From today Ms. Papaya and Little Po will be home for the summer. Three months of bliss till they go to big school.
A large part of their time will be spent at home or down in the garden.
They are of course too small to play with the big kids and look longingly at them in the garden. This reminds me of a story I wrote several years ago and which is still relevant today.
’5..4..3..2..1.. Ready or not, I’m coming”
Pintu heard Nilanjan’s voice call out as he hid inside the hedge. It was the first day that he was allowed to play with the big boys and he didn’t want to be the first one to get caught. His heart began to beat faster as he saw Nilanjan gingerly leave the can encircled in a chalk ring in the centre of the parking lot to look for the rest of the boys. Today the boys were playing “Dabba Ice Spice” ( the garbled rendition of Dabba, I Spy) or Kick the Can. This was one of the games the boys played in the colony. Every evening after school was over, all the children in the colony would get out of their uniforms and gather downstairs to play. There were different groups of children playing – sometimes all girls, sometimes all boys, sometimes a mixed group. But always it was the Kaccha Limboos who played together and the older children who played together.
“Please, Bhaiyya,” he’d beg his brother who was all of two years older and one foot taller than him, ” let me play with you na?”
“Get lost, Pint size,” Rakesh would say to him as he rushed downstairs to play with his friends.
And Pintu would sigh in defeat, his shoulders hunched as he went back to play with the Kachha Limboos as all the little ones were called. It wasn’t bad really being a kaccha limboo because all the younger siblings would get together and shadow their big brothers. They would irritate them with their wisecracks, or if they felt like being useful would wait on the sidelines to field the odd ball that happened to come their way, or kick back the football into the game. Most times they ignored them and played their own games of marbles and French Cricket. But their favourite game was to ruin the game of Dabba Ice Spice. The boundaries of the game were large and the Den could get quite easily exasperated trying to catch all of the boys who were hiding. Very often he would look at the little boys hoping they’d give a clue. And the little ones would be only too delighted and nonchalantly stand in front of the spot where one of the boys was hiding so that he could be easily caught by the “Den”.
“Not fair, not fair!” the boy thus caught would protest, ” You are cheating!” and he’d look viciously at the kaccha limboo who gave him away while the Den would give him a sly look of approval.
“You boys are a real menace,” the big boys would say and the little ones remained unaffected, secretly pleased at having ruffled the feathers of the big ones who resolutely refused to let the little ones join in their games.
“You are too small, you can just stand and watch us play,” they’d tell them and the little boys would stand around waiting for the great day when they’d be allowed to join in. No amount of cajoling from their mums to be nice to their little brothers had any effect. And every time the little boys asked if they could play with them, they were told derisively to get lost.
But something went wrong today thought Pintu as he was invited, albeit grudgingly, by his big brother to play Dabba Ice Spice with them. Not wanting to think too much about his change of fortune, Pintu scampered alongside Rajesh and looked triumphantly at the Kaccha Limboos as he passed them in the car park.
“Dip, Dip Dip,
My blue ship
Sailing in the water
Like a cup and saucer
Dip, Dip, Dip!”
“You’re out”, said Rummy pointing to him while deciding who was to be the Den. Pintu heaved a sigh of relief. While Rummy was chanting the rhyme, he actually clenched his fist with fear and prayed that he wasn’t made the Den. He knew that this is what Rakesh would have done – deliberately make him the Den and then while his eyes were closed and he was counting, they would have all run away and hidden in Premal’s house. That was what they had done when Ashu was chosen from among the Kaccha Limboos to play with the big boys.
Nilanjan looked behind the cars and spotted Micky. He went back to the can, put his foot on it and shouted,
” Micky! You’re out!” and watched with triumph as Micky slunk out from behind the huge Ambassador.
Gradually all the boys were caught and only Pintu was left.
“Where’s the fellow?” muttered Nilanjan in exasperation. It was almost ten minutes and he couldn’t find Pintu. He went to all the regular hiding places and still didn’t find him. The big boys were now getting bored. Micky had even started chewing on the grassy stem that he’d plucked from the side. Rakesh and the other boys were busy cracking jokes. Nilanjan wanted to abandon the game. It would teach that little twerp a lesson he thought and told the big boys ” Let’s forget the game, let the kaccha limboo get lost!”
‘Ho Ho,” jeered Rakesh, ” You’ve been made a fool of by my little brother….”
Pintu watched from between the twigs and leaves as Nilanjan went again to look for him. He knew that soon Nilanjan would go to the back of the building to look for him and that’s exactly what he did. Seizing his chance, Pintu crawled out of the hedge and ran to the can and kicked it. “Dabba Ice Spice,” he screached in triumph.
“Yippee,” shouted all the boys who were now free.
Rakesh gave his brother an affectionate pat , “Well done Pint size! ” and Pintu beamed and felt himself grow a whole foot taller.
Were you ever a kaccha limboo? I’d love to hear YOUR story in the comments below.