Children... as children

The long walks to school and back on the shady roads blended fun and adventure. We played marbles on the way, filched guavas and mangoes from wayside trees and stopped in our tracks if we heard a Beatles or Cliff Richards number blaring from the radio of any home.

Nearly everyday we reached early to school and until the bell rang we played outdoors. From ‘olly-colly,’ a game of mercilessly hitting one another with a ball, sticks and stones, cricket or hockey to swinging on the parallel bars or watching a wrestling match in the sand pit, there were games galore.

After emptying our lunch boxes and drinking water straight from the tap (not once were we afflicted with jaundice, cholera or malaria) we revelled in more games. Post-school, play continued in our vicinity till the street lights came on.  All this despite having games classes twice a week.

If one pocket had marbles jangling, another had a top. Yes, we played tops with great gusto. Rolling up a string around a wooden top and throwing it on the ground to spin or knocking out another’s top out of a small circle to win was a thrill in itself. We also hid a catapult in our pockets to shoot birds and squirrels or scare away eagles, monkeys or stray dogs. None had heard of SPCA those days.

Our houses, even schools had ample trees and if some boys were not found anywhere, they were perched on the branches of trees, feeling literally on top of the world. Undeniably, ‘Monkey up the tree’ was another popular game we enjoyed. We also sent paper kites soaring into the skies.

Few had residential phones and mobiles were a mystery. Yet we remained in touch with friends frequently. We just landed at their gates, yelled out their names or puckered our lips and blew whistles. Sometimes, we clapped to draw attention.

Of course there was homework, tests and exams. Few took them seriously. We pored over comics, story books and magazines more than our notes. We suffered bruises and cuts frequently but took it all in our stride. Indeed, we played more than we studied.

Tutions and stress were words that didn’t exist in our dictionary. Our generation will never tire of reminiscing those carefree school days. Pomeroy rightly said: “Nostalgia is like a grammar lesson: you find the present tense, but the past perfect.”

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