This is the third time I am going abroad on an aeroplane and it is as exciting as the first time was. This time, I am going alone, with Alkadi from Magic Bus. As the plane takes off from my beloved home in Mumbai, I am feeling slightly sad about leaving my mother, father and brother behind. I am the youngest in my family so they will miss me. But I am also looking forward to London. I don't know how the city will be: Will it be as big and as crowded as Mumbai?
When I was nine, my Bhaiya (elder brother) Ehsan, who was already part of the Magic Bus sessions, took me along with him. Little did I know at that time that just coming out of the home to play would bring me this far -- all the way to London! I am the first girl in my neighbourhood to come out of India... It feels special, very good.
Magic Bus' sessions are actually games in disguise -- we play as a large group, but in the review sessions we really learn -- things like healthy habits to keep diseases away. On the way, we also develop ambitions. As I started attending the sessions, I was drawn towards what has now become my favorite game in the world -- football! Playing football has given me many opportunities -- one proud moment was representing my team last year as a State-level player in the under-15 category.
Another huge opportunity was my sponsored trip to the USA to get coached with girls like me from all over the world at the Julie Foudy Sports and Leadership Academy.
My trip taught me a some things outside of football, too. I learned that girls all over are basically the same when it comes to football: They just want to score goals! I found that funny: discovering that people are really the same everywhere, even though our backgrounds are so very different. I have participated in Football for Hope in South Africa, too.
Just before I left, it was a very busy time for me -- I had to give a lot of interviews (the UK Embassy conducts interviews to grant tourist visas) and run around to collect letters from my college professors stating that I was going on a sponsored trip. After years and years of football, giving a visa interview did not seem very daunting to me, although I thought I should have been scared, since all my friends and family were. It is not easy to get through a visa interview!
The morning I caught my flight I woke up as usual and freshened up. Nowadays it's raining in Mumbai so there is a lot of slush and roads are often waterlogged. This makes it difficult to go out to the tap to wash up. We are used to it by now, but living in tin sheds like this is sometimes quite problematic. But today was a special day. Everyone in my family -- my mother, father and brother -- were up and helping put my things together for my trip. It is a huge deal since I am the only girl in my community going to the London Olympics.
I want to grow up to be a stockbroker or a football coach -- or maybe a stockbroker AND a football coach! These are my thoughts as the plane takes off and my city gets smaller and smaller and finally disappears in the clouds.