Saturday, March 12, 2016

Brand new Aalayam author tells all about the charm of Traditional Games!

Absorbed in Aluli Guli Mane (Mancala World) game

2016 seems to have started with a flourish and a bang. The holiday memories are long faded and relegated to a distant past. As we all struggle to achieve that happy medium of work-life, family, friends and kids, I can’t help but wonder sometimes if I am doing enough as a parent.  I am always comforted at the sight of my kids engaged in creating something (as messy as it gets afterwards!) or reading a book rather than with an IPad. Interestingly enough this year marks six years since the advent of the IPad - technology which was pretty much delivered into the laps of our babies.

Chauka Bara is a delightful throwback

I am all for Technology, Innovation and Science. I understand how this positively enhances and makes our lives so much easier; I also understand that the benefits of IPad are multi-fold. Kids obviously love them, learn new things quickly and tend to be absorbed and remain quiet while playing with them. IPads are now part of School Curriculum and are replacing textbooks. All this however, scares me a little. The fact that our kids now inhabit the virtual world more than we do. We now seem to be raising a generation of kids who are missing out on developing crucial social skills.  

Hop Scotch - or our very own Kunta Bille

I feel like our kids have forgotten how to write or enjoy a good old fashioned book. I will be the first to admit that I resort to my phone as a stress-buster or turn a blind eye when my kids have been longer on the phone or IPad than they should. 

Snake and Ladder - the traditional version

I remember some 12 years ago when my son was being raised in Bangalore (India), even regular mobile phones were a luxury and we only had a serviceable one for the family. He spent most of his waking hours exploring the neighbourhood, making friends creating crude toys with bits and pieces and generally enjoying his time out in the Sun. Our daughter born overseas was a totally different story. She could identify and sing-along to her favourite T.V characters before she turned one and she was able to nimbly swipe through games and apps before she was potty trained. The uncomfortable truth for some of us is that Technology is here to stay.

Carrom is an all time family favorite

Days when I can’t work something on my phone or my laptop, I run to my kids for help. I am happy that they are not fazed by technology as I am and can problem solve issues, if need be. However, I have to wonder sometimes, what tools I am enabling my kids with to jump-start their imagination and create a thirst to explore and invent. I sometimes go back in time to my memories when I was their age and wondered what I enjoyed the most. 

The gorgeous colors are a draw in itself

I remembered the endless days when we played kuntu –bille, Aeroplane or hop-scotch for some of you on the streets and spent hours scrounging construction sites for a perfectly smooth stone for the game. I remember how I spent a whole summer with my brother and cousins in the backyard trying to create scented erasers from pencil shavings and a rubber plant tree. 

I also remember how we scraped tamarind seeds (left over from mum’s cooking) to play Ali Guli Mane (Mancala World), Chawka Bara (Race game) with traditional bronze dices, Carom board and of course our all-time favourite Snakes and Ladders with a twist -  because back in the days some of them came as Ramayana and Mahabharata board games.

After all that reminiscing it was exciting to find some modern version of these games available at Ikea.  I am very thrilled to try these board games with my kids and re-live a bit of my carefree childhood days with them. My kids also came with an innovate idea to make the hop-scotch game work for them. They decided to paint some of our paved area to make up this game. 

This means a run into the local paint shop squabbling over colours and brushes and the dramas and some tears that I already anticipate; but I am quietly excited. This means another weekend where they will not feel the urge to resort to IPads to deal with boredom. I know that they will eventually tire out of these games. But I find that the challenge will be to just keep one step ahead of them and keep them guessing and keep them busy. As one mum rightly said – my child will take all of 5 mins to master the IPad but for me it’s important that she has memories of riding a bike, playing with her friends, getting messy, having fun and just enjoying herself. 

Indian version of Chess!

They don’t understand yet, but we are helping them create fabulous memories of their happy days that they can go back to when they are all grown up, that can hug them like a warm blanket on a cold winter day.


And here's a sneak peek into who I am: A mom, a fashionista, a career woman, and a newly minted blogger. Excited to be part of the Aalayam family.


  1. Dear Smitha, What a lovely posting--it is so encouraging to know that there are some parents out there who are actually making conscious choices to bring a sense of balance to their children in our high tech world. You are giving them choices for their futures. Perhaps these are the new artists and visionaries who will bring balance, creativity and understanding to our future world.

    1. Hi - thank you so much for your beautiful and encouraging words. They are so encouraging and validating. I have always felt strongly about kids spending their time exploring and creating things! I can't remember a single day growing up when I wanted to spend time in front of the television all day. The challenges of new age parents are high as we have to reason with highly intelligent kids. However, I believe we are doing well and hopefully getting there, one day at a time.

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  3. Beautifully written, brought back so many memories. My daughter even though she was born in US, she always had a thing for aluguli mane and choka baara. She loves them even now, my MIL got a custom made choka baara mat from one of her bright cotton sarees with a zari border. We treasure it!

    1. What a treasure and how innovative! I cant wait to try that myself. Thank you again for reading my article and providing your feedback and your idea. This is what we all need creative ideas and inspiration to bounce of each other all the time :)

  4. Beautiful blog and beautiful pictures. I'm hooked!


    1. Thank you Krishna!I am only a first time writer so I am very humbled by your feedback. Thanks again for visiting this blog and reading my article.

  5. Smitha Your Looking Beautiful and Your post are really Awesome.


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