Book Gives Kids’ Outdoor Games Another Chance
If you grew up a couple of decades ago or earlier, you probably remember( and miss) playing with your friends on the streets. In India, where I grew up, summers, weekends and almost all evenings were spent not in the company of a video game console or the internet, but on dusty streets, with friends and cousins. When I first heard about Michelle Obama’s ‘Let’s Move’ campaign, it struck me that if kids had continued to play outdoors as they had been doing for centuries there would have been no need for a campaign to get kids in America or anywhere else, to move away from obesity and towards a healthier, more wholesome and FUN lifestyle.
And yet, sadly, if you asked a child in an urban setting today, she may barely recognize these games, let alone be able to play them.
Take India for instance. Call it the pressure of academics , the demand for all-round excellence, or the lack of space or the change in pace, or the ubiquitous nature of television and its technological cousins - whatever the reasons may be – you won’t easily find kids in any of the Indian metros or bigger cities playing age-old games like kabbadi or gilli danda. Besides, with dusty streets turning into paved roads and houses being turned into multi-level apartment homes and offices, not too many neighborhoods allow kids the luxury to run around and play safely. The only exception is perhaps cricket, which like the cockroach, continues to survive and thrive despite every challenge and threat.
Here’s the thing. You may not be able to play those street games in the same way in your old neighborhood anymore, but, you CAN do something to keep them from fading away from memory forever.
‘Gadagada Gudugudu’ by Jeeva Raghunath/Jeyanthi Manokaran
How much can a book as thin as this really convey and accomplish? It depends on how much you want it to. Of all the books I picked up from Tulika, this was the one that caught my attention instantly. The title, the colors and the illustrations perked my curiosity and anticipation. When I saw that it was about popular Indian street games, some of which my daughter was unlikely to ever play herself or even watch being played, I had the urge to share it with her immediately.
In a nut shell
This cheerful book with simple, rhythmic text lets you relive your childhood memories, while creating new ones with your child. It depicts the typical course a little marble takes, rolling from Mani’s hands to those of his friends. As the day rolls by, the marble does too, switching places from one child’s hand to another’s in exchange for other toys that catches his fancy at the moment.
Gadagada gudu is the sound the Mani’s marble makes as it rolls from one hand to another, in exchange for Ramu’s gilla danda, Kittu’s kite, Raja’s flat stone and Pattu’s top. It’s the cue that keeps the story rolling and the catchphrase that holds my daughter’s attention. Reading the book in itself is entertaining enough, but it also opens up many other ways for you to share your childhood memories with your kids and also gives you a chance to give those games a new leash of life.
Don’t be surprised if after reading the book, you are inspired to play them with your kids yourself! With some tweaks and customization, I’m sure we could manage to play some version of gilli danda or hopscotch on our paved driveways, fly a kite from our manicured lawns or high terraces and roll a scratch-proof marble on our hardwood floors.
Whether original or adapted, these games in either version hold the promise of several hours of free, family entertainment, requiring no fuel, power or batteries with no lead or toxins to worry about. The next time kids declare they’re bored or when you feel they’ve had an overdose of simulated shootings, it’s probably your cue to announce, “Let’s move!’ Pick one of your favorite outdoor games and show your kids what real fun looks and feels like.
If you’re out of ideas, just thumb through Gadagada Gudugudu.