A well-spent childhood can gift one a trunk full of beautiful memories to treasure for the rest of his or her life. Games like ring a ring o’ Roses, pithu, hide and seek, musical chair, lock and key, human-chain, kho-kho, kabaddi, badminton, volleyball, business, snake and ladders, ludo, chor-police, killer, carom, chinese-checkers, besides cricket and football, have ruled the playtime of many for generations until video games and play-station snuck in.
Urban children have been exposed to a variety of games during childhood with a healthy combination of both outdoor and indoor games. Till the 90’s and early 2000’s children enjoyed rolling in the mud in the monsoon, running after butterflies attempting to catch them, hiding and seeking friends in the building garages and parks, shooting each other with invisible or paper guns pretending to be war heroes.
Apart from the extensively played hide and seek, numerous games have been invented by naughty students to keep themselves busy during boring classes at school. Some such games include Book cricket, in which two or more players would usually sit with a fat book and keep the track of scores of each player.
Though it had nothing to do with Cricket, the game had attained the name ‘Book cricket’ as it acted as a substitute for the original game – the accessories for which, were unavailable in the classroom. The game required a player to randomly open a page of the chosen book, and the page number thus reached, became his score. This continued for a limited number of attempts. These scores, in the end, were added and the final number determined the winner of the game.
“One of my childhood obsessions was Rock-paper-scissors. I even played this game recently with my nephew, it never gets old. It is an evergreen indoor game to be enjoyed by every generation, even smartphones could not wipe out the popularity of this game,” said Sayantan Sengupta, software tester by profession. “Sanskrit classes and a lenient teacher gave us the golden opportunity to play book cricket and knots and crosses during the class hours! I remember playing knots and crosses with two of my friends, even during our University days at Golpodadu’s class as we nicknamed one of our professors,” laughed Sayantan.
“Hide and seek and Gilli-danda were the common games I played as a child. We would eagerly wait for the games period at school and vanish from our classes as soon as the bell rang. Brought up in a village, I remember hiding in the wheat and corn fields to play hide and seek.
Such beautiful days were those, that we’d forget to eat and often get our ears pulled by our parents for being so restless! We enjoyed plucking green mangoes, carrots, peas and tomatoes from the fields to fill our tummies while playing,” recalled Rohit Sharma, Bureau chief of a city-based magazine.
Falling and getting scratch marks on the knees and elbows were so common that every household had stocks of antiseptic liquids and band aids handy! Tapping into those playtime memories from our childhood still brings a smile to our faces, as we remember how easily one fell and how memorable it was, sprinting away from an angry neighbour.
Hide and seek tops the chart of old childhood games which instantly reminds one of their innocent childhood days. Sangeeta Banerjee, a research scholar shares, “We used to jump over the fences and boundary walls of our neighbourhood and hide under the construction sites while playing hide and seek. It was great fun to hide, but when my turn came to find the ones hiding, I’d always make excuses to run back home!”
Hide and Seek is probably the only outdoor game which can be played anywhere and everywhere in the world. While kids living in villages and outskirts of cities tend to hide in the crop fields, under trees and behind bushes, those in the cities tend to take shelter in housing society garages, behind boundary walls or shops and the narrow lanes behind buildings by the gutters!
“Once on a trip to Bakkhali, my dad’s colleague’s kids and I played hide and seek in the hotel, and I chose to hide in a stranger’s balcony. On discovering me in her balcony the lady was so startled that she let out a scream and attempted to scold us, but we ran off before she could proceed to do so. It still cracks me up when I recall the lady’s angry face,” says Ankita Ganguly, home-tutor.
“I remember how choosing partners during certain games reflected our friendship. We would always try to get our best friends on-board but on being unsuccessful in doing so, one would often offend that friend whereas sometimes, on choosing a classmate who wasn’t the best friend, one would develop new friendships,” recalled Priya Arora, marketing personnel. “Marble races gave us the feeling of Khataron ke Khiladi, since balancing seemed to be a major challenge!” laughed Priya.
‘Lock and key’ is another outdoor game played by a group of children, in which the chosen player touches one of the players calling out ‘lock’ and locks him or her, until a free player calls out ‘key’ and touches the locked person to free him/her to run about again.
Rainy days, which often compelled kids to stay indoors, also saw some marvellous indoor games like Business, Ludo, Snake and ladders, Carom, Chinese checker, and the famous Treasure hunt among many others. Treasure hunts often led children to discover many hot-spots in the house premises which could be worthy hide and seek shelters. Truth and Dare – the most exciting and to some, the most dreaded game did wonders in digging out secrets from friends or making them do daring stuff. When dared, one would have to chew a couple of chillies or do something to annoy an adult nearby and engage in some such childish activities which we as adults find no trouble in doing.
Games like ‘Kumeer-danga’ (land and water and ‘Lock and key’ had the children rushing about frantically enabling enough physical activity, which kids these days tend to miss out on.
Kids today, are often sent out to practice some kind of sport under professional guidance, but the musical laughter, carefree haphazard running and constant gaiety, which were the essence of childhood have been lost under the strictness of sports guides, or addictive TV series and virtual games. When the world is trying to create a global union, through intelligence and experience, a major part of the latter is being left behind.
If children do not gather experience through their own mistakes and deeds, they would miss out on a whole strata of life’s lessons.