Kavade Toy Hive sells the cowrie shells, marbles and traditional board games that have crept out of children’s lives

On Seshadripuram Main Road, there’s a flash of colour in a complex covered with monochromatic furniture store banners: in a bright green building stands Kavade Toy Hive, a store devoted to ancient games and puzzles.

Everywhere you look, there’s something bright and curious to be investigated. Shelves are lined with typically colourful Channapatna toys, rows of plastic boxes filled with cowrie shells, marbles and tamarind seeds, and board games to play chowkabara or pallanguni (both counting-based strategy games). On one end, a large, shallow tray is home to all manner of tops (buguris) — endless hours of entertainment, guaranteed.

Beyond video games

Kavade’s founder Sreeranjini G.S. set up the store in March 2009, when she realised that her own children had few options apart from video games. “It was all noise and plastic,” she says. She quickly recognised that the traditional games she grew up playing were vanishing, and children would grow up exposed only to electronic games. “There has to be a space where children can have the opportunity to try out other games — it’s in our hands to show them there’s a different way to games,” Sreeranjini says.

This revival of older games carries many advantages, she points out. Some games hone simple skills such as counting and logic; others could teach elementary science.

For all ages

But do children actually take to the minimalistic games, or is the lure of fast, flashy modern games too strong? It’s a mix of both, according to Sreeranjini: in her experience, children choose to play both forms.

The fact that these games appealed to people across generations also meant that, unlike, say, video games, children get to play them with their grandparents. “Children today might be surprised that you can play games with older people as well,” she says.

Driven by nostalgia

In fact, most of the browsing and picking of games at Kavade tends to be done by adults, who are probably looking for the games of their childhood — perhaps in the hope of passing them on to their children.

“Play was usually with seeds and stones when we grew up,” Sreeranjini reminisces. “It’s a different world that we grew up in. We would just draw lines on the floor and play. These were simple games, which didn’t need our parents to invest money.”

The irony of the fact that those very games are now being sold as ‘niche’ objects at her store hasn’t escaped her.

But she says the games available at Kavade are adapted to modern life: they’re travel-friendly, for instance, and are perfect for apartment-dwellers, who may not be able to draw on their floors. Besides traditional games, Kavade stocks small puppets, musical instruments such as bells and whistles, and activity books.

Given that Sreeranjini prefers not to aggressively market the store, the trickle is mostly due to the events and workshops — even a recent tournament — that happen at the venue. “I let it grow as it can,” she says, adding that she didn’t have any “business blood” in her. That’s why she calls Kavade a “toy hive”, and not a store.

A visit to Kavade could bring back memories of summer evenings, with family huddled around a makeshift chowkabara board. Pastimes like these are today perhaps reserved for days when the power’s out. With its simple, delightful array of offerings, Kavade’s the perfect way to sneak the older games back in.

Visit kavade.org

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