Dreams: from then and now
The count to 50 was a long time, where did everyone hide?
Behind doors and under tables; behind the sofa and inside the storage room, eyes sweep the terrain and the ears pique for any sounds of movement. The count to 50 was a long time, where did everyone hide? The denner's face muscles tighten in the excitement of what's to come. Denner, the seeker, the brave lone warrior in the field ridden with sneaky, giggling comrades and enemies (what does denner mean, anyway)?
A rattle of a fallen plate signals to a lead. Yes! But seeing naani’s face there had never mustered a sigh of defeat. False alarm. Nevermind, on to the next lead.
There it is: a fluttering end of a white skirt from within the closet. Ha! The door opens to two screams: one of the seeker and the other of the white skirt clad cousin. Constant shrills of 'caught yous!’ and giggles subside into strategizing the hunt for the rest of them, now that there were two people on the seeker’s team. “You go here, I’ll go there.” And the adventure recommences.
Seeing through camouflage with toddler-years of expertise in scouting the house, the hiding spots are mostly familiar but there are always the chances of being caught off-guard. Sifting the house for infiltrators hidden in plain sight, some of them pop up and some escape. Minutes go by and now, it’s almost going to be an hour.
The aroma from the kitchen tells that naani has been making snacks. Exhilaration gives in to the suppressed exhaustion and all game is forgotten. Unwashed fingers make a grab for the hot pakoras, one of them flinches back from the sizzling heat and the rest are caught by naani’s hands and stare. A queue forms before the hand wash basin; a soapy affair followed by wiping off hands on each other’s pants and T-shirts. Now, the pakoras are just about ready to be dunked in ketchup and mint chutney and gobbled, quickly down, lest someone takes more than one’s own share.
With satiated hungers (or not), Someone points out that One Person is missing. And yet again, the hunt recommences, this time with screams and calls. Where did One Person go?
Waiting out their time, lest they be caught, One Person sits behind a pillar of broken chairs and extra plywood on the terrace from the renovations underway at naani’s house (which keeps changing every year, now). 10 minutes, 20 minutes, 30 minutes swell up into pride. One Person makes it through all odds and becomes the master of the game in their dreams as the mind, in idleness, shuts down and lulls them to sleep.
A similar dream gets lived in an apartment complex today in cities. Small spaces drive more complex strategies in seeking and scouting. The plot tightens as the crannies and nooks become narrower and smaller. Who’s hiding where? Bells get rung, aunties hassled, uncles in boxers forced to rise up from comfy couches bearing imprints of their posteriors from constant sitting and complaining. Kids run rampant. The game has moved to the next level, literally. Lifts are abandoned. What if someone’s hiding under stairs? The shrill ‘caught yous’ now resonate through the entire apartment complex echoing like an alarm. But, as one kid is called home, the sound echoes and the other calls follow and leaves behind only a few of the gang and odour of spoilsport, behind. On the 9th floor, a girl hidden behind a sparse vegetation of potted plants, a stark marker of the urban life, waits for the echoes to reach her but in her hiding has fallen asleep, being crowned the queen of hide & seek in her potted-plant dreams.