One of my earliest exposure to acts of wanton violence was a game called ‘Ops-Bats’ that was popular among most kids in my town. The pernicious little game was played out something like this: every time you sat down, you had to shout ‘Bats’ to the person you were playing it with. Otherwise, he was entitled to punch you in the back with all the strength his closed fist could muster. And again, if you had a moment of epiphany and decided to stand up like a mushroom in the monsoons, you were obliged to shout ‘Ops’, failing which, Zeus would take his thunderbolt, use various scientific formulae to wield the same power with his closed fist and drive it down your innocent back. Many a time, a hapless victim of the thunderbolt would swear vengeance, and await an opportunity to return the favour. With a run-up that would put even a performance-drug-enhanced Shoaib Akhtar to shame, he would strike down upon the unsuspecting victim without the slightest of pity while the recipient would moan in agony. And that would put matters to rest, at least until the next round.
Another game went by the innocuous name of ‘Jolly’ and was a favorite pastime in the growing up years. According to the rules of the game, you had to mark a small dot in the lower left area of your left palm (the fleshy part extending from below your thumb) every morning before reaching school. If, god forbid, that dot was missing on a particularly gloomy day, the opposition (which of course would have a beautiful little dot marked on their palms) had the right to demand anything: toys, comics, land, riches, women – but crazily enough would settle for a chocolate or a candy. Sometimes, people would unearth the mildest of spots on their palms (made 2-3 days ago from the last ‘Ae ! Jolly Dikha !’ they had proudly answered to), much like an archaeologist unearths a fossil, and point it out to the disapproving glance of the opposition. It is a wonder however that nobody I’ve even remotely heard of, has paid his due in kind after being caught without a ‘Jolly’. Which brings us to the whole point of why actually someone would play this game. Don’t ask me though, yours truly doesn’t have the slightest clue how this game could have been invented, or where it could have originated from.
Yet another favorite pursuit in the glory days would be the game of ‘Statue’. You just had to point your gun (your fingers making up the imaginary gun barrel) at anybody and mouth the magic word: ‘Statue’ and that person would instantly freeze into a statue with not the slightest of movement. If he so much as fluttered an eyelid, it would mean a loss and he would have to come out of statue-mode and spend 14 years in exile and complete abstinence from drinks, tobacco, women, other pleasures of life; you get the picture .
And how can you forget the trump cards ? You see, some company had the brains to cash in on the sports entertainment wrestling brouhaha and had come out with flash cards for each of the wrestlers. One face of the card would have a wrestler’s photograph and the other side would have details on their height, chest size, matches fought, matches won etc. So you would match up against another guy with half the cards from the same deck, draw a card and bet on your card’s wrestler whose chest size or matches-won would hopefully, be greater than your opponent’s card. And sometimes, a particular wrestler’s card would be worth its weight in gold, with the proud owner of the card lucky to be in the possession of a collector’s item while the rest of the neighborhood tried their damned best to persuade him to trade that card in exchange for miniature cars, a chance to open the batting when playing a cricket match against the neighbouring housing complex, a video game cartridge or even coins from British India (no guesses as to the moron who did that).
A big savior in those trying times was the versatile ‘time-please’ (an Indian cousin of the globally renowned time-out). It was utilized to great effect during exams, or during the rainy season when rains would wash out your painfully drawn Jolly, or when you had to stand up in class to answer a teacher’s damned question, or when parents were nearby. I sometimes wonder if these games are still played today, or if we’ve lost it to the omnipresent cell phone-PSP culture. Ah well, the times..they do change quickly, don’t they ?