Friends and games: How these MVHS students stay afloat in the sea of academics

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Junior Ronak Hungund (right) watches Junior Nikhil Prakash (left) play a game of ‘Ballz’ on their last day of AP Biology. They voluntarily sat next to each other the entire year.

Junior Ronak Hungund (right) watches Junior Nikhil Prakash (left) play a game of ‘Ballz’ on their last day of AP Biology. They voluntarily sat next to each other the entire year. Photo by Elizabeth Han

With a flick of a finger, the white ball flies into the edge of the screen, swiftly springing back to where the finger lies. In a small neon box, the number outlined in black increases uncontrollably. Junior Nikhil Prakash squeezes his left fist in victory, while his right hand is wrapped firmly around his phone. The game, called ‘Ballz’, is his new obsession.

Sitting adjacent to Prakash, Junior Ronak Hungund cranes his neck to see his friend’s phone. He nods his head in approval, then returns to his regular position. His arms stretch across his desk, folded slightly at the joint for the perfect hold of his phone. Like Prakash, his eyes rarely escape the flashing screen in his hand. They occasionally throw around jocular remarks like “Nice!” or “Hey, I could do better” amidst the white circles bouncing around their screens.

But the bell rings. And the fun comes to a halt.

For Prakash and Hungund, the sliver of time between lunch and sixth period never go to waste. They only have five minutes, including the time it takes to walk together to class. But as soon as they land in the blue plastic chairs of B101, they whip out their phones for just one more round of the game. ‘Fantasy Football’ marked the beginning of their junior year, a continued tradition from the year before. Now ‘Ballz’ captivates the two.

The memory of their first encounter blurs out in their minds. It was some time, somewhere during fourth grade, when even a streak of sour cream made their guts wrench in laughter. But no matter, they have stayed in each other’s lives for almost a decade. And unlike many friendships, school is not their only binding factor. Ever since sixth grade, they have met almost every weekend with their cohort of friends to play sports in the park: from cricket and basketball to now, football.

“[Prakash] thinks he’s good, but when it comes to playing, he sits on the sidelines,” Hungund said, jokingly.

Planning the game is virtual, in contrast to the weekly head-to-head interactions. In their aptly titled “football” group chat on Facebook, someone initiates a poll to check the group’s attendance. Prakash, Hungund and their friends vote according to their preferences.

“Whoever comes comes,” Hungund said. “Whoever doesn’t come, we just call them fat and lazy. And then they’ll eventually come.”

Such tongue-in-cheek humor runs through their entire group. In fact, the weekly football games often happen as a result of lighthearted disputes over who the better player is. Just a couple days ago, Prakash challenged a friend to a game, which led to a cutthroat battle of football between the two. To his dismay, however, Prakash lost the game.

“I felt pretty bad because I think I played pretty well,” Prakash said.

“I don’t get involved in this because I let my playing do the talking.” Hungund said.

This frequent and regular social gathering may seem unrealistic for MVHS students. From an outside perspective, MVHS is notorious for its academic rigor and the consequent lack of “fun” in students’ daily lives. But both Prakash and Hungund disagree.

“Nobody sits down and studies the whole day. Some people go out and get boba. For us, we just go and play football,” Prakash said.

Hungund adds on.

“If we have to, we’ll just play for an hour and then come back home and then study again,” Hungund said. “My parents always say, ‘Get some fresh air.’”

“That’s not what your mom would say,” Prakash said. “Your mom’s a savage. She’d say, ‘Get out, fata–.’”

Through their shared time both in and out of school, Prakash and Hungund have strengthened their bond — despite their sarcastic remarks about each other. But Prakash ends on a positive note for the school year, a rare, sincere comment on their friendship.

“But for real, if Ronak’s in all of my classes, it’s pretty lit,” Prakash said.”Because I know if I’m on my phone [during class], he won’t tell the teacher.”

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About Author

Elizabeth Han is a senior at MVHS and a Design Lead for El Estoque. As a third-year staff member and former Special Report editor, she explores the vast realm of visual storytelling through both art and writing.