Oscar Nominations for Dumb-Charades

There are many games that appeal to people of all age groups, but our favorite by far is Dumb-Charades.  This stellar game asks for nothing other than enacting the title out. The grandparents are given movie names in Tamil to enact, the children are given children’s books and movies, and a good time is had by all.

Usually, one of us gives the movie name to mime, and that person refrains from guessing the title.

We started off with Disney Pixar titles for the elementary school aged son. I have noticed how boys in that age group generally play the game.  Never mind if the movie was called ‘Slumbering Sloths’. If in the movie, there was a 5 second scene showing the sloths thundering against each other and charging, that is what they would mime. Most trying on the audience the whole thing is.

We all suffered in the same keen way when the son started miming. To make matters worse,  he said he would select a movie on his own (I will think of a movie in my mind by myself). This meant that there was not a single other person in the room who knew what the movie title was.

I would have liked to capture the whole thing on video, but we were so mystified and desperate to find the real name, that it hardly occurred to any of us to tape the thing. He ran around the living room that had a clunky tea table in the center and tumbled out of sight.

We looked at each other quizzically. Spiderman?
He shook his head, smiled and ran fast around the table again before tumbling out of sight.

Superman!
No! He looked crestfallen that his superb miming was getting him nowhere. He pointed at his chest and ran fast and tumbled again. If not for the carpet, the child might’ve hurt himself. Usually, his sister comes to our rescue for the pair of them flit between each other’s imaginary worlds quite easily, but this time she too looked perplexed.

“Try something different this time.”, she told him. He perked up at this suggestion and ran around the table once again and tumbled thrice before sitting up beaming.

The psyche of the group by this time was worth noting. The actor was fatigued and wondering whether the audience, much as he loved them, had any dramatic sense at all. Might a few broad hints help to prod the dim group along?

The spot under the table looked spotless now, and we were no closer to guessing the movie name. The audience was insistent on not letting Superheroes rest. Superman, Spiderman, Captain America, Batman, Transformers, Flash (from Incredibles) had all come and gone.

superheroes.jpg

“No Superheroes!”, he said finally speaking up, and thus leaving us completely clueless. With superheroes, there was a chance we could find the right fellow eventually, but this was like being told there are no oases in the desert. None.

We looked imploringly at the daughter, and she finally asked him to confide the title in her, so she could help him out. Clearly, we weren’t quite up to par in the brain department. He agreed, pulled her out of the room in exaggerated gestures, and told her the title. She came back laughing to split, and said she was going to have some more fun watching us figure this one out, now that she knew how easy it was.

Now Really!

You think you’d get a break given all that we do for these children. I gave her a disappointed look, and she said, ‘Believe me, you will like my sense of humor once you find out the name of the movie.”

After 2 more attempts, she relented seeing the looks of dumb anguish on our faces, and told him, “Bobbicles, do what we talked about inside.”
The little fellow looked stung. “But, I told you! They don’t do that in the movies.”
“I know, I know. But they may guess the actual word at least even if they do not do that in the movies.”
“Fine! “, said the artiste making it plain that he usually did not dilute his high standards for the sake of the audience, but was doing so this time. .

He put on a face that showed so much disappointment that we felt quite cowed. Finally, he used his hands to mime a steering wheel of a car.

Cars!” we yelled.
“No!” he said.

The daughter was clutching her sides and cackling with laughter and said, “Stop! Stop! It is Cars….but what Cars?”

Cars 2?
No
Cars 3?
YES! said the little fellow wiping his brow.

cars-lightning.jpeg

We asked him why he simply did not show the steering wheel to start with, to which he said, “But in the Cars movies, they don’t use the steering wheels to drive!  They just drive. I was showing you how Lightning McQueen races around the track, and then has an akiscent (accident) and tumbles! Amma – you should know that. Remember you said, Oh! Poor Lightning! when we were watching the movie?”

Cars_2006.jpg
—-
He showed us his Mappy face, which is a sort of grimace containing both mad and happy expressions rolled into one. I took my reprimand with grace, high-fived the fellow and instituted a new rule: One cannot think of their own titles to mime. At least one other person in the room should be able to help if need be.

Madagascar”, I whispered to the daughter when it was her turn. Laughing at us for Cars 3 are we? That should fix her.

“Oh come on! I expected Appa to give me something like that. Not you!” she said pulling an emotional toss with ease.

