Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Of kaccha limbus and pucca limbus (NaBloPoMo Day 13)

NaBloPoMo November 2012
One post every day in November
Those of us who grew up in the India of the '70s and '80s and a little bit of the '90s might recall two terms that defined the status of children on the playground. These were kaccha limbu and pucca limbu. Literally raw lemon and ripe lemon respectively, there was much more to them than that. These words were in Marathi, but I'm sure each region in India had its own linguistic equivalent.

Basically the children divided themselves into kaccha limbu and pucca limbu, depending on their age, maturity and agility on the ground. Being a kaccha limbu meant that you could go out there and play free, revelling in the spirit of the game, knowing that you would never be thrown out of the game. You were not subject to the rules that applied to the other people.

Just before a game was to commence, after the captains of the two teams had divided the senior members equally, they would proceed to share the kaccha limbus among themselves. The kaccha limbus were seen as liabilities. But the system was also a fantastic way of initiating younger children into the game while keeping them under the care and supervision of their older siblings and their friends.

Being a pucca limbu meant that you got an opportunity to patronise the younger kids while pretending that you were wiser and more capable by virtue of their age.

I was a kaccha limbu for a very long time. To be honest, I quite liked it. Not for me the hazard of losing the game and being made to sit through the rest of the game. The kaccha limbu status gave me many more lives on the playground, minus the pressure. When I did good, everyone applauded. When I didn't, my team mates said to one another by way of consolation, it's okay, she's only a kaccha limbu. While some children struggled hard to be promoted to pucca limbu status, I was quite happy with my relegated status.

I don't hear the words kaccha limbu and pucca limbu anymore. There are no playgrounds out there where children can play. And few children can resist the lure of satellite TV. Which is why today's children don't refer to one another by these names. With few exceptions, most of them may be more appropriately described as couch potatoes. And that is a a sad fact of our times.

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