, we tanned, we napped some more, and finally made our ways back into the silver vans for our big match. CCI greeted us with a wonderful reception and scrumptious food and drink (no doubt trying to weigh us down before the match), where they presented us with plaques of appreciation and polo shirt, and we in turn presented the team and club officials with plaques, Harvard squash ties, and Harvard squash 2010 shirts.

Then, down to business: 12 matches, two spectator courts, and some loyal fans eager to watch some solid battles. Then off to dinner with the Mashruwalas, we toasted our first match of the new year and stumbled into bed, sad that our final day in Mumbai was approaching. We are taking the day off from squash to see the sights of Mumbai including a few museuems.

Arrival Day

Post by Alexandra Zindman '12

The team gathered at the Murr Center to take a bus over to Logan Airport for our night flight to London. Everyone was excited and nervous because many people, myself included had never been to Asia. The flight to London was smooth, especially after we lucked into some seat upgrades. As we started boarding the plane from Heathrow Airport to Mumbai for our nine hour flight fully equipped with an additional two hour delay due to snow, the reality that we were actually going to India set in. This trip has been in the works for some time, and as I climbed up the steps to board the plane, nothing could have prepared me for what I was going to experience. We were about to go on the trip of a lifetime. While I had seen images of the various cities on Google, and our coaches had tried, somewhat successfully to teach us basic Hindi phrases, I had absolutely no idea what to expect.

We reached Mumbai at 3 in the morning and immediately rushed to the hotel to get to sleep. The city was bustling even at such a late hour and everyone was in good spirits as our car took us through the streets, not stopping at a single red light. We finally arrived, absolutely exhausted, at the Taj Hotel only to be blessed as we walked through the doors. Each of us received a beautiful flowered wreath that smelled absolutely amazing. It was at this moment that I realized that there was nothing to be nervous about.

After sleeping in, we went to have a hit at the Cricket Club of India, Alisha (Mashruwala's) club. The club is beautiful, and is home to squash courts, a huge cricket stadium where the national team has matches, badminton courts, tennis courts, several restaurants, and a pool. Just like at the hotel, we were welcomed with open arms by the club; they had even hung banners around the grounds and gave us special squash jerseys complete with our names on the back. One of the most inspiring moments came when we noticed what the squash courts were named-- The Anil Nayar Courts. Anil was Harvard class of 1969 and won three Intercollegiate Championships and would have won four if freshmen were allowed to play varsity back then. Anil grew up learning the game at the Cricket Club and we certainly felt the history of the hallowed grounds of the courts. While we were incredibly jet lagged and still exhausted from the flight, it felt great to hit and be together as a team, doing something familiar in such a different place. After a quick tour of the grounds we headed back to the hotel to do what everyone on the team had been waiting for, shop.

The streets were packed with people eagerly approaching us trying to sell us jewelry, scarves, clocks, balloons, anything really. Our first shopping excursion was definitely a success, and everyone on the team bought at least one pashmina stole After shopping, Alisha???s parents took us out for an incredible Lebanese dinner. The food was amazing and totally different from anything that I had ever eaten before. It was a great ending to our first official day in India.

Tomorrow we have two squash sessions including a match vs. the Cricket Club???s top players. This of course will be preceded by a reception and many more warm welcomes and gift exchanges.

Day 1

???Post By Vidya Rajan ???13
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???[Vidya???s family is from India. Her parents are from Chennai, and her extended family currently lives there.]

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Excitement is in the air as the Harvard women???s squash team prepares for its trip to India to train and do community service before the second half of the season ensues, bringing with it arguably some of the team???s toughest competition.
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???With a squad of 15 talented players from areas spanning the globe and the United States, the team currently holds a 4-0 record and a place atop the national College Squash Rankings. Despite undeniable success, however, the team is far from complacent; instead, members view the international trip as an opportunity to learn and develop. ???There are many things the entire team will take away from this trip,??? said co-captain Johanna Snyder. ???Most importantly, I think we will learn a lot about each other, about the flourishing and beautiful culture of India, and hopefully a few new squash tips.???
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???In India, the team will travel to Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, and Chandigarh, playing matches against the top local players as well as working with and teaching squash and doing academic tutoring to underprivileged children. The significant portion of the trip dedicated to community service???four days out of the 11???is what makes the journey especially noteworthy; the Harvard team???s purpose in India reaches far beyond simply playing squash for themselves. The team is already making a difference in India since the coaches packed up a lot of our squash gear and clothing from the equipment room and sent it over to the children we will be working with. ???I???m really excited to play squash and do some academics with the kids from India,??? said co-captain Katherine O???Donnell. ???Playing squash is something that has so positively impacted my life, and will hopefully do the same for them.???
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???However, along with this excitement can come some tough realizations and adjustments to make. Among the various team members??? concerns are the challenge of meeting and interacting with others of different socioeconomic backgrounds, though this can ultimately lead to a greater acknowledgement of present opportunities and also an appreciation for Indian culture. ???I imagine it is very different from here,??? said freshman Eliza Calihan. ???I can't wait to be immersed in such a different place.???

For the complete blog entry, direct your browser to GoCrimson.com, the official site of Harvard athletics. As more entries are submitted, we will post on IvyLeagueSports.com.