She tried waddling like Penguins and everyone shouted ‘Emperor Penguins!” to which she glared and showed, “1 word!”
Finally, she split the word into 3 portions:
For the 3rd part, she pointed to her brother, ran around the table and tried tumbling out of sight.
Cars! The triumphant audience yelled.
Mimed a fart for gas (really sometimes I wish these children would be a tad bit more classy)
Gas!
Her brother’s mappy (mad+happy) face
Mad?
Madagascar?

madagascar.jpg

Car & Gas indeed!
“No more Oscar nominations tonight!” we said. I don’t think we could have handled anymore.

 

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Mum At Mafia

As the sun set, and the frogs came leaping out in the wilderness, a cabin in Mt Shasta was feeling the throb of excitement. Frogs leapt outside, people leapt inside. Frogs croaked outside, people sang inside. The grandfather, Thaatha, and grandmother, Paati, were told that they do not get to watch their Tamil television that night, and to set aside the time for games. All drama tonight was to be live.

shasta-lake

The family was sitting around the dinner table and feverishly discussing the evening game session. No trip is complete without game nights, and a sense of thrill rent the air. Ice-cream had been bought and stowed away for a mid-game snack, post-dinner cleaning activities were looked upon as if it was normal for everyone to pitch in, so we could all start playing. (Maybe I should introduce game nights on a regular basis to get such willing help.)

The topic under discussion was the best game to lead with.
Monopoly? (Groan from me)
Uno? (Groan from the girls)
Chess? (Only 2 players)
Puzzle? (Groan from everyone)

“Keep eating and talking so that we can get a move on.”, I said, and everyone sincerely spooned some food into their mouths.

The father-in-law, meanwhile, was communicating with the love of his life (not the iPad, his wife). He looked like he was attempting the mamba dance without music or footwork, and we looked on curiously knowing fully well what was going to happen.

He pointed vigorously at the rice and then at his plate. The rice and the plate. The love of his life burst forth and said, “Why don’t you use your god-given tongue? Why point at the rice?! What if I don’t see? Next time, I am going to take my plate and sit outside on the porch, let’s see what you will do then!”
The son said, “There are frogs outside now Paati.”
The whole table burst out laughing, and the little fellow did not understand why his technically correct statement was this funny. His loving older sister patted his head and said, “Oh! Bobbicles! Bobbicles!”
The father-in-law was still pointing at the r, and the p.
To my mind, what was more telling was the fact that he was pointing at the rice, and then at his plate, as if the rice has been deposited elsewhere before, but we do not delve into their romantic demons, and I passed him the rice.

“Why not start the game session with Dumb-charades?”, I said. “It is a game your grandfather will excel at because he talks so little, and we can all have a good time.”

There was a lot of enthusiastic nodding for Dumb-C when the daughter and husband said together, “Or how about Mafia?”

A thumping approval met with this suggestion, and the rules of the game were being explained to the grandparents in a flow of fluent Tamil & English. (“Tell panna koodathu. Find pannanum. Save pannanum. Who is the mafia find pannanum.”) The Tamglish Grammar rules is a blog post that is simply waiting to be done in the Indian-American context.

We sat around with cards explaining the role of the Investigator, the Civilians, the Mafia & the Angel. In larger groups, this gets harder to do, but in our group size, there was only 1 designated Mafia.
The rules we used were simple:

  • The Mafia chooses one person to kill.
  • The Angel is given a chance to save one person.
  • The Investigator tries to find who the Mafia is.
  • The rest are Civilians.
  • If the Mafia is caught or if the Angel saved the killed person, the person identified by the Mafia continues to live.

No words are spoken, people open their eyes when called upon and point fingers to identify who is who.

“Thaatha is going to ace the game! Finally a game where he doesn’t have to speak, and be happy about it!” said the grandchildren, and their grandfather gave them one of his coy smiles and settled down in his armchair.

mafia

With me so far? Good. No speaking.

I got to tell you, just when you tell folks not to do something, they find the overwhelming need to do exactly that.

The daughter was the Narrator, and she started the proceedings with Tamil sErial style background music.

Investigator, open your eyes.” The Investigator did.
Mafia, open your eyes.” The father-in-law was the Mafia.
Who would you like to kill?
“I will kill your Paati. “ he said using the voice that should’ve helped him get the rice without any tension if he had simply used it then.
“Everyone open your eyes! Thaatha! You want to kill your wife, this is your chance to do it quietly. Not tell everyone!” said the granddaughter giving him marital advice with glee.

The laughter ricocheted around the room, and a few frogs outside leapt away from the window. From them on, every time you expected Thaatha to keep mum during Mafia, he was listening to his wife’s advice on using his tongue, and it provided for great hilarity.

