Freedom from Gadgets: An evening of joy, thrill and excitement

Dr. Navniit Gandhi; Photo: Anwar Sadath Thalassery
Sunday, March 24, 2019 and Indian Women in Kuwait - IWIK, in association with Gurukul, decided to take a unique initiative and organized for the Indian community a day on which our kids could be introduced to a large number of games which were traditionally played in India; games which involve minimum fuss and expense and yet the returns are immense in terms of the sheer joy and involvement of the mind. It was to communicate this simple message that: ‘the entire family can have fun indoors, with little or no cost and with lots of benefit for the growing minds of the kids’, that this program— Freedom From Gadgets was held on Friday, 22nd March at the Gurukul, Salmiya from 2pm till 8pm.

It was a rare and amazing sight. Have you, in the past 7-8 years or so, seen hundreds of kids and their parents gathered at one place, and none of them glued to their mobile phones? None of the heads were bent low while peering over a machine; the kids were not slouching over some game on the mobile and the eyes not mindlessly gaping at a screen.

The program was sponsored by Al Muzaini Exchange Company, and it is with the joint endeavours of the staff of and Gurukul and the volunteers from the community, that this massive program turned out to be a roaring success. There was neither any entry fee and nor any fee to learn and play any of the games. Dedicated volunteers sat and patiently taught the kids the various rules and techniques of the games. The games which were introduced to the kids were: Daadi, Brainvita, Ashta Chamma, Pallamkuzhi, Aadu Puli (tiger and goat game), Gutte, Hopscotch, Carom, Scrabble, Skipping, Spinning Top, Origami, Drawing, Chess, Marbles, and Cards.

There was an atmosphere of sheer joy and delight, as hundreds of kids ran, glided and hopped with delight, enjoying lollipops which they were given on demonstrating their prowess at any of the game stalls. The kids were happy; they were free and at the same time, they remained glued to the chess boards or the carom boards or to the Pallankuzi or Brainvita and to scores of other games aimed at sharpening the mind.

For the parents too, it was a trip down the memory lane, as hundreds of parents were visibly excited at spotting the games which they had played with their parents, friends and grandparents but had not had the chance to play them for several years or even to introduce their kids to them. A six-year old's mother was seen beaming with joy, even as she demonstrated to her daughter her extraordinary excellence in playing Gutte. The daughter stood staring unbelievably at the deft movements of her mother and the excitement on her face. "I am feeling so very nostalgic and re-living the precious moments when my grandmother and I used to play Pallamkuzhi for hours together. She taught me this (Gutte) art too of balancing with five stones. Thank you so much for this experience in Kuwait," said the mother. Like her, many other mothers could be seen skipping and playing Hopscotch and Gutte with a child-like delight on their faces, even as fathers were seen wanting to prove that they had not lost their acumen for Marbles and the spinning Top. The parents profusely thanked the organisers for having taken this one-of-a-kind initiative. The kids were seen so happily engrossed in the various games, that not only were they free from gadgets for the entire duration, but even otherwise, there were hardly any scenes of throwing tantrums or getting bored or crying over some thing or the other. In fact, the kids were plainly reluctant to get away from the game stalls even as the closing hour approached. Said one parent very earnestly to one of the organizers: "Why don't you please organize such an event every Friday? It is such a rare sight to see them so happy and playful, and also a rare Friday for us--when we too are doing something other than shopping and eating out."

Plato, the Greek philosopher has stated such an interesting truth: “You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than you can in a year of conversation.” And, Yes! Children, although, are born with this innate wisdom that learning and playing do not mean different things and that they are synonymous with life itself, but it is we who rob them of this innocence and wisdom and replace all of that with our stern ideas and thoughts. As soon as a toddler is up and about, he or she just wants to play. Those of us who let them remain occupied in play from their early years on, can see the sheer joy and bloom on their faces and in their very being—even when they grow up. However, most of us set limits of time and compartmentalize learning and playing.

Those of us who let the fire burn, can witness the gleaming precious gems that our kids turn out to be. But, alas!! Those of us who extinguish the fire, by punishing our kids for playing too much or by placing a machine; a gadget in the tender hands at a young age, will have to see the wilting away of the buds before they have bloomed. Albert Einstein had said that play is the highest form of research but unfortunately, we look at play as something separate from the other important things in life and allow our children to play when a certain number of tasks and assignments and chores are finished.

Our kids are naturally meant to be physically exerting their bodies… they are supposed to be jumping ropes, cycling, building forts, running and hiding and seeking. However, here in Kuwait, one deterrent is the weather and the second is that in very few buildings and complexes, there is this norm that kids gather down every evening and play. The kids get restless and so do the parents. Gadgets then prove to be handy and convenient. Buy and hand the kid a PS or a Pad and all is solved!!! The kids are happy and so are the parents. However, it is not a win-win situation as we think it to be. The ugly consequences of kids playing with the mobile phones and other gadgets are gradually coming to the fore.

We have taken a step in the right direction. Now, the onus rests on the parents. If you wish to watch them grow healthier, happier and wiser---play with them and watch with glee as they bloom.

Though the person is anonymous but he or she said something very wise: “Children don’t need more things. The best toy children can have is a parent who gets down on the floor and plays with them.”

It was truly a fun-filled day… a day when and the kids joyously celebrated Freedom From Gadgets!!!

Dr. Navniit Gandhi is an academic, a feature writer and an author. Her publications include several academic papers presented at National and International conferences/seminars, nearly 250 feature articles in magazines, newspapers, and on web portals, two e-booklets and seven Books. Presently, she teaches at Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) and counsels and conducts training workshops at Gurukul, Kuwait.
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