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When the daughter walked in from school a few days ago, I could sense her excitement right from the door. She had been initiated into a new game at school and was eager to introduce me to it, as well. As she enthusiastically explained the rules to me, I couldn’t help but smile. Life has a wonderful way of gently opening the window of memories. For I had been there, done that, and Hops and Bats was an all-time fav. And so, I simply had to think up of all the games that we played in school. Here are my top 10 in no particular order.

1. Hops and Bats

The rules were simple. You could play this one on one, with ‘n’ number of people. If you stand, you say ‘Hops’ and if you sit, you say ‘Bats’. And if you miss saying the magic words, your opponent can place a whack on your back! Ah, the good ol’ days. We played this with the boys. They, of course, had to be gentle with the girls. We were the rowdy hooligans and never spared the poor souls. In fact, a school mate had the reputation of being feisty when it came to this game. I don’t think there was a single boy in school who did not get it from her, in style.

2. Jolly

This, again, was a game that you played with as many people as you liked, however scores were on a duo basis. You simply made a sizable dot with a pen on your palm. If your opponent said ‘Jolly’, you had to have your ‘dot tattoo’, else you’d miss a point. The first one to get to 3 points was the winner and then we started again. The one who lost landed up getting chocolates or the famed ‘Vada Pav’ as the peace offering.

3. Name, Place, Animal and Thing

This game was more a group thingy. One free period was enough to get a bunch of us huddled in one end of the classroom with our rough notebooks. One of us would silently say the alphabet, while another would ask us to stop mid-way. We then had to write a name, place, animal and thing with whatever letter was the ‘chosen one’. If any of your entries were similar, you got 5 points. Else a full house was worth 40 whooping points. No prizes for guessing, the one with the maximum score was declared the winner.

4. Fish Pond

As we grew older, we moved on to more interactive games. Fish Pond was the game of choice when a teacher was absent. It involved writing messages to anyone in the class, albeit anonymously. As the class monitor, I would collect all the chits and read them, one by one. The giggles, the glances and the whispers on each and every note were scandalous, and hence adventurous. Love stories, crushes and secrets all came tumbling in that half hour of fun. The trick was to keep our voices down, lest the Principal come by.

5. Why and Because

A variant of the above game, it involved dividing the class into halves. One half wrote questions starting with ‘Why’, while the other half wrote the probable answers starting with ‘because’. And thus, if you had a question as simple as ‘Why is Zn the symbol of Zinc?’ you’d probably get an answer like, ‘Because Rahul has a crush on Simran’. The peals of laughter were unavoidable and hence adequate safety measures were taken. The doors were always closed, and our books were always on the table.

6. Uma Joshi

So this one could be played between two or four girls. The boys only wanted to know Uma Joshi’s address. Not that they ever found out. Anyway, so how you played it was by rhythmically clapping your hands to this tune. No, you cannot question the lyrics nor ask for the poet. Just go with the flow. Uma Joshi is Phantom for the girls, the woman who never ages.

Uma Joshi Yeah Yeah Yeah
My mother told me sixty years ago
There came a lady knocking at the door
With a Ooh, Aah, I want some Pah
The Pah is sweet, I want some Meat
The meat is tough, I want to go by bus
The bus is full, I want to go by bull
The bull is fat, I want my money back
The money is green, I want some cherry beans
The cherry beans are red, I want to go to bed
The bed is alright, so time to say goodnight!

7. Fire in the Mountain

A favourite outdoor game, it involved everyone moving clockwise while a person in the centre said “Fire in the Mountain”. The group responded with “Run, run, run.” And then the person would suddenly say a number aloud, while the people ran helter-skelter to form a group of those many people. The ones who failed to do so were out of the game. I have seen quite a few Birthday hosts use variations of this game in parties. Some things I guess don’t change, they just get repackaged.

 8. Tisket and Tasket

This game, I am sure was invented at a picnic. It had the makings of it, I swear. Well, so you had a group of people sitting in a circle. One girl, more often than not, running around with a kerchief in her hand. They all would be singing the famous rhyme and then at the word ‘dropped’, she’d drop the kerchief behind an unsuspecting victim. The person who found it had to chase her, as she rushed to take his seat. And we started all over, till we were bored.

9. Dog and the Bone

For some reason, this one also involved a kerchief too! Two teams, each member had a number. The kerchief was the supposed bone kept in the centre of the play area. When a number was called, both team members would come and try to whisk the kerchief from the circle it was in, without being tagged or caught. Team with most points was the winner, of course.

10. Land, Water, River, Lake, Sea, Well…

This game is an exclusive to the students of St. Joseph’s High School, Juhu, particularly batch of 1992. Why? Because we invented it! We’d play it almost every recess break that we had. The steps leading into the school were given the above names in ascending order. One girl stood at the bottom and called out the chosen ‘element’. If any girl was tagged while in transit from one place to the other, she would be the one to go to the den. Genius, no?

These games did not come with a price tag. The only versions they ever saw was when they got passed down from one grade to the other. They were the epitome of fun, frolic and a childhood well spent. And I am so glad they are coming back in fashion.

So, what kinda games did you play?

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