Coming up next: Dumb-Charades.

Would You Rather?

On a recent trip, we were caught up in a snow storm. Fresh from the battering of the storms, as we drove through the pouring rain in the gathering darkness, I sat looking out the window when the husband turned and looked at me.  Have I told you about the husband giving me work to do? I must have. It is a common enough gripe in the car. If you peer into the car as we tootle along somewhere, you will see the daughter lolling around in the back seat with a pillow, several books, a quilt in the winter etc – (Queens in their palanquins could not have lolled in such comfort), the son looking out the window unnecessarily excited by those trucks carrying precariously perched cars, and self trying to soak in the passing scenery if the husband is driving.

The husband, far from contenting himself to driving, feels the need ‘occupy’ our time. We have tried telling him that we don’t need to be entertained, and that we are quite happy left to our own muses during the car-ride, but that does not seem to deter him.  You see, I do not enjoy checking the route to see whether the road ahead shows a red stretch on the Google maps app. If there is heavy traffic, it will be red being my sagacious view of the thing. What can one do about it? But the husband demurs. He wants me to check if there is red ahead, what alternate routes we could take if there is a red ahead, for how long does the red stretch – is it like a quick spot of kumkum worn to appease a priest or the devout kind that streaks the entire span of the forehead parting like in Tamil serials? Is there also a touch of the turmeric before and after the red? (Baboons in Tamil Serials)

haldi_kumkum

The skies had turned into an inky blue and the dark grey clouds hung heavily over us as the rain pelted down at us. The traffic ahead slowed down a little bit and the brake lights glowed red against the dark skies. The husband looked at me, I avoided his gaze and said with aplomb. How about we all play the Would-You-Rather game? We had just learned of the game from our friends and this seemed as good a time as any to try.

Would-You-Rather check the traffic or play a game?

Would-You-Rather is a sterling game in which one asks questions such as :

Would-You-Rather be (Rich & Unknown) or (Poor & Famous)?

Would-You-Rather be Hunted or be a Hunter?

Would-You-Rather be a Teacup or the Tea?

When played with the right set of questions, it can be quite a stimulating game, since it really makes one think.  Some of the questions were creative and some humdrum, but it was interesting to see the range of questions.

The daughter’s were creative and sometimes invoked magic.

Would-You-Rather  be a famous scientist who invented the most powerful thing that can destroy life, or be an unknown scientist who increased food production?

Just when you beamed at her and felt like it was a good-question, she’d say:

Would-You-Rather  be on a hill with unicorns or in a city with pixies?

Since we had been crawling through snow and getting through mountain passes, the bulk of the little son’s questions had cars, snow, super-heroes (super-heroes are always there!)

Would-You-Rather  be a car or a snowflake?

Would-You-Rather  be Spiderman or Lightning McQueen?

Would-You-Rather be a car in the snow or a car in the rain?

Parents true to form can never really pass up any opportunity, and so ours had science, history, economics or magic:

Would-You-Rather  be a windmill or a solar panel?

Would-You-Rather  be Tinker Bell or Fawn (Engineer or Zoologist basically)

Would-You-Rather  be a Woman in Today’s Age or a Man in the Golden Age of the Gupta period?

would-you-rather

Most questions segued (segwayed) into interesting discussions and we were rather enjoying ourselves. Maybe I looked too relaxed in the passenger seat, for the husband’s angel tapped him on the shoulder and reminded him of his stern duty to give me work. He glanced at me in that swift appraising fashion that I know spells trouble for me. ‘Look up some questions on the internet to see what they’ve got.’  he said, and I moaned.

“What is wrong with the set of questions we have now eh?’ I asked heatedly. ‘Here we are having a perfectly good time and you want me to see what the great folks on the internet with their bulbous brains have for the game.’

‘Just check – maybe there are some really good ones in there.’

So, I checked and this is what I got.

fullsizerender

Would you rather snort into toilet-paper or tissues – my foot! That should teach us that the internet is only as good as our weakest link.

The Would-You-Rather is a jolly good game to play in the New Year as we are being pressured into taking New Year resolutions.

Would-You-Rather try to fix some aspect of your personality that is bothering you, or learn something new?

Would-You-Rather resolve to exercise more or improve your well-being

Would-You-Rather Dance or Run?

Would-You-Rather learn to entertain yourself or be entertained?

What Would You Rather Do or Not Do?

Scoff at Coffee Or Chess With a Super-Hero?

