I was on my way back home from college when my father called me and told me that there was a family function we had to attend. He said he would pick me up from where I was. So, I gave him my location, which was a minute inward from the Shantinagar gate, by the community ground. He said we would leave right away to my aunt’s.
As I arrived to the ground, I made myself comfortable near the sidelines, towards the outer corner where the dust and smoke from the vehicles wouldn’t reach me. I figured I was going to be there for a while as father mentioned something about the traffic. The dusk was rising and the soft ringing of prayer bells could be heard at a distance. A lot of people were walking here and about the street with their shopping bags, ranting to each other about their day, how it felt like there were three suns in the sky and how they hated the politics in Nepal. In the ground, there were a bunch of kids, aged 6–14 playing their own childish games. I figured re-living my childhood through their innocent games was a better way of spending my time there. At first, they were all just screaming and running around, poking each other; the little ones that were on my right. On my left were the older kids, playing football with a ball too small to be called a football. Their imaginary goalpost was not anywhere near my side so, I didn’t have to be constantly aware of the ball hitting my head. I observed the kids on my right more closely. Small, innocent, awfully loud and above all, a happy bunch. There were five of them- two boys and three girls. Two among them (a boy (older) and a girl) were siblings, it appeared.
“Let’s play house”, one of them said. All agreed. The ‘house’ I used to play as a kid was quite different to theirs. In my version of the game, we used to share one house and divide roles. Sometimes we had neighbors from different houses, or even patients and students for that matter, if we were playing ‘doctor’ or ‘school’ version of the ‘house’. But, theirs’ was something else. Each player had to own a different house, and the interaction among them was maintained through some sort of trade or alliance according to the type of house they owned. I couldn’t understand the full concept of the game but, I continued observing.
I liked how organized they were, that they should decide upon boundaries and site preference before starting with the game. I reckoned that wasn’t the first time they played ‘house’ together. The oldest girl among them started by sketching their game play area on the ground with a brick piece when she bumped into an older kid playing chungi with his companions.
“Go away! We are playing here” he snapped.
The girl was obedient and she wrapped up her game play area within a smaller space than she intended to. I understood that it wasn’t the first time they came across those chungi playing boys.
So the arena was built. In the meantime, the other kids were collecting pebbles and leaves for the next phase of the game. Then, the girl started sketching boxes within the arena- five houses for five players. As she was proceeding, trying her best to maintain uniformity in size of each box, the last one seemed to be a little smaller than the others; quite small in fact when seen from the most convenient angle. Strictly speaking, none of the houses were uniform in size. It almost appeared as if it was intended. In order to save time and effort required to re-sketch the houses, she didn’t make any changes and called her mates in the arena, stating that the building work was done. They all saw the houses and seemed not to notice, or rather, not pay attention to the size.
Then, the engineer girl, pointing towards the largest box in the arena, stated with authority: “Because I created the arena, I get to choose first. So I choose this one… ”. She then wrote her name on it. A feeling of uneasiness was seen in the eyes of the other kids.
“I am not going to live in this small house.” said one of the boys, pointing towards the smallest box with his leg, “I will stay in the central house and govern everyone”.
“No that’s not fair.” Cried the older of the sibling. “Why do you always get to own the central house.”
“Because I can!” the earlier boy snapped.
“I will take this one” the second girl cried in haste and hurriedly wrote her name in the house largest among the remaining three.
“This is not fair! We are left with the smallest houses again” he said again with a wimpy voice.
Irritated, the engineer girl started to calm him down saying that his house was as big as the central house and that it was only fair that his sister’s house be small as she was the smallest among them.
“Yeah! Small people don’t need big houses” asserted the second girl.
The third girl, the smallest of the bunch, who was silent till then, looked at her brother’s eyes with sadness. “Why always us?” she meant to ask but she couldn’t. The brother grew ferocious towards this day-to-day unfair treatment. He could look at his little sister’s eyes in shame, no longer. A revolution was to be brought either with silence or with violence. Sadly, he chose violence. In a snap of a second he threw all his pebbles right at the central house and hastily erased the boundaries of all the houses he could get till the others stopped him.
“What are you doing?” cried the engineer, blocking his way towards the colony. “I made that!”
“There, and I erased it. ”, he replied.
“You can’t do that! As your punishment, you will still not get the central house. It belongs to me.” said the other boy.
“If that’s the case then, I want the two biggest houses for me and my sister.”
“I doubt that will happen.” snapped the engineer. “No one will listen to the wimps of a brat. You need to start respecting the ones older than you.”
“You always do that!” said the second girl, mustering up all her courage to oppose the tyranny. “You say you are the oldest here and get away with everything.”
“No I don’t.” She replied.
“Enough!” The youngest girl finally spoke. “I think we all should make our own houses and there should not be any central house.”
“No! Only one person should be building the houses. Else, everything will be messed up” the engineer proceeded with a louder voice.
“Well, no one shares your opinion!” The leader of the revolution spoke the truth. Everyone was excited by the thought of building their own houses. Even the boy who always got the central house turned his back on the past leader.
Now, it was not the matter of ‘choice’. It was the matter of ‘speed’ of securing enough space to build a house. They all got themselves a piece of brick and an idea in mind. All of them started together but this time, the sibling team had an advantage, for they together secured a single large piece of land and planned to divide it in two. The others protested, saying that they had an unfair advantage, but the sibling team now confident and powerful, strongly asserted that they were free to form an alliance and do whatever they wanted with the land they owned.
Insolent with confidence in his strategy, the older boy decided to treat himself with a larger piece of land than his sister. And when his sister inquired with fury about that mistreatment, he said it was due to his idea that they were able to capture a large piece of land. That answer was not satisfying for her, so the siblings began to quarrel among themselves. The brother agreed to give up a little of his part of his land but, it wasn’t sufficient for her. She wanted an equal share which, by no means was agreeable to her brother. At last, he said something that probably was the last sentence she expected to hear from him.
“Sneha, I am older than you. It’s only right that I own a bigger piece of land.”
That was it. She could take it from everyone except her own brother. Seeing that he was corrupted with greed for land, she gave him a strong push on his chest and ran away in tears. He fell down. But, he knew better than to go after her.
His work was made easy. Or, so he thought. With only the four players remaining, the other boy suggested that his share of the land should be cut off as the number of players were reduced. When the cruel brother didn’t agree, he pushed him in anger and erased his land boundary. That was certainly a call for war. The two boys started fighting each other within the arena. On the course of their fighting, one of them mistakenly erased the second girl’s land boundary. Disgusted by their behavior, she cursed both of them.
“Shut up you blackie” was all she got in return. She hit one of them hard in the head, not knowing whom.
“Stop it all of you” cried the engineer at last. “The game will be ruined”
“It is already ruined.” Replied one of the boys as they stopped fighting and began parting ways.
“Yeah! Play alone” said the second girl.
Just about then, I got a call from my father. He was already there on the other side of the ground. So, I got up to leave.
“Hey! I brought the ball…the older guys already left. Look” cried another kid. I turned back and noticed that the boys playing football earlier weren’t there.
“Let’s play football” He cried again.
The other kids ran towards him in excitement.
A version of this article appears on our Medium Page.
First Published on Jun 14, 2017.