Photo: Darshan Chakma
Back in the halcyon days, you could hardly find kids indoors. The majority of their time was spent on rooftops, playgrounds or even the occasional parking lot. There was no hustle bustle of tutoring at such early grades; neither was there a violin lesson to attend. Kids were simple and they enjoyed a carefree childhood unaware of the busy, competitive lives that would soon overwhelm them. Rare was the sight of complex gaming devices or new make up sets that keep youngsters occupied so much these days.
Instead of Facebook and the various gaming devices today, back in the days, kids would actually indulge in games that required them to go out and enjoy the sunlight. Playing cricket with the boys on busy streets or flying kites from the rooftops of Old Dhaka. The kite was a thing of beauty and required meticulous preparation, starting from making the strings to cutting the paper into colourful, vibrant shapes. Kids used put in a lot of heart and soul into every step. The art of flying kites, though, requires a certain amount of skill. Ranging from the precision needed to cut off another kite to determining the wind direction and whatnot the ability to keep your kite afloat is a lot more challenging than lounging on your couch and playing FIFA. Joy (26) says, “At the end of the day, when you defeat an opponent and claim their fallen kite, that one piece of paper gives you an overwhelming sense of achievement. It really is sad that kids these days don't want to experience that.”
Late afternoons spent under the mild sky, chasing one another while holding your breath stirs a different kind of warm delight. 'Bou chee' is a game that played a vital role in a lot of our childhoods; at least for most 80's kids. Be it with the heaps of cousins that live around your house or with the house help, 'Bou chee' was a game everyone enjoyed playing together. The concept is quite a simple, yet innovative one. You hold your breath and cross over to foreign territory (your opponent's) to declare supremacy; what's not to like? Children these days, on the other hand, are missing out. Television screens have replaced the limitless sky and gaming consoles have substituted ordinary sports. Rafsan (29) says, “What's sadder is that a gaming console can never compensate for the exhilarating feeling of running about without a care in the world.”
From the many forgotten games of our childhood, one of the best ones is undoubtedly 'Fool tokka'. It is a sort of team guessing game which requires five to ten people. When the blindfolded player of one team guesses which person from the opponent team had poked (thus, the tokka) them correctly, victory is declared! The stolen moments of secrecy and element of surprise that comes with the game is what rather makes it so thrilling for kids. Tasneem (22) says, “I spent most of my childhood playing 'fool tokka' in the evenings. My younger brother however spends nearly all of his time on the p.c. I really don't know what goes on with him.” Not that yours truly is implying p.c. games are tantamount to isolation and are thus bad, it's just that all the legendary games played and widely practiced back in the day are gradually disappearing. When 7 year old Ayaan was asked what games he likes to play for recreational purposes, he said that he shared a loyal relationship with his Xbox and was unwilling to break it off anytime soon by “going outside to play”.
Bangladesh is a country with a staggering population and a new flyover seems to pop up every day. It is quite a feat to now find a suitable stretch of empty space to walk on without getting showered with spit, let alone finding a lot to play on. Gone are the days of such widely loved games and the weariness and occasional bruising that would follow. We can't help but tear up a little.