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Hopscotch squares

Dead leaves, curling. Cracks in the cement. And, in between, hopscotch squares.

It has been a while, the mango tree thinks, since it last saw hopscotch squares on the roof.

They are four. The one walking on the roof now, it cannot be her. Ten years ago, perhaps. But not since the apartment blocks went up. What fun is there in hop-skip-and-jumping on your two-story roof, when next-door's sixth floor neighbours will insist on gawping at you? And who plays hopscotch at eighteen, anyway? So she stopped. These days, one sees her only now and again and, that too, when she needs to be there. To sketch a leaf or two, to gather mint. As long as there aren't many neighbours watching. She has other things to do, she says. But the mango tree has been there longer. It can see how her walk has become slower, more weighed down. It can see the faint crease between the eyes. This one cares too much.

The younger one, she still plays. But, again, not as often as before. She comes less and less, for time is becoming shorter for her too. This is not apparent in her yet, though; her forehead is still smooth. When she plays, she does not watch the people watching. The spring is in her walk still and she can hop-skip-and-jump. If one asks, she will play but she hasn't the time to draw the squares herself

So, it was neither of the two who chalked the hopscotch squares.

But there are two others. This is not their home, but in the past three months, the mango tree has seen them almost every afternoon. One is reaching womanhood, the other, closer to the younger one in age. Most days, they come to hang out the washing. Occasionally, you might see them spreading out chillies to dry in the afternoon sun. When their work is done, however, they make time, to chat with the neighbour's house help, to have a short game of tag or hide-and-seek. One day, the mango tree sees them marking a chain of squares, numbering them one-to-ten. It sees them hopping over them, hears them laughing at their own childishness. And it remembers.

They play often. Sometimes, they ask the younger sister and she almost always joins in. They asked the older sister once but she merely smiled, shook her head and turned back to her book. The tree saw her watching them later, however, as they flipped pieces of a broken flowerpot into the numbered squares and hop-skip-jumped towards them.

This afternoon, none of the three are here. It is the only the older sister, walking alone, sketchbook in hand. She does not draw, though. The tree can see her thinking.

She stops in front of the squares, looks at the fading, but still discernible numbers. Looks around furtively, sees no nosey neighbour at their windows. The tree can see her hesitating as she picks up a bit of broken flowerpot, looks at it and then, back at the numbers. Wondering if she still remembers too.

And then, she smiles and the smile turns into a laugh. Oh, what the heck, you can almost hear her say. She tosses the bit of clay at the hopscotch squares; it lands on Six. Jump, hop, jump, hop. Her steps are clumsy; afraid that someone may see, rusty because the spring in them has been idle for so long. But she is pleased to see that she hasn't forgotten yet. Picks the counter up, jumps, hops, jumps back. Glances around again, is anyone watching? But, this time, the tree sees a smile, sheepish, delighted, playing on her lips.

And the tree smiles back.

By Risana Malik



The sun beat down on the nine determined figures kneeling in a row in the middle of the courtyard, alternate members facing opposite directions. Muscles tensed, fists clenched, and eyes narrowed as three new figures entered the arena. A hiss of anticipation went up amongst the spectators. The fun was about to begin.

One of the crouchers leapt up and gave chase. The runners fanned out, scrambling in all directions. One of them thundered right through the ranks of the sitters; the others were frantically trying to elude the grasping fingers. “Run!” thundered the supporters. “Catch them!” screeched those rooting for the pursuers.

The chaser finished a clockwise arc, tagged another sitter and replaced her when she leapt up to pick up the chase. This one had been facing the opposite direction. He sprinted forward in an anticlockwise arc, and tagged another member facing the other way, just as one of the runners made an ill-judged dash through the row again. The new chaser leapt up and caught him, to the dismay of the nine opponents watching from the sidelines.

Cheers and shouts went up through the supporters of the two teams. You couldn't watch and not be caught up in the fever. This was Kho kho, sheer and simple.

By Sabrina F Ahmad




Fultokka [also called Shonar Tukri] is generally considered a girls' game, but that doesn't mean boys don't play it as well. It's actually quite a fun game. There are two teams with four to eight players each. A leader is selected for each team and they assign secret code names for each of the players under their command. There is usually a theme from which names are chosen, for example one team can have names based on colours while the other is based on flowers.

The teams sit on the opposite sides of the playing field [not much bigger than your average badminton court] and a borderline is drawn between them. There is a toss [or something along the same lines] to decide which team gets to “call” first. The leader of that team comes over to the seated row of opposition players, blindfolds one of them with his/her palms, and calls one of the fellow team members by the secret code name. “Ay re amar Jui!!” The called player then gets up from the row of fellow team-mates, comes over to the opposition side, and flicks the blindfolded player on the forehead, before returning to where s/he was sitting. The leader says, “ko, kho, go, gho, matha nichu koro go” and while his/her team members duck their heads, the palms are removed. The blindfolded player then has to guess which player did the flicking.

If the blindfolded player guesses who Jui is correctly, s/he get to frog leap forward one step. If the guess is wrong, Jui gets to frog leap forward. Jui gets a new name. And it's the other team's turn to call. The goal is to cross the border. The first team that gets a player to do that wins. Simple.

There are some methods of cheating. But in the interest of fair play, we shall not discuss them here. You can write to us, and upon masterful persuasion, we may divulge some secrets.

By Kazim Ibn Sadique




The WMD game

Bomb-bastic/Bomb-bustic/Bomb-busting/Bomb-bursting/Bomb-blasting - I don't know if anyone is certain as to which one it really is. Rumuors state that possession of this knowledge is punishable by burning by taped ball.

For the sake of simplicity, let's call this Dodgeball, because let's face it, it IS Dodgeball. However, since kids back in the days used tennis balls usually taped with the ominous colour of red, where the western Dodgeball sores, our version burns out whatever remains of joy you might have left at the end of the day.

The rules are pretty simple. In an unspoken agreement, or through filtering processes, one person starts out with the WMD( weapons of mass destruction) and the following goal is simple, and brutal. Essentially you throw it around to other people. But there's more. You don't throw it so that the other person can safely catch and rejoice. No, no sir. You throw it at the other person with all your might and all your accuracy so that the other person can regret the fact the afflicted body part exists, or even that you exist, or some variation of rue. Lamenting over a burn will get you nowhere however. You must be swift on your feet and fast on your hands.

Revenge will come to you in a warm platter of joy when the ball is in your hands and you yourself can then throw the WMD with all your heart's desire at the person who's the least of your heart's desire.

And so the battle continues for an indefinite period of time, until yet another unspoken agreement among the masses confirms the end of the game. And people that were for a very short time your enemies become friends again, and peace ensues.

Out of all the games that we had as kids, no other was probably as brutal and as character building as our version of Dodgeball, otherwise known as Bomb-blasting. Thanks to this unholy painfully burning game we are all better persons, are we not? Amen.

By S. S. Emil



The happy tortoise
Does not make much noise
The happy tortoise lives in a
Land of choice.
His friends are kind,
And he also has a mind.
One's name is Fest
He lives in a nest.
Another's name is Fable
And he lives in a stable.
Fest is always restless,
Fable is always in favour.
These three friends
Always lend.

By Seemona S Siddique



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