I wrote about Games I Play some time back. That is, games I play with my family and friends, and which I consciously rescued from oblivion called cartons-in-store-ledges. Here, I sit and think back into my childhood. And when I do that, the reel that runs inside my head conjures up images of play-time, and more play-time (unless of course it was report card day and then the story is in a different tone altogether). Why? Since that is what being a child once upon a fun time was about. Playing … in gay abandon.
Remember hopscotch? Stapu, as was lovingly called in our house. One chalk one stone, make that a flat-ish stone, and a life-size game board drawn on the street or on the driveway. Even on top of the roofs, kindly lent to us for a few hours. You could practice those jumps-on-one-leg, alone. Better still, call the whole neighborhood to take turns at hopping, reaching 8, then standing beyond it all and throwing the stone backwards, ‘No looking, please!’ Then ‘building’ a house on the number where it landed (if it did) and putting your name down there in chalk, all capitals and dare anyone throw a stone at it? All the time, hawk eyes of bystanders trained at your foot – “You stepped on the line, yes, you did! I saw it. I saw it too. Move over, my turn!” And no, never did that one leg revolt out of over-work, nor out of unfairness. After all, it did all the work while the other just hung around, even as children all sizes and shapes took turns at dancing as if the earth itself was dancing under their feet.
Hide-and-seek. Better known by its generic name – Ice spice. And spicy it surely was. Under beds and behind almirahs, within seconds of the ‘den’ closing his eyes. Such malleability such flexibility too. “Stop hitting your head on bed will you? He’ll hear it and find us! Just lie down flat.” Not caring for white wash on our backs, or the cobwebs that adorned our hair. Not a thought spared to the dirty knees, tired of squatting under the staircase and yet to be found. The brave hearts squatting right behind the ‘den’s’ behind, ready to catch him back in turn, make him the perpetual seeker. And still, having fun. Why! Turning traitor too, giving away another’s hideout – what signs what gestures what winks to do it better, each passing time. Disloyalty, thoroughly enjoyed. And new loyalties formed at the drop of a hat, or hint!
And then there was a game which required us to run, run as if there’s a hand coming to touch us and turn us into statues. Because there was. Lock-and-Key, also called by so many other names, especially vish-amrit in Hindi. Two opposites put together to signify a freezing, and freeing, once the fellow dodgers of the catcher un-locked you from that state to start the run again. One risked getting caught just to free you, even as the catcher chased a bunch around like a guy trying to catch bubbles in the wind. Or children drunk on fun. A similar game, where you blind-fold a chosen one and set him to seek. “Can you see anything? How many fingers are these?” never answered right, of course, even if we could see. Sweetly cheat. Arms looking to transfer the burden of blindness, and in turn be able to see. And run with the others. Shrieks of over-excitement on tickling the blind one, pulling the hair, blowing in his ear and escaping the hands all at the same time. Tough game. The seeker continued a seeker for the longest time when someone’s hanky was fastened close on his eyes.
If we were caught stuffing our pockets with crayons, you could have guessed what was in store. Tippee-Tippee-Top-Top of course. Where one of us, picked by lady luck and hands palm up or down, announced the colour of her choice and the other lesser mortals, would run around crazed and dazed and looking for anything from yellowish-green to greenish purple. And judgement was tough, often based on who shared the Melody toffee with the ‘den’ the previous day. No. Crayons did not always help. What did? Colours of socks when stretched, flowers in the garden, public dust bin near the gate and even the hearts or robots on the chaddi, oops forgive me. ‘Tippee-Tippee-Top-Top, which colour do you want? I want … saffron!’ and a debate would begin instantly if the tiger lily will qualify or that sticker on sister’s scooter. A microscopic look at pebbles would reveal such wondrous colours that too much straining of eyes is capable of showing. All would escape unhurt, if we touched the “right” colour well in time, except one, who would start the chain reaction all over again.
And all this while, children below a certain age group were pronounced too little to join the serious play seriously. ‘Kachi mitti’ for them and they still chose to play. Such make belief, such pretend, running like there’s no tomorrow, hopping till the foot was sore, frantically looking for reddish-brown and hiding for an eternity waiting to be found. All the time, not part of the rules, but certainly a significant part of all the togetherness.
I could go on and on, but I stop. I stop because I should. I also stop because when I read what I write, I feel a pang of nostalgia for such kind of play-time that I do not see around. A missing, and a hurt knowing my son will perhaps never re-live the outdoors that his mother grew up on. Trees to climb and sand hills to make. Cook flowers in miniature utensils or just play ‘Teacher-teacher’. Beautiful in its very simplicity. So free of frills, and full of freedom for the neighborhood to join in. The real meaning of fun and games. The real meaning of being children, together.
I sign off with a sigh. The PS2 at home refuses to start and he is calling me. Is this a sign? Will he play hopscotch instead? Well, wouldn’t know unless I tried, right? I say, why not!
Sakshi Nanda went from studying Literature to serving the print media and finally settling with two publishing houses who called her editor for a couple of hard-bounds, no more! She writes as a work-from-home mother to realize herself as well as to be read, both – with her 2-year-old boy and her sarkari babu beau as the greatest source of ideas and inspiration. She believes eating baby food is therapeutic and that the pen is man’s best invention, after diapers that is! Meet her at: sakshinanda.blogspot.in