Chauburji The other day, a young man who works as a domestic help and hails from the valley below our house, asked my better half if he could visit his mother. Since, the weather was foul and it was raining, my wife asked him to take an umbrella and keep dry lest he catch a cold. A couple of hours later, I espied the lad climbing up the mountain path soaked to the skin, with the furled umbrella under his arm. The happy grin on his face stopped me from expressing my annoyance, for before me I saw not a quiet young man, but a child playing in the rain. This episode sent me on a quest and I soon found what I was looking for in my hopelessly cluttered study - a piece of crumpled paper with some scribbled verses that had come to me in moment of nostalgic inspiration: I seek an answer to the question of why; None play, neither frolic, laugh nor show glee. The child that we once were, weve fettered within; No house is a home if this child is not free. Oh, where are those evenings, the laughter and jests; Oh where are the fairy tales that gladdened young breasts. Lost now is the gullee, who has purloined the dor; Why do none break the pithoo and run anymore. As I read these lines, I was transported to a forgotten world where the Lahori children and adults merged into one. A downpour would find white whiskered grandparents, making paper boats for the little ones by deftly folding and refolding sheets of paper. The best of these masterpieces used to be what we reverently called a jahaz or ship, complete with a single funnel. Tiny hands would then send these craft floating down storm drains or skimming across large puddles in races that were lustily cheered by both young and old. These were the days when pithoo garam was the king of all games, played by old and young, male and female. Using a well aimed rubber ball, a team member would endeavour to hit a stack of terracotta shards called the pithoo. As the stack scattered, the player became a fair and moving target for the others using the same ball, till such time that he or she managed to victoriously stack the pieces once again without being hit. Then there was the infamous Gulli Danda. Infamous as it had the potential to cause a painful bruise if struck on the face, the shin or the ankle. The gulli was a tapered wooden object about three or four inches long, while the danda was exactly as its name implied, a thick two feet long stick. The game began with a raa or raab, with the gulli placed across a shallow indentation scraped out of the ground called a khutti. It was then tossed as far as possible using the danda as a lever. If it was caught by the other players, the tosser was out, but if not, then it had to be retrieved by other players and aimed at the danda, which was placed on the khutti. If the aim was true then again it was an 'out and if it missed, then it was time for a tulla wherein the gulli was struck vertically on one tapered end with the danda, making it spin off the ground and then side swiped in the air in a baseball like action and so on. Gaily coloured kite string or dor was used for the purpose of flying a kite, but it was also used in a game that children played since much before our times. A kaati contest was characterised by two competitors tying small stones to a length of this string and casting them at each other. The intertwined kaatis were then deftly pulled and manipulated till one was severed. And then there were the luttoos or tops. Gaily coloured and coming in different sizes. A circle was drawn on the ground or hard floor and tops were deftly cast from a standing position inside the circle so as to spin and push others out. The last top standing and spinning was the winner. The master top maker in Lahore was a red headed craftsman called Taj Din, who ran his business from a khoka on Lawrence Road, and ownership of a top made by him was considered to be status symbol. The advent of the video game killed the old traditional childrens pastimes that lent a flavour to the streets and parks of Lahore. We allowed this to happen, but maybe if we unfetter the child within us, we can on a cool cloud covered day once again enjoy a game of pithoo garam. The writer is a freelance columnist.