As everyone from my generation would say, almost gloatingly, we spent more time outdoors, playing. The television reached here late (in the 80’s) so we had very little to distract us from our playing.
My most vivid memories are of my summer vacations that I spent at my grandparents’ place where all of us cousins would be together for whole two months of free vacation time on our hands. In my age group, we girls were out-numbered by the boys at 2:4, which got further skewed when their friends joined in, and we(girls) had no option but to join them in their boys’ games. So we spent our vacations, playing marbles, gilli-danda, sitoliya, hide’n seek, flying kites and going for long bicycle rides.
Apart from this there were many other activities that we indulged in as that particular year’s ‘flavor of the year’. We spent one vacation mastering our cycling talents, with a lot of funny mishaps thrown in, in good measure. The next was spent in gardening when we surprised ourselves by actually growing some vegetables. It was a proud moment for us.
Another one we spent trying to learn the fine art of cricket bowling. Our oldest cousin brother was struck with the cricket virus and he insisted on taking up the role of our coach. He bought a book on bowling, drew a cricket pitch on the terrace and we spent the entire vacation taking lessons on how to grip the ball for off-spin, leg-spin, googly and bouncer varieties of bowling. Had we persisted the Indian cricket team would have greatly benefited from our skills.
And the year we got toy bows and arrows and maces for gifts, we spent enacting stage plays, mostly the Ramayana or excerpts from the Mahabharata. The elders of the house would suddenly find some of their clothes(mostly sarees) missing as they were pilfered away to dress ourselves up and also to do up a makeshift stage, as a result we would be unceremoniously shooed out of the house.
I was a regular tomboy, till I went to an all girls boarding school, where in the company of other girls, I developed a few girl-like traits. My dad and mom never stopped me from doing a particular thing just because I was a girl. I was the first girl in my group of friends to learn how to ride a bike. I still remember very clearly, every Sunday morning, my dad would hoist me up the seat of the bike that we borrowed from our neighbours. We didn’t have those cute kid bikes available back then so we used a full sized bike, as a result, my feet couldn’t reach the ground. My dad would then spend the next half hour running behind me (with short breaks) till the day I finally learnt to ride it confidently. Getting off the bike safely was a totally another thing though, that took much longer to learn.
And now when I think about it, we, as kids, played so many games. There was Hop-scotch, Statue, Four-corners, Eggs in the Basket, Kho-kho, Rope skipping, One legged catch, Dodge ball, Chain, Cut-the-cake, Help… . whew!! apart from sports like Badminton or Table-tennis. And I haven’t yet listed the indoor games we played.
Sometimes I wonder if today’s generation is really missing out on some real fun? They do play outdoors, that is, they go for the practices of various sports and their after school hours are packed into a tight schedule of one class after another. Does that leave room for some imaginative play? Of creating new games out of mundane things around them. A bed-sheet, for us, would turn into a tent and we would be soldiers at the front, or a group on a picnic, or hunters in the jungle. Cardboard boxes would send our imaginations in a tizzy. There was nothing we couldn’t play with.
And I’m sure today’s kids would find our games outdated, or even boring. They would be more interested in getting that next high score on their gaming consoles. As I look around me, a kid of average 2 years can manage the basics of a tablet and play games on them. And sometimes I think that too is important because the world is getting more and more digitized even as we speak so they need to be skilled in the use of modern technology.
So I don’t know if I should be claiming, gloatingly, that we had more fun or their’s is also the good way to have a great time. Maybe all the generations have had it good in some way or the other. What do you say???