Monsoon of Memories: My Playground Looked Different
It was not defined by low batteries and fancy apps but instead by the vistas in my neighborhoods—that stretched as far as our eyes could see and our tiny legs could walk.
As I jumped over the barbed wire fence, I was as “careful” as one can expect a nine-year-old to be. I was swift and didn’t care about getting hurt because I was too focused on winning the obstacle race.Those were the days of carefree play. By today’s standards, one might call it reckless or even dangerous. When we got injured—which was often—and returned home with a scraped knee, a bruised forehead, or even a broken arm or leg, we were confident that there was no injury big enough that a bottle of Dettol or a few drops of Betadine, or, in an extreme case, the Doctor Uncle couldn’t fix in minutes.
Playtime was seven days a week, and the playground stretched as far as we could meander around in a day in our neighborhood. We bicycled for kilometers on end, with no separate cycling tracks, just on the roads of our neighborhoods. We didn’t fear the traffic of humans... or vehicles. And when we got a flat tire, we didn’t waste time—we made a quick run to the cycle repair shop under the tree, got it fixed for a rupee or two, and got back on the road.
We often gathered stones from the park in the neighborhood for a game of pithu— which is played with a stack of seven flat rocks that need to be knocked down with a ball by one team while the opposite team tries to foil their attempts. We tried not to hit the pedestrians on the streets or break the windows of parked cars. Most of the time we are successful, but not always. Reprimands and repercussions of the collateral damage of our play were heavy. Sometimes we even had to fork over an entire month of pocket money to pay for damages. But that hardly deterred us—we would be right back the next day doing the same thing as if nothing ever happened.
We used a piece of chalk to draw out a grid for a game of stapu (hopscotch) on the tarred road, and we played until we couldn’t see the grid as evening turned to night. We played in parks that were not often well-manicured and learned what it meant to be one with nature—to breathe in fresh air, walk on green grass, even get bitten by mosquitoes. We fought as quickly as we forgave and forgot. We formed unbreakable friendships.
As I reminisce, I smile wide just as much as I shudder in fear thinking how we roamed around without supervision, unaware of the danger lurking on streets. How did we stay safe, happy, and healthy? I guess nature and real-time human interactions guided us on a path that an online game of Minecraft or Game of Thrones can’t. Will I ever trade my gilli danda, skipping rope, or stapu for an iPhone? Perhaps not. Will a Gen-Z, X, or Y laugh at my choice? Of course. Will they ever understand the emotion that was my playground? Perhaps. If we can, once again, build an open space where playtime is defined by nature, innocence, and adventure, I’ll see you there.
Purva Grover is an author, journalist, poet, playwright, and stage director. A postgraduate in mass communication and literature, she is the founder editor of The Indian Trumpet, a digital magazine for Indian expats in the UAE. She can be reached at grover.purva@ gmail.com. To comment on this article, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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