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Rahul Bose on Bollywood Bole Toh: Just the sort of games that little people play

The outdoor games children play have changed dramatically over generations
The outdoor games children play have changed dramatically over generations

It's the summer, and suddenly the neighbourhood is filled with voices of children playing. Looking down from my balcony I remembered the games we played many suns ago, in the building: 'Dabba ice-spice' (do kids play that anymore?), 'dhaaba-doobi' or 'kings', as the more gentrified called it, 'seven stones', 'hide and seek', 'L-O-N-D-O-N London'! And of course, gully cricket.

We would loaf from building to building on Nepean Sea Road to play any or sometimes all of these games. I wondered whether any of these games had endured, and if not, what were children playing nowadays? I went downstairs and watched with curiosity a child being made the 'den', and then being tied to the handlebars of a cycle, feet astride the front wheel. What kind of game was this?

One of the burlier kids cycled him up and down the compound while the rest of them pelted him with eggs and tomatoes. Very soon the child tied to the front of the bicycle was in tears, but the others looked extremely gleeful. Eventually he was untied, and babel of cries went up for the next game.

I sat, fascinated, waiting. This time a clutch of blue marbles was put in a flower pot, along with one red marble. Each marble was a child's 'school lunch'. The children had to shut their eyes and pick one. The child who picked the red marble was the one with the different 'food' and with great glee, the rest of the kids began to push, pinch and pummel him until he played 'dead'. It looked like everybody was having the time of their lives, save for the child with the red marble. This was incredible!

How much games had changed since my day! Soon they began preparing for the next. A child would be blindfolded. Then two kids would spin him around and go hide. The rest of the children would then come up to the 'den', take his blindfold off, and ask him where these two kids had 'run off together'. If he couldn't tell them where they had gone they would 'beat' him with imaginary sticks till he would lie down with his tongue out.

Rahul BoseRahul Bose

The kids would then find the two children who had run off together and in slow motion, slowly mime beating them till they would fall down (in slow motion) again, with their tongues out. All this with a lot of squealing, and laughter. Everybody, save the 'dens', were rolling with enjoyment. And I marvelled.

Imarvelled at how things had changed. There we were: fossils from an ancient past with our pretentious, sophisticated games that demanded seven stones of roughly equal size, or a rubber ball and bat. And here were children who had realised the most wonderful ways to have fun needed nothing more than a bunch of them in a majority all set to playfully terrorise the 'den'.

How a simple thing like a red marble could unlock the doors to a barrage of endless physical bullying and teasing, but obviously all in fun. How times had changed! What simpler, uncomplicated times these were! And what imagination, what inventiveness of these children to come up with games nobody had thought of till now. I walked up back to my flat with sounds of clapping and laughter ringing in my ears. And then I woke. I had dozed off in my balcony, warmed by the sun and lulled to sleep by the chatter of children below. But I couldn't help shake off the feeling that summers were never going to be the same again.

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