While growing up, we moved a lot. Recently, I visited one of such places where we stayed for a brief time. I took my children around and while narrating the stories of my younger days, I became nostalgic. There was a big ground which was still intact and I took my kids there and told my daughter “This is where mamma played when she was your age!”
“So how many friends did you have?” she quipped
“Well, around 30,” I said.
Surprised, she whirled around and exclaimed “30! That’s my whole class”
But, that is the truth!
Growing up, in this place was special to me, because I was introduced to some interesting concepts here.
There was a lady and two of her friends, who came to the ground daily and held ‘Shakhas’, loosely translated to club. Shakhas was something that I had never known and it was a completely new concept. These ladies came in every evening and asked all the children playing in the ground to come together.
For the next 2 hours it was complete fun with some learning on the way! We started off with Surya Namaskar and some other children friendly Yoga, next we learnt some small new prayers (with their meanings) and then played group outdoor games. At times we brought some snacks and shared with each other. We ended the session with some more prayers. These prayers were essentially prayers to food, to mother earth and the environment. We started off with around 10 children, but before the month was over the number was above 30. All this was done free of cost! No registration, no fees, no extra charges et.all.
What was special about them?
I learnt some important life lessons here and I will be eternally grateful to these ladies who took it upon themselves to shape our childhood. They never charged a fee nor was anyone asked their religion, caste or anything else. The idea was to bring us together and teach us some good values while having fun!
- This was completely self-governed and nobody ever told us to do x, y, z things. Even when the ladies were a bit late, one of us would start off. This taught us self-discipline.
- As all the prayers were taught with meanings we knew we were thanking the food, the earth, the environment for sustaining us! We were more attuned to others feelings, the sources that nourish and sustain us and how we cannot live without the other. We were practicing gratitude even before we knew it!
- The focus was always physical activity. Of the 2 hours, only half an hour was spent in praying and sitting the rest of the time we were playing.
- Most of the games were group games or team games! Apart from physical agility, we also learnt team work, building connections and thinking on our feet.
- There was never a distinction from those ladies in terms of gender. Every game was and could be played by every child.
Some disturbing facts that as parents we should take note
According to statistics sourced from the Indian Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism:
– Somewhere between 5.74 per cent and 8.82 per cent of schoolchildren in India are obese.
– In urban south India, 21.4 per cent boys and 18.5 per cent girls aged 13-18 are either overweight or obese.
– By 2025, India will have over 17 million obese children and stand second among 184 countries where the number of obese children are concerned, says a study published in Pediatric Obesity, an international journal.
India has one of the world’s highest rate of suicides among people aged between 15 years and 29 years.
Why I think such clubs will be helpful for children?
Children from cities are facing issues like obesity, stress and fear psychosis. There is also a resource crunch in terms of open spaces, grounds and even children to play! Even in societies that have decent stress on security, we don’t see children playing freely. The whole concept of free play is missing. Children are either playing competitive sports like cricket, basketball etc. or not playing at all! While such sports too should be encouraged, the whole idea of playing to relax your mind and body is missing. Yoga is something that is either practiced in school or only on Yoga Day. Such clubs are the perfect solution to these problems.
- With more the merrier, there is no reason for any child to sit on the bench. Every child is active and alert in community games like Lagori or Dodge ball.
- Daily Surya namaskar helps in flexibility, reducing stress and maintaining emotional health.
- With no difference in girls worthy and boys worthy games, the focus remains of physical activity and agility rather than gender.
- Such game time not only developed confidence in children, it also helps them be stress free!
- So many friends to play, means blurring the gaps and finding more people to confide in, if the child is stressed or has something on the mind.
I think community play and Yoga could be the answer for the current lifestyle disorders that our children are facing. This is something that is worrisome and needs attention, as our future generation is at stake. What are your thoughts about it? Do you think free play could be the answer or do you have any suggestions? I would love to hear them all.