Looking for some excitement? Want to bump someone off? You may find your answers in a paintball, says Nishita Jha
THERE ARE three reasons why India will love paintball: you can point a gun at your annoying boss or colleague like you always planned while spewing filmi venom about mother’s milk; you can experience the visceral thrill of your favourite action sequence — whether it’s Jai and Veeru’s epic battle with Gabbar, or Charlie’s Angels fighting crime; and finally, because paintball is essentially Holi turned edgy — minus the skin irritants, with cool camouflage gear and defence strategies.
When 31-year-old Sumeet Sandhu, an avid adventure junkie and CEO of The Paintball Co, played her first game of paintball in the US and felt the adrenaline coursing through her veins, she knew it was something she had to bring to India. Today, the Noida paintball arena alone hosts 30 to 50 players daily, and the number of players in the National Capital Region over the weekend regularly crosses the 500 player mark. In the US, paintball bears the mild stigma of being a corporate ‘bonding’ game. Indians are beginning to take to the immensely satisfying feeling of getting a “hit”— when you splatter your opponent with paint —without any such noble motive. 25-year-old Aakash, a marshal at the outdoor paintball arena in Noida says, “The most popular game post 26/11 was re-enacting the terrorist vs anti-terrorist battle at the Taj Hotel.”
Paintball arenas, mobile and permanent, have popped up in all the metros. An actionpacked sport which involves shooting at the “enemy” with paint balls (round gelatin capsules filled with water soluble paint); the sport’s USP lies in its pseudobattleground experience. Dressed in protective military camouflage and wielding “markers”, or guns that have pressurised CO2 chambers, provide the realistic thrill of actual shooting. “Paintball is used for actual military training in the USA and in Europe. It’s not just picking up a gun and shooting at each other. You have to build a strategy and stick together as a team.” says Capt Yadav, a retired military officer, now a paintball trainer in Delhi.
While target shooting for beginners is priced at the rate of Rs 100 for 10 paint balls, a regular half-an-hour game with 20 paint balls, field play and equipment can set you back by Rs 300. Any misgivings that this is a sport only for the young and aggressive are dispelled as a family of six gets into their army greens. Three women of different generations battle it out with the men of the family (and win). When asked how a regular day at the mall turned into a mauling extravaganza, grandmother Christie laughingly retorts “We wanted to prove that the women of this family are superior once and for all!” They are followed by a couple from Chandigarh who routinely play competitive sports with each other as they feel it “spices things up”. The protective gear (facemasks, overalls, neck and chest guards, gloves) is highly effective as long as one plays by the rules.
Avid paintball enthusiasts are spreading the word about forming an official India paintball league. The day is not far when we will all be wielding our own “Licence to Shoot”.