“Dhappa!!! No no! I touched you and I said Dhappa first…it’s your den, again! Go and count till 50.”
Sounds familiar? Of course it does…’Chchupan Chupai’ is theevergreen eternal game of all galli muhallas. So are ‘Chain-Chain’, ‘Piththoo’, ’Pakdan Pakdai’, ‘Lock and key’, and the list goes on till the extent when one cannot possibly make up more games and their rules!
I can never forget the summer vacations, which meant endless hours of cricket, or innovative races that we ourselves came up with, after which everyone would go panting and sweating, with red faces to a friend’s house nearby for refueling or water. Of course, time flew by at an unbelievable pace and by sunset, it was already time to go home. Hats off to the parents who managed to pull their children back into their houses in spite of their incessant protests, tantrums and bizarre excuses to stay out.
As a five year old, I was quite shy. I watched the other children of my colony from a distance while they played, screamed boisterously, pushed and pulled each other recklessly, fell and bled. Some of them were looked up to by the others, due to the permanent scars they had achieved on their knees – the scars that spoke of days of toil and much physical labour put into contributing to the story of childhood play. When I turned seven, I was no longer wary of these children. I was one of them. Our entire gang boasted of scars, and the one with a scar in the most unusual place was an idol. In the evenings, most cars in most colonies would drive slowly, for everyone knew that it was playtime and one could never be sure as to when a kid could come shooting out of some building or a park, pursuing a tennis ball as if his life depended on it.
Those cars are not slow now. I do not blame them; they hardly have anything to be scared of. The sight of a group of ranting and running children has become a rare one. Before you start thinking that this is the overwhelming result of a successful family planning campaign, let me tell you about the whereabouts of these youngsters. They are occupied by more ‘important’ things to do – such as tuitions, television, homework, talking on the phone. Somehow, playtime has taken a step back in the list of priorities in the development of a child. This is despite the fact that the importance of “rough and tumble play” has been emphasized time and again. However, parents, schools and children just do not heed to it anymore. Now I am not talking about sports activities such as tennis lessons, and cricket coaching, for these are generally available only for specially talented children who can benefit on a long term basis by pursuing them. Besides, not everyone can afford these lessons. What I am talking about is mindless ‘frolic and fun’ kind of playing on a daily basis. These evidently have a long-term impact on the physical and mental development of children. I know for a fact that my parents are fitter at their age now, than will be the children of today when they are my parents’ age. That is because; my parents’ time was one with less competition and with less focus on academic pursuits. My parents are reasonably successful people now, and look back very fondly to their days of outdoor playing. They have stories to tell – of petty quarrels, of classic stories of stealing mangoes. Fortunately, even I have some, though they are fewer. But, I’m afraid that the current ten year olds would not have any.
When I ask these children around me, as to why they are not outside, I get various answers. “Oh-me and my friend do not like those group of people”, ” I do not feel like, I am too tired and there is still so much homework left”, “I would love to play, but I do not see any other children around”, “No no! I have class!”, “I already played in school today, so today’s quota of playing is over.”, “I get bored playing”. This is indicative of the fact that children these days are not encouraged in schools or by their parents to resolve their trivial issues with other children, or to go and try some new games and invite more children to come and play. I remember, at the age of seven, I was literally pushed by my mother into a group of cricket playing girls, and am I glad that she did so! Moreover, every time we got bored of a certain game, we would make up new ones. Bottom-line is that a large group of children together can never get bored and if parents today would go and make a little effort to find playmates for their children, they would end up having fitter kids.
Also, schools generally assign two periods of games per week. Now, if an average period is of 40 minutes, it means that children get just one and a half hours of playtime per 30 hours of school. Is that not a little unfair to growing children? Might I add that these trends can have adverse effects on some children, such as increasing their chances of showing aggressive behavior in inappropriate social settings. To increase this effect, we have television and other gadgets that, studies have proven, are instrumental in promoting rowdy behavior especially if they are substitutes for normal childhood activities.
Leave aside all these studies, I just feel that all children deserve to know what fun it is to spend two hours every day, playing, indifferent to the heat of the scorching sun and ignorant of the stressful times ahead. To do my part, I keep nagging my eleven-year-old sister to go and play even if she has some imminent unit tests. I plan to do that with my children too, as and when I have them. I hope I will find that you too, at some random 5’o clock evening, are pushing your child out of the house, and that my child will find a play companion in yours , to pave way for a memorable childhood and a prospective bright future.
Sharanya Misra Sharma