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Tribal fusion, US style

other Updated: Feb 28, 2010 01:16 IST
Deepika Sharma

There are many Indians living an American dream. But for Brian Wolf, a 27-year-old rugby player from Chicago, training tribal children in Bhubaneshwar, Orissa is nothing less than a dream come true.

Wolf is currently training over 300 kids — coming from tribes that have for long lived in forests and lacked basic amenities like drinking water, education and health care — at the Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences (KISS). KISS is famous for providing free education till the post-graduate level to thousands of tribal kids.

Wolf, who played rugby at the Brad College in New York, travelled to India for the first time in 2007 — a brief trip that was to change his life forever.

“I love travelling and being part of different cultures. I wanted to do something for these kids who don't even have access to stuff you and I consider to be a given,” said Wolf, who is currently in the Capital for the All India Inter-Club Rugby 7's tournament.

“When I was offered to coach at the KISS in 2008, I couldn't have been happier. I haven't looked back since.”

Though the proposition excited the American, he knew the road ahead would be tough. “Language was a big problem initially. But with the help of local coaches, I picked up some Oriya.”

In return, Wolf taught them English.

Wolf feels the sport has received a “roaring” response from the Institute. “The kids are loving the sport. Not just the boys, even the girls have their team now. Kids feared getting hurt while playing but now they practice everyday,” said Wolf. Only 19, Jabes Hajoary belongs to an Assamese tribe called Bondo. He studies at KISS and has taken up rugby seriously. “I knew nothing about rugby but when we had an American teacher, I developed a big interest. Soon, I started loving the game. My father first thought I'd brought home a nariyal (coconut). But now he knows it's a rugby ball,” chuckles Jabes.

Sankho Hembram, who comes from the Santhal tribe of Orrisa, feels Wolf's efforts have given a meaning to their life. “I love rugby,” said the 20-year-old Hembram, who was part of the Indian team that participated in the U-16 World Cup in London in 2006. “Wolf sir's very nice. Now I talk in Englisss.”