Thursday, September 3, 2009

KM lessons from Childhood Games? You kidding me!

The other day, one of the ladies in the apartments where I stay was bemoaning her kids' unwillingness to play outside; she recalled her own childhood days and the ramblings/run-arounds that were the then norm. That was all the prompting I needed to take another trip into nostalgia (something awry here--why am I looking back, what prompts these trips--more of that exploration, later). Obviously, a trip back into school /young days also brought to mind an old song, seems kind of apt here: "Great Change since I was born, there's a great change since I was born..."

Much has been written about times when we had no TVs, no computers, no new-fangled games, when imagination individual and collective ruled the roost; when games were created/modified to ensure that all who could played. And many lessons were learnt while playing: tolerance, inclusion, mentoring, justice, equality...And playing was not just after school, playing was within it too. For our schools used to have a Games session, where the entire class would be out on the field, either broken up into 2 or 3 different groups or as one big group. And, no, if you thought you could go on to the ground and yet sit by the sidelines, you were mistaken; the sister/teacher in-charge would walk up and you would be subjected to the very sarcastic and finely pitched voice asking "and my dear young lady, what exactly is the matter with you, today?" That tone and the voice left nothing to chance; you needed a medical certificate cross-signed by the school doctor to be let off games...and believe me, that was no easy task. School doctors had this antennae that allows them to know exactly when a kid is playing truant...and our schools were high on physical training and games and participation therein (if you got anything less than a "C" in PT on your report card, your parents would be summoned for a talk with the principal, argh!)

How on earth did a class of 60+ hyperactive girls play, did confusion confounded reign on the playground or was there a semblance of order. Well, that depended on who the games teacher was, but for most part they were guided/controlled games. Team creation, well...we would be lined up by height (ascending order) and would have to call out 1, 2; 1,2; all 1's in one team, all 2's in the other; teams ready! Kho-kho of course required 12-member teams and a lot of agility, when the change of guard came round to you, the last thing you could do was fall flat on your face--it is supposed to be a gentle tap on the shoulder--but at times in the heat of the moment could be a thump; kabaddi, which of course boosted lung strength and the eternal favorite, dodge-the-ball! Of course, that could be because everybody got to play, no turns, as such had to be taken and aides were not required to keep an eye on the girls. So there we would be, two teams, the 1's and the 2's; one forming the circle, the other crowding inside. Rules were simple: hits had to be below waist, above waist and the throwing team lost points. And at the sister's/teacher's whistle off we went: jostling for safety, away from the ball, from the precision throwers, jumping up, dodging now all to avoid being hit by the ball. We would like to think great jumpers were identified, sprinters singled out...we would have to ask the teachers. All played, without exception, all got a chance to throw, to dodge, equally! A great leveler games were, even as they enhanced competitive spirit; ensured we exercised. There was something richly satisfying in trooping off the field after a good game, hot, sweaty, with streaks of dust on uniforms, the camaderie that comes from a game rightly won.

You would think after returning from a full day of school (school used to start at 7.30am, end at 4pm, timings would be adjusted for winters), we would be dog tired and have no desire to play. You would be wrong. The evenings were times to catch up with friends, play games that you wanted, where you wanted, how you wanted. Of course, the underlying principles of ensuring that everybody got to play, that the little-r ones, the kiddos also participated, that they were taken care of were everpresent. In fact, the games after schools were greater learning grounds. For this was where patience, the willingness to let a younger child have more chances, the overseeing care to ensure noone got left behind came into play. And how much different is that from running a KM initiative: patience, forbearance, rules, processes, explanations, inclusive actions, teams, communities where all are part, holding back to ensure that the team travels together at a mutually convenient suitable pace, hand-holding for those that are new and unfamiliar, the mentoring...

Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Old order changeth yielding place to new...




And nowhere have I found this to be so true than in the march of time as can be seen in my hometown, Allahabad and indeed in the changing landscapes of cities and towns in India

The Big White House (as named by my niece when she was just about four) is no more, it has fallen victim to changing times. A bungalow (kothi, to be very precise) sitting in majestic splendor amidst 4 acres of land …my earliest memories of the house, my maternal grandparents home –a solid haven, security and shelter away from the confusing world. The Ashok trees fronting it, shading it from the road’s view and that big circular garden, with mehndi bushes forming the barrier and the marigold plants always in bloom. Every season would see the garden resplendent in color with flowers of the season, the crude gate made with crossed branches and oh, it was the favorite playground of all of us cousins much to the despair of the gardener.

My memories are hazy, old photographs help to refresh them –there is a beautiful sepia tinged photo of my grandparents sitting by one side of the house in chairs side by side. I do recall returning to the house at my grandfather’s death - kids who didn’t quite grasp the solemnity of the occasion –all we knew was nanaji/dadaji was no more and we were not to make noise

My maternal grandmother presided over the house and its grounds as it were, in her special chair from the verandah. She had come to the house post the horrors of partition, seen her children married off from that house; lost her husband, my grandfather.

Had someone told me that I would see a part of my own life vanishing before my eyes before I would have thought they were joking, but today I stand testimony to vanishing history…

Memories bittersweet: summer nights were spent sleeping out in the open under the stars in cots (charpoys) covered with mosquito nets. No lights out rules- there were none to switch off; the only thing that stood between us (kids and adults who opted for this) was a 5ft high boundary wall and yes gates –which could be easily jumped over—but those were the days when people thought twice before intruding. How can I forget the gooly-gooly witch—the evil witch who resided in the well that lay towards the front and side of the property. She was used for a long time to scare the youngest member of the family –ostensibly to ensure he did not stray that way, because it was open and dangerous and he had an ever curious mind...

The grounds around the kothi rang to the sounds of merriment from cousins who gathered there every summer and winter holidays, were witness to us playing many games-seven stones, dodge-the-ball, chain, hide and seek, and later cricket, badminton and yes learning to master the bicycle.
And, not to forget the time we got chased by an angry buffalo, running desperately away from the curved horns, finally managing to clamber up to the verandah...
Today, there is only a pile of rubble left, the spacious grounds have been carved into small plots, row houses have come up and the grand beauty lost...