Times have changed. When I look at children busy playing unintelligent games on computer and mobile-phones, I can’t help but feel sorry for this generation. I recall the kind of games we played as children and, later, as teenagers. While we invented our own games, sometimes with the guidance of elders, the new generation gets to take a pick from never-ending choices on the Internet, or play online.
The seminal years of my generation were filled with learning of many types by exposure. We liked to read novels. Apart from academics and conventional reading, we were also encouraged to read anything in the languages we knew. I remember that my father would pick up the Hindi daily before the English one. He encouraged us to read the vernaculars as well. The penchant for reading almost became an obsession, a mania. We became intensely aware of all the reading material around us, bizarre as it may sound, including the signs, air tickets, boarding passes, invitation cards, reservation cards, et al. Spotting spelling-and-syntax errors metamorphosed into an exciting game of sorts. Scores were maintained in the back pages of old registers and there were rewards at regular intervals.
There were times we’d compose limericks or translate Bollywood songs into English, just for laughs. We would quiz each other on the books and comics we had read, and copy down quotable quotes. It improved our language and communication skills.
After we got good at these basic games, we moved on to solving daily crosswords, scrutinising anagrams and breaking codes. Word-building, scrabble and puzzles were an integral part of our mental diet. Some of us even created mind-boggling puzzles and games that we copied out laboriously using carbon paper and circulated during birthday parties.
Summer breaks were spent memorising world’s capital cities, currencies and other trivia that ended up in a quiz involving teams picked from neighbourhood. Scientific research has established that playing word games and solving crosswords is a valuable mental exercise to keep dementia and Alzheimer’s at bay.
Today, a plethora of mind games are available at the click of a button. If more and more people across different age groups take to playing these while toggling with their gadgets, they’ll be doing a great service to self. My maternal grandmother just texted me the other day: “I’ve reached level 31 in ‘Words with Friends’, boo-yah!” I better catch up.
The writer is a freelance journalist based in Chandigarh