Returning home for a summer vacation in my early childhood was the best time of the year for me. I missed my mom and younger brother constantly away from home.
The dreaded summer heat of North-Western India never succeeded in keeping us indoors. We played field hockey with sticks made of tree branches. Rags rolled into spheroids, stitched together by a neighborhood “gramma” substituted as hockey balls. The homemade sports equipment easily exceeded my athletic gifts. But the uneven, dusty grounds fielded endless joy for the little kids’ ages 7-8.
When the sports equipment reached the end of life, some half an hour into the game, we seamlessly switched the sports.
Kabaddi is a game that requires no equipment, just a mud field. It’s a game of strength, speed, and endurance. An equal number of players occupy their half of the field. A single player runs into the opposing team’s field murmuring kabaddi kabaddi, intending to tag one person of the opposing team in a single breath to score. The opposing team tries to circle and hold down the player till he runs out of breath and loses a point when compelled to breathe again. It’s a sport of mud, sweat, and guts but completely enthralling.
The outdoor adventures would leave us yearning for ice cream. A hawker from a nearby village carried ice cream in an earthen pot and bartered it for potatoes and other vegetables. The afternoon toils to gather potatoes was an absolute must. Barefooted, we would scrounge the harvested potato fields looking for leftovers. The thorny needles often punctured bare feet. Gramma would skillfully retrieve the buried thorns with her sewing needle. The minor out-patient surgery often corrected the hobble in walking instantly.
Most days, we succeeded in collecting enough leftovers to barter for a slice of heavenly ice cream, a delicious end, capping a day of joy.