This winter has been a time of amazing road trips:

Dodo, Dragon, Dinosaur Dis-apparitions
In Boysenberry Jelly & Mistletoe Jam
The Wind, The Snow & The Rain – Part 1
Weaving The Sequins Of Time
The Curious Curvy Trees
The Salons of Bodie

With all the excitement of the trips and the experiences therein, there is also the time in the car. Audio books and songs compete for time with games in the car. Playing games with children is an experience unto itself. Peacekeeping forces are deployed every now and then, council meetings to determine rules and regulations, are required. Who said the family isn’t a mini-government unto itself? In spite of all this, hiccups arise in the most unexpected quarters.

I remember the time we were playing hangman. I was wondering what the words were and how I was getting them all wrong before I realized that for playing hangman properly one needs to know the spelling of the words, and foneticaly speaking, that is a very different game for kindergarteners.

‘Let me give you a hint’, the toddler son said one day as I was waiting for a cup of coffee en-route to somewhere. He was trying his best to mask his frustration, since my A, E, S and I, had all gone to nearly hang the man. He then coughed and sputtered and then beamed up at me expectantly. Could that be C-O-U-G-H?

‘O?’

‘Yes! Very good amma,’ he said and added O at the second place. I was frazzled. He had 4 dashes laid out. What could mean ‘Cough’, but be spelt with 4 letters?

C? I got another very-good, and after that nothing. The G finally got the man’s throat and he gasped and croaked. After another few trying minutes, in which the brain felt fairly rattled, the fellow wrote C-O-F-F.  Cough, see? He beamed rather freely at this, and the doting tween sister of his scoffed and ruffled his hair.

‘Scoff all you want, but cough up the dough for my coffee. ‘, I said to my unappreciative audience as I went to get my fortifying cup of coffee.

‘Would You Rather Coff Or Have Coffee? Get it?’,  said the daughter and I rolled my eyes.

I was reminded yet again of a charming book written by Miss Read. The book, Farewell to Fairacre,  written by Dora Saint,  is based in the imaginary village of Fairacre in the English countryside. The protagonist and narrator, Miss Read, taught at the village school, and said of her children.

‘More worldly children require computers and video games to occupy themselves, but the children of Fairacre are quite happily engaged with paper and pencils’

playing_games

I am glad we are able to derive our pleasures in simple ways still.

Then of course, if ever anyone wants to see how Rajinikanth plays Chess, you can come by and watch the toddler play chess with his imaginary friend when bored. If one has watched the old Tamil movies, one knows how villains attack Cinema heroes. The villains would stand around the hero. Cornered. See? Then, they’d go on to scowl, growl, grimace and crack their knuckles on the sidelines, touching their bald heads, caressing their unshaven beards and glaring like tigers given melons for lunch.

The hero stands there sizing them up and then one fellow comes and aah! He gets beaten up in a giffy. You’d think that would knock some sense into the remaining goonda pakodas, but it doesn’t. They all roar and then send another huge guy into the rink. Thulped. Another grimace and still no learning here. All fourteen idiots would go one at a time and get beaten up.

All known laws of Physics are also massacred in the process. Thermodynamics, laws of motion are all left begging for reprieve along with the band the villains.

Apply the same principle to the Chess board and you have the game: Every pawn comes one at a time and gets beaten up by the toddler’s side of the chess set. His shining knight battles on destroying his opponent’s pawns and his brave army thinks nothing of thumping Queens and locking bishops in with his own pawns.

Would You Rather be a Villain in a Tamil movie set or a pawn in Rajinikanth’s Chess? Get it?

Which brings us to the stimulating Would-You-Rather game (Part 2)

The Smartphone Challenge

I had volunteered to help out for the variety show at the daughter’s school and part of the rigmarole was to just keep an eye on some kids for some time. All very vague and intriguing thus far. I stepped smartly into the room, confidence oozing at every step till I drank the scene in front of me. It is surprising the number of ways in which children can affect you. These children had sass and verve, not to mention talent and energy. They were there for a talent show after all. One look into those eyes convinced me that they thought nothing of smashing up the egg crate and making omelets on your head or bundling up stray cats in twin sized bedsheets, but will not do. It did not help that they were dressed up for the occasion. Fairy queens, station thugs , band majors and kung fu masters swam before my eyes.

I bleated out a tentative “Hi” to the children and told them to make themselves comfortable.

Lesson #! : Do not tell children to make themselves comfortable in a room where they are not supposed to touch the walls with greasy hands, touch the books on the shelves, play with the water faucet in the corner, switch on the computer or do anything related to art projects.

