Updated: May 27, 2021
Back then, With our 4-year-old son(He is 10! now) , we had been a bit conscious about keeping him away from television and gadgets. He was a child surrounded by aunts and grandmothers. Being around them exposed him to a lot of simple games with common seeds, stones and chalk that he would enjoy just blowing out, catching them, counting them…..
Also, he was just discovering the Idea of “Amma’s side of the family” and “Appa’s side of family”. His questions about who is who and why they are of a particular side were amusing.
So, on his birthday, we decided to call all of them together. Instead of having another party with people socialising for a few hours and getting back; we decided to do something different. It was a child’s birthday, so, we thought of re-kindling everyone’s childhood memories. I myself had memories of seeing my grandparents play a game of chess every evening and of an aunt who played at least one game of Pagade (Chaupar, chopad or chaupad) after all her housework was done. She played with her friend and It was “her time” and was not to be disturbed by anyone. My cousin recently re-counted that the two friends fought every day when one of them lost only to come back again the next day for another game and a fight! :-)
With all these happy memories, We decided to have a playday with everyone!
We lined up all the games that all of us loved. The playing cards, The carrom board, the Chess, the Ludo, the snake and ladder which was among Kiran’s family favourites and the traditional games like Alaguli mane (Mancala), Chowka Bara, Pagade which were popular among my family and added the friends too, to this potion.
We had recently built a house with traditional red-oxide flooring. Which made the perfect setting to create many spaces, nooks and niches around our house. We drew up some of these on the floor or made cosy spaces to play these games. Everybody entered wondering why it was there, slowly everyone wanted to play; they started by gathering the people they needed to be able to play. A few of them convincing the others who said they wanted to leave early, to play just a round of the game they had decided to play! They were introducing themselves to people they did not know or were just acquaintances, asking them to join the play.
In about an hour, the entire house was full of people playing 10 different games in 12 different places.
It was a riot! Both families and friends came together, the elders were instructing, guiding, sharing memories; sharing multiple gameplays which none of us knew.
It was a joy to see an aunt explaining about a gameplay in mancala called “Sita Devi aata”. A game that Sita supposedly played at the Ashok Vatika in Ravans’s captivity. A single-player game that can engage the player for many many hours. It seems that Ravana came to talk to Sita only when she had finished a game and not intrude. So, Sita played this game endlessly to avoid confronting Ravana. Another aunt challenged the teenagers playing chess to play without killing an opponent and getting to a checkmate! While It was champions against champions in carrom.
A few children were happily playing the blowing-seed game, catching the seeds game or just enjoying the sounds and the fall of the Kavade (cowrie shells) or thinking up their own. None of us looked at the time; before we could all realise, it was 4-5 hours of playing together. At the end of the gameplay; everyone had spoken to and played with at least 2 people they did not know and developed a bond and memory. Even today when we meet, a few friends ask about one of our aunts/ uncles/ cousins that they played with and vice-versa.
It was a day when we saw the real power of physical tactile games and the importance of “play” for everyone in the family and what it does between people. It brought people out of their shells and gave them a few hours of relief. Many recounted how playing these games has helped them accomplish creatively and be contented in their careers over a period of time. Finally, All went back home with new friends, less stressed and a small traditional, beautifully handcrafted board game from Kavade, Bangalore. Even to this day, our son loves the time that he spends with elders, urging them to play newer modern games which the elders are beginning to enjoy as well.
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