Playtimes of bygone

Playtimes of bygone

Early evenings, I sit in the balcony of my apartment alternating between browsing a book and day dreaming. Suddenly, it strikes me that it is summer vacation and the schools are closed. But there are no sounds of children yelling and playing in the compound. All I see are mothers zipping in and out of the gates in cars or two wheelers, ferrying their children to some activity class or the other. Occasionally, I meet these children and they inform me that they are learning karate, swimming, painting etc. The list seems endless.

Conversations with the children always trigger memories of my own childhood and the nostalgia of long-forgotten games with my buddies. Even today’s youngsters may have heard of some of the games we played, such as hide and seek, robbers and police.

However, I wonder how many have played pittu (seven stones), blind man’s- buff and hopscotch. Young kids then used to love their coloured wooden tops and marbles. I can take an educated guess that many may not have seen marbles and tops, or perhaps may have browsed on their iPads to see what they look like.

To the uninformed, let me explain that pittu is a traditional Indian game played between two teams. It needs a ball and a pile of seven flat stones. The game requires the member of one team to knock down the pile of stones stacked vertically with the ball. It has to then be rebuilt without getting hit by the opponent with the ball. It is a great way to learn the art of teamwork. Many such traditional games involved team building and strategy, now taught to us by management gurus! Moreover, traditional games like hoop rolling, marbles and spinning tops didn’t require infrastructure or much money.

Hopscotch was a popular game in which players tossed a small object into one of the boxes of a pattern of rectangles outlined on the ground. One had to hop or jump through the spaces to retrieve the object. This game could be played alone, if one’s friends were not around. Cowrie was another game we played in the afternoons. It is played by two or more players sitting in a circle with just four small cowrie shells. I remember whiling away many summer afternoons playing this game with my grandmother.

Blindman’s buff was a game played at children’s birthday parties. It was an era when there were no event mangers, to organise birthday parties. Yet, children found ways and means to amuse themselves. In blind man’s buff, the blindfolded man attempts to touch the other players while the players run helter-skelter. The player who is touched by the blind folded man would have to assume the role of a ‘blind man’.

Childhood was a great place and time to be. In those halcyon days, neither the children nor the parents were stressed. Playtime meant fun, laughter and relaxation.   

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