Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The game of squares

I don’t exactly remember what exactly the game was called. We played it I guess only once or twice during our childhood. We played this game at my uncle’s place during the annual shradhdha of our maternal grandfather. The game was played by 5 kids with one of them being the ‘outed kid’, which was decided through an ingenuous elimination process. When I think about it now, I wonder why nobody disputed the process. Because the method of finding the outed kid went somewhat like this; all the five kids would put their palms on top of one another, then I think we chanted some stupid thing…its completely erased out of the mind, at the end of the mantra we would throw up our hands and when it came down, we could either keep it down or up facing the sky. It was individual’s decision. You see, this is something not explained by the Newton’s law. Anyway, if two persons had put their hands facing down and three facing up, the first two would be in the safe zone, so to say. The other three would repeat the process. A pair has to emerge you see. There was no cheating. You could not switch your hand position once done. And I should tell you here, there was no match fixing, anyway I don’t quite remember anyone doing it actually. So in the end the person who is not in a pair is the odd person, the kid was ‘out’. That was the expression we used.
Now coming back to the game, for the game a big square was drawn on the middle of the street, not exactly middle, but almost middle. You see, as far as I remember we played always in the streets. I don’t ever remember going to any play ground. The games were played within  the compound or in the streets never in the playgrounds.  We in fact had a ground nearby but we never went there to play. In fact it was a nice little park with a lake. But I think we never even thought of going there. It was forbidden so to say. We preferred playing in the streets. There was little traffic in residential areas and few cyclists who happened to pass would swerve around without disrupting our game.
So now coming back to that game, for the game a big square was drawn with a piece of red brick, not chalk piece. Not because we did not like chalkpiece, it was because it was easier to get a piece of red brick than chalkpiece.  And the square was divided in to four parts. The name of the outed kid was also written on the road.  All the safe zone kids got one square each. Now the kid who had unfortunately got out in the beginning had to stand in the middle of the big square and watch like a fox  for any movement in any of the squares and catch anybody trying to shift in to the adjacent square.  I hope you got the idea. It was the duty of the other safe zone kids to keep this ‘outed’ kid occupied by trying to jump or pretend jumping in to the adjacent square. If in the process the outed kid caught anybody, that kid became the outed kid and the earlier outed kid would get a safe zone/square for himself/herself. But if all the kids somehow got in to one of the squares, we would shout something huge, I don’t remember what, but in unison we would scream something loud sometimes eliciting reprimands from the elders waiting for the ceremony to get over. With our unique, magical hurrah of triumph the first round of the game would get over and the outed kid would get M against his/her name on the road for failing to catch and get a square for himself. Now the game would start afresh. The outed kid would get another chance and other four kids would get another opportunity to outwit the lonely kid struggling to catch any one of the four. If for the second time the outed kid failed to catch anybody moving out of the safe zone and the other four kids got successfully in to one of the smaller squares, O would get added next to M. It would go on like that. Once it so happened that I was playing the game, and I was the eldest of the group since my sister had declined to play. It so happened that one of the smaller cousins in the family could not get in to safe zone. So after hours under the scorching sun, MONKEY –DONKEY got written against her name on the street. I should tell you that it took less than half the time to write Donkey than Monkey against her name. You see, kids are mean. We knew that somehow she was not quick enough and we through our own little signals and misdirections completely misled her during the second round to make her defeat complete. And the jubilation that followed, even to this day I don’t know nor sure whether we were celebrating her defeat or our collected effort to defeat her somehow. The cries and shouting that followed involved ‘Nila* is a Monkey and Donkey’ so that everyone in the 15+ houses in that street would have heard even if they were taking afternoon nap. The girl was of course in tears. And it added more fire to our merriment. You lose a game and on top of it if you cry, you will never be comforted by other kids. I told you kids are mean. You will be ridiculed and laughed at. The merriment came to an abrubt ending when one of our college going cousins made an entry and verbally thrashed us which silenced all of us. And we never played that game ever.
Interestingly I don’t remember playing this game near our house or teaching it to my neighbourhood kids. Its quite funny that we waited for that annual death ceremony of our grandfather to get squared in to a corner!

* of course, not her real name. In fact, I don't know anybody by name Nila.

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