As I said this, another volunteer (AV from now on) came up to me and whispered that the room was not to be disturbed from its current state and the children were to remain in the room for a span of three hours. I felt my legs buckle beneath me. Three hours? What were they supposed to do? Could they play, I asked anxiously. The volunteer gave me a sad look and pointed out to the manhole sized circular carpet in the middle of the room and said, they may play there. 45 children on that carpet? As I was thinking of what to do, one child switched on the computer. I walked over to plead with the software engineer to hold off on Computer Science for the evening. He was dressed like a balloon for an unfathomable reason and glared at me. “But I am hungry!” he said.

“Well, switching on the computer is not going to get you wafers, do you have a snack? “ I asked.

“Yeah! Wafers! Do you have wafers?” said the ballooner filling out in anticipation. I gave up.

I used a voice that has not been used for a while now and boomed to the class to ask if they had snacks. They did. I just told them they could eat whenever they were hungry. This AV came up and whispered in my ear that they weren’t allowed to eat inside the class. I shot her a belligerent look. Really!  I think I might have alarmed her a bit for she sizzled up to me and said, “Maybe they can go out and eat and come back. Just keep an eye on them from here. Tell them they are not to move beyond that tree.”

Lesson #@: Do not assume children want to eat during snack breaks.

“Yes! We can all go out and eat!” said a voice and the ballooner floated door ward with a bunch of kids in tow. The situation was quickly spiraling out of control. How was I to know how many children were there, how many were out eating snacks and which of the children I was in charge of? I have always suspected children of being more spiritual than they let on, and it was confirmed now. Most of those headed out were apparently going to snack on air for they had nothing to eat in their carefree hands. I called out to them, but  retreating backs from a dull classroom to a glorious spring evening elicited no responses and I was left there looking defeated and helpless. The AV came up to whisper something in my ear again. Apparently, the children were looking gleefully at the playground beyond the tree and this was not to be allowed. I shook her away. This, I felt was a bit much. Come on! Go tell them yourself, I said a tad severely.

“But they don’t listen to me!” she said in response, looking at a girl sitting in the corner of the class playing on her cellphone. She was the only one not interested in legging it outside. “Maybe I should have asked them all to borrow their parents smartphones. What will we do?” continued the AV.  I could only shake my head at this reliance on smartphones.

It came as no surprise, therefore, for me to read this news item:

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/parents-absorbed-in-smartphones-scold-kids-more-harshly-in-study/

It is also a no-brainer to draw upon its corollary, viz, that children who spend an inordinate amount of time on the cellphones have less patience with things less stimulating. We may have forgotten that smart phones are a convenience and no more.

It happens in every battle I suppose. The turning point. I know Yudhisthira felt it in the Kurukshetra when Drona was tricked into believing his son was dead. It was what turned the battle in the favor of the Pandavas again. This was that moment for me. I refused to be bogged down by not having technology. I summoned the brave teacher nestled deep in me and raised the conch to my lips, “Please come in children! For an evening of fun and frolic. Let’s play some games!” I boomed.

The AV was shocked. “What games? They are not supposed to touch anything.”

I calmed her down saying they were children and I believe in their ability to open their minds and try out something new.  I set about figuring out some games. I saw the eager eyes march back into the classroom. True, that our real estate was limited, so running and catching, hide-n-seek etc were out. But there was a game that was great fun when we were kids. Land and Sea. This sophisticated game was easy to play. When I said “Sea”, you jumped into the carpet and when I said “Land” you jumped out. I used varying speeds to play the land-sea game and it was a roaring success. Half the children were out in time, but I kept daring them to go again and again. The game lasted a good 45 minutes.

Land or Sea?

With the help of the older children, we played a variety of games: pass the parcel, whisper nonsense messages and pass them down to see how it gets garbled along the way and such. Several children beamed and laughed happily saying this was the best evening indoors they’d had.

Before we knew it, three hours of fun had passed and the older children who had helped me out received a beaming thanks from me. Only one child was too engrossed in her world to join in on the fun. She was still using the phone. “Games?” I asked her as she left the classroom. “Yeah…pretty good. Can’t stop!” she shrugged. Her friends tried to pull her in several times, but she was too far in her phone-world to stop.

When I read about this person who took down his top grossing app because it was being too addictive, I had nothing but admiration and respect for him. He saw what his creation was doing to people and chose to forgo his excellent fortunes and pull out.

http://gizmodo.com/wait-what-flappy-bird-creator-is-removing-the-game-1518969676

Every generation faces its own challenge. Ours, it seems, is the smart phone.