We came running home from school only to throw our bags from the yard into a dark pit behind the door. There were no school uniforms. Our meeting place was the front yard of an abandoned house, which was the most spacious place in the village.
All children used to huddle in that yard for our favourite pastimes. Some girls would steal ropes from the tame cows to create a swing. Some boys collected tobacco tins discarded by their fathers. They were used to play rice-cooking games. If there were a lot of children, then we would play the handkerchief-hiding game. If we were only two or three, then we would play marbles and hopscotch.
When we didn’t have anything, we played the pumpkin and cucumber game, in which a king sent his army to collect cucumbers and pumpkins for his wedding. The army would come and press our heads − we turned into cucumbers and pumpkins − to see if they were ripe while we remained seated. When they pressed, the most rigid one would be raw and the most flexible one ripe. They would then grab the hands of the ripe pumpkin.
In a game called gambol, we fetched old socks from home and made balls out of them by stuffing pieces of old cloth, paper and grass. The ball was used to knock down a stack of stones placed at a distance. The person who hits the stack would have a team to rearrange it fully before being hit (killed) by a ball from the opponent. On long holidays, we had to finish our assignments given by the teachers before we went out to play every day. Sometimes, we made excuses of having lost our pencils not to do our home-work.
We would also cut the kyattuke (a type of jute-like plant in the hills) leaves to make a comfortable seat for sliding. We used to ascend a barren hill and slide joyfully down on the seat. We liked experimenting. We ran through the jungles searching for golden raspberry and kafal fruits (Myrica esculenta). Sometimes we started a fire in the wild and at other times we swam in a muddy pond, together with the wallowing buffaloes, only to get scabies all over our bodies. We stole oranges from the neighbourhood in a sack, hid it in the attic and stealthily ate for weeks.
We terrified aunties and sisters along the way by hiding ourselves in the bamboo groves. For every misdemeanor we did, there, however, used to be a whistleblower. That means, as children, we couldn’t keep things secret for long.
A version of this article appears in print on March 24, 2020 of The Himalayan Times.