Five months ago Maksood Chaudhary was at Juhu beach for his morning walk when he saw a group of boys playing frisbee. On approaching them, Chaudhary learned that they were members of Storm Chasers, which is the city's only ultimate frisbee team.
"I was unaware that frisbee was played so actively. I started playing with the team on weekends and then participated in the Bangalore Ultimate Open 2011 (July 1-3). The Mumbai team won the award for the 'most spirited team'," said the 19-year-old commerce student from RA Podar College, Santacruz (West).
Ultimate frisbee is no longer played only at family picnics. There are more than 18 teams across the country that compete in pan-India tournaments. And like Chaudhary, several college students in Mumbai are pursuing the sport professionally.
Ultimate frisbee, which is officially called Ultimate in many countries, is played between two teams of seven players on a large rectangular pitch. A line is drawn across the pitch at either end to create two end zones which are goal-scoring areas.
There is an offence and defence side. The offence side has to make sure the disc is passed till it reaches the goal mark, while the defence team has to block them and compel them to drop the disc without any physical contact with the players. A goal is scored when the offence side completes a pass to a player standing in the defence zone.
"There is constant running in the game which is why players are substituted after five or ten minutes. This way, everyone gets a chance to play in a larger team," said Sarthak Bhatt, 16, a student of Mithibai College, Vile Parle (West).
Sanal Nair, 26, a member of Storm Chasers said the game's constantly evolving nature attracts college students. "We keep learning new techniques, rules and ways of throwing the disc which keeps the game interesting," he said.
Murtaza Bootwala, 22, a mechanical engineering student at the Indian Institute of Technology - Bombay got addicted to the game during a training camp organised for IIT students.
"I heard about ultimate frisbee from my friends in America and Germany. During the training camp organised by the Mumbai team, I discovered that the sport requires a lot of energy and interaction among team players. I enjoyed it so much that I decided to join the Mumbai team," said Bootwala.
Another student, Muzaffar Ganja, loves the nature of the sport. "The game requires no referees. The players act as self-referees. The 'spirit of the game' rule, which is followed by the players, encourages fair play and appreciation of other players.
The game is also low cost, accessible to everyone and can be played in your backyard," said Ganja.
Damien Fernandes, 17, a student from Mithibai College who regularly plays ultimate frisbee with the Mumbai team, has taught the game to his friends. "As we have to solve conflicts within the game ourselves, it helps build tolerance," he said.