Revisiting the days of childhood has become my favourite pastime now. It seems like yesterday when I was a little girl going to school. Those were the days of a carefree life. We had a perfect allocation of play-time and study-time. Holidays and Sundays were enjoyable.
Whenever I look back, the names of those simple outdoor and indoor games come to my mind. Kabaddi, Ghar Ghar, Kumir Danga, Merry Go round, Hide and seek were all our favourite childhood games. At school we also played kabaddi and cricket during lunch break in the classroom during monsoon when the school playground was kept out of bounds.
Sundays used to be very special days for all of us, both parents and children. My paternal grandfather’s house was adjacent to Deshapriyo Park just behind Priya Cinema Hall in Kolkata . My kaka’s family and dadu lived together in that house. Jethu (father’s elder brother), Pishi (father’s sister) and we lived in three different areas of the city. On Sundays all of us used to assemble at Dadu‘s house. The day used to start with an elaborate breakfast and continue with a sumptuous lunch consisting of mouth watering dishes of mutton curry- rice, prawn malai curry etc. and end with dinner. Saroda mashi, a very old cook who was practically a part of the family, used to prepare those dishes with lots of care.
After lunch all the elders including my mom and dad used to watch a movie leaving all the children in Dadu‘s care.
Afternoon used to be completely fun filled. We were left to do whatever we wanted to do. Lolitda, a young servant used to keep an eye on us, when Dadu used to take his afternoon nap. We all had fun games either inside the house or downstairs in the adjoining lane.
In the early evening hours around 4:30-5 pm, Dadu would take us all in his Ambassador car for a drive to Batanagar or Victoria memorial hall and sometimes to Babughat on the Strand Road, the bank of River Ganges. He always treated us with popcorn, ice cream and Candyfloss. I loved the horse carriage ride around Victoria Memorial hall. I was so small when I started going there that I could not even pronounce it properly. I called it “Victo Robia Mobia Hall”. I also enjoyed the breathtaking silhouette views of boats crossing the Ganges against the backdrop of the setting sun. The sight of the sunset on the Ganges is frozen in my memory even today. After the evening stroll we were huddled in the same old Amby. We would return after dusk with Dadu to reunite with our parents. Before calling it a day we had several rounds of games once again, inside the house. Post dinner we all returned home tired but emotionally charged for the forthcoming week. This was the routine for all our Sundays for years on end, as long as Dadu was alive. We so much looked forward to those Sundays.
I still vividly remember playing Chor-Police-Dacoit-and-Daroga with cousins. Rintu dada and Rumni Didi were the senior cousins. Tete dada, me and Sanjoy were the younger siblings. Chor-Police-Dacoit-and-Daroga was basically an indoor game where five same sized pieces of paper chits were taken with Chor, police, dacoit, daroga and score keeper written on each of them. Each one was allotted a specific number of points. The pieces were then folded in the same way and then shuffled, after which each one of us picked one chit for ourselves. The one who got ‘police’ was ordered by the ‘daroga‘ to catch the ‘chor‘ or the ‘dacoit’. If he succeeded in catching the one asked for, he scored points and Chor or dacoit scored zero or vice versa. The Daroga was always privileged and got the highest points without any effort. Everyone coveted the Daroga chit. Lots of cheating and fighting occurred to get that invaluable chit. Sometimes while folding the chit back some signs were made within the folds of the paper to make it identifiable from outside. The scorekeeper had to sit in judgement once in a while and replace all the chits with new ones to even the odds. At the end of several rounds the scores were all added and the person with the highest points was declared the the winner.
When I first started playing this game, I was so small that I was unable to read words and for my benefit Rumni Didi used to assign some signs like -, +, 0, tick and cross etc., so I could identify which one I picked. This system continued for years as with the elder cousins moving away to distant places were replaced by another small kid, Chintu, coming of age to be able to play.
Those were the fun filled Sundays which we still fondly remember. But now we feel sad that our children are deprived of these simple pleasures of life. They are more addicted to television, computers and video games and simple interactions with cousins and friends have become less frequent.