The number of people falling off their chairs due to excessive displays of hilarity on reading the heading would surely have increased, but I stick strongly to what I say – I too would have bagged an Olympic medal. Of course the next part has to contain an ‘If only’, and I will not disappoint you there. If only the Olympic Committee had decided to include the events in which I had any kind of talent, I would have been strutting around with a Gold medal (behold modesty of gargantuan proportions!)
I was a sporty child; in fact anything that didn’t entail studying was of great interest to me. I indulged in all kinds of sports, played in the unique style that any child from a middle class Indian family in the 70’s and 80’s would identify with. Badminton rackets were initially made of wood and were used more as accessories in a fight with siblings rather than for playing, and of course for vigorous sessions of air-guitar. But soon we graduated to the lighter rackets. Unfortunately the beautiful feathered shuttlecocks were replaced by plastic ones, which were hell to play with. However the nets remained the same, which invariably was the gate of somebody’s house. The only problem was if we got into an argument with the player whose house it happened to be, in which case the chances of losing the net was directly proportional to the intensity of the argument. However, we would not let this tiny technical difficulty affect us in any way and played without a net, but this meant that every second stroke was a smash. So this was used only as a last resort. Gradually I severed my connection with this sport and progressed to Table Tennis.
I remember being quite taken up with this game because of the tiny bats and the white ping-pong balls which reminded me of rasagullas. My older sibling was my coach, a situation very conducive to constant bickering. Our dining table became the TT table and a row of strategically balanced books stretching across the middle formed the net. The only drawback to this arrangement was that we spend more time under the table and in various other nooks and crannies retrieving the ball than in actually playing. But a combination of favourable factors, like rainy days and an enthusiastic brother who was thrilled to trounce me in every game, lead to an extended period of Table tennis. Eventually I got tired of never winning and spending most of the time under tables and other pieces of furniture. Thus my career in Table Tennis was not as magnificient as I envisaged.
But I must say that I participated quite enthusiastically in other games which unfortunately do not seem to have caught the attention of the Olympic Committee. There was this very interesting game called Seven Tiles (For a long time I used to call this Seventees). A rubber ball, seven small flat pieces of stone and two teams with at least 2 players in each one, were all that was required to play. I’ve played this both in school and with my neighbourhood friends and I’ve loved this game no matter the venue. The rules of the game are quite simple; players get grouped into two teams, one group tries to knock down the stack of seven stones by throwing a ball at it, and then try to stack it back and the other team tries to stop the stacking by hitting them with the ball. It does sound a bit violent, but believe me it was the greatest fun. My favourite part was running around in circles shouting manically. While playing with my neighbourhood friends, the noise level was amazing with older boys letting loose bloodcurdling yells. I can easily picture them in pre-historic times hunting down hapless dinosaurs. As for my skills in this particular game, I now realize that they were quite insignificant. Due to my superior aim, I would hit my own team members if I aimed at the opposing team. Even a shot at the stack of stones was fraught with danger – for the other players. Hence my role was largely restricted to running around wildly. And my efforts at evading the ball were also not very successful since I would be beset by deer-in-the-headlight syndrome when someone aimed at me. My brain would be telling me to jump like a swift-footed gazelle while my body decided to take the path of the slowest of sloths. So, on second thoughts I think its good that ‘Seven Tiles’ did not catch the eyes of the Olympic Committee.
But I’m sure that I was quite good at a game we used to play in school, which involved running around a circle of students. The name completely eludes me but I remember deriving an enormous amount of satisfaction from it. This wasn’t a team game; the entire class sat around in a circle and the Catcher had to walk around the circle and drop a handkerchief behind another student and then avoid being caught by the latter. This too had a lot of running around in circles ! I remember that all the students forming the circle had to sing a song which went- ‘I send a letter to my father, On the way I dropped it, Someone came and picked it up and put it in his pocket.’ The word ‘pocket’ was the cue for the Catcher to drop the handkerchief and hightail it. I loved the running part, especially since I could chat to friends in the circle while I was galloping around. I wonder if the Olympic Committee would consider including this highly entertaining game. I’m sure it would foster friendship and camaraderie among the nations of the world. One cannot remain unmoved when one sings of sending letters to family members ! There was yet another game involving handkerchiefs, titled ‘Dog and the Bone’. I’m not a big fan of this since it requires aggression and speed, both of which I lack. So I would definitely not be bringing this up when I meet Thomas Bach, the president of the International Olympic Committee.
Another favourite of mine was called Chain, and the name is self-explanatory. The Catcher ran around tagging people and each one would then link hands with the Catcher. This is totally my kind of game. It was great fun to be a part of a long meandering line of people holding hands and running. There would be some really competitive souls who made sure that the chain actually moved in the right direction. I remember trotting along contentedly, catching up on news with the girls on either side of me. This definitely has to be on the Olympic Committee’s list.
There were many more delightful games like Lock and Key, Crocodile crocodile can we cross the golden river, and Hopscotch, which I feel, should be actively considered for inclusion. I look forward to the day when my picture too shall be splashed across the front pages of National Dailies, holding hands with my Chain teammates and smiling victoriously. Until then, its back to mom-duties and book-dates 🙂