|One post every day in November|
A simple game of hide-and-seek created a fair amount of drama for the police and heartache for the parents last month. Two eight-year-old boys in Rabale, Navi Mumbai, sneaked into a parked truck to hide. The truck driver, oblivious to the playful stowaways in his vegetable truck, put the vehicle into gear and sped off, not stopping until he reached Oshiwara, in Mumbai, two hours later.
Imagine his surprise when he peered into the rear of his truck and found more than the cauliflowers and cabbages that he had expected to be his sole passengers. The poor man, frightened of being accused of spiriting away the two boys, who were now in tears, marched them to the nearest police station, where the authorities jumped to conclusions, just as he had feared.
The story ended well for the boys, who were reunited with their parents, and for the blameless driver who was reunited with his vegetables.
The story reminded me of old, long-forgotten games of hide-and-seek. Back in the days when I was growing up, summers were a long, lazy period that coincided with the end of the academic year. Most families were SIMK (Single income Many kids), which left precious little disposable income for parents to buy toys or video games. Hide and seek was one game which was a sturdy favourite, with tremendous staying power, even as kaccha limbus became pucca limbus on the field.
We had strict rules in those days. The territory was carefully marked, so that nobody dared stray out of it. Anybody’s home was automatically ruled out as a hiding place. There had been instances of people going home to eat and rest, while the rest of us searched high and low for them.
There were two keys to succeeding at the game. You had to find a hiding place that no one would find, and you had to stay there. Both were challenging tasks. As a child, I used to try and tag along after older kids, choosing to hide with them. This act rendered me temporarily unpopular. Nobody likes a tagalong when they are hiding, and most people like a tagalong even less when he or she seems incapable of remaining still while in hiding.
Within a few minutes of hiding, I would begin to feel uncomfortable. I would want to stretch, whisper to the person who was my companion in hiding, peek and see what the situation was like outside. Hide and seek demands tremendous self-control. And little children clearly aren’t built for it.
Nor did good places to hide suggest themselves easily. Generally, my friends and I used to hide wherever our older siblings had been hiding, not realizing that it was the first place where we would be find out.
Hide-and-seek has now made a comeback in my life. My son, 18-month-old El Niño, happily hides behind curtains, not realizing that his fabric hiding place is not long enough to cover his fat, little baby toes. My daughter, La Niña, three years older than him, has the maturity to hide for slightly longer than he can and to choose better hiding places, but lacks the ability to refrain from giggling throughout.
For my part, I studiously try to ignore the sight of the chubby toes and the sound of the giggling, just so that the enjoyment that they, and I, derive from the game can be lengthened. Playing hide-and-seek with my kids offers me a fantastic opportunity to relive my childhood and share theirs.
Ready or not, here I come.