The inviting outdoors and quiet lanes were impromptu playgrounds. A neighbourhood game of gully cricket, ‘bachcha’ or hopscotch, shuttle badminton are no longer very common. Kids are glued to TV or the iPad, or busy attending craft class or tennis coaching. If you can recall the games you played as a child, or the people you played them with, you realise neither are the games as commonplace nor do kids these days have the kind of company you did. Hopscotch? Kids today can barely hop on one leg! Running and catching? Ugh so boring and old-fashioned! Marbles? What do you do with them? Chowkabara? Chow-what???
Now it’s more about play-dates
Aruna Raman, a 34-year-old research associate, recalls rather fondly playing games like lagori, hopscotch, “house-house”, complete with kitchen utensils. “And in the process bonded with other children,” she feels. “Now all that kids seem to play is football and cricket. Or go to a swimming class. No game really seems random and spontaneous. It’s all very organised activity.” Running-and-catching, snakes and ladders, chowkabara were other games we played spontaneously, says Aruna. “Today’s kids do more of jigsaws and puzzles. It looks like it’s more about meeting other children on formal playdates. We just drew lines on the sand, or with chalk on the ground and played by ourselves.”
Marbles and strategy building
Gururaj S., a 47-year-old IT entrepreneur talks excitedly of spinning tops, playing marbles, flying kites, and playing chinni-kolu (similar to cricket), and lagori. “Things like playing ‘dera’ with marbles helped us in strategy building, helped increase finger dexterity, and while throwing marbles at a two-metre distance, it increased our aim!,” he talks of the benefits of playing such games. He also remembers his sisters diligently playing kunta-bille (hospscotch), and other games like aane-kallu aata where they sang songs and threw stones in the air to catch them. Then there was “four squares” where players exchanged spots and a player in between tried to intercept them and grab the square.
Play together, stay together
Sreeranjini G.S., who owns Kavade, a store that sells traditional games, talks of how these games that she played in her childhood, have now made a comeback as “exotic” — be it chowkabara, pagade, or pallanguli (alagulimane). She observes that many of the games we played are no longer part of today’s children’s lives simply because there’s no time and people to play with. “A lot of things need to be in place….the beauty of these games lies in the participation as a family. When I approach IT companies, the typical response I get from employees is that they are all nostalgic about playing these games but say they don’t have time to play them with their kids.” Space to play, availability of groups of children, determine if they can play equipment-less games, she notes. It’s difficult, though, admits the mother of a seven and nine year old, to peel them away from the appeal of gadgets and the sound-and-sight spectacle of TV. Parents today are also to blame because “they want children to take their iPad and just leave them in peace”.
Sanjana Dayanidhi, at 16, may still be too young, one would think, to recall games she played as a kid but she doesn’t see other youngsters playing these days. But she enthusiastically says “You know, playing hopping-and-catching was BIG in my childhood. I haven’t really seen anyone play it these days. One person would hop and whoever got ‘out’ had to hop along with them and it would go on till everyone was out. We used to play a lot of running games too.” She also remembers playing a dress-up board game, where you roll the dice, and the square you land on dictates what you must dress up as.