My visit to Byse & what I took with me can be summed up by Einstein’s famous quote, “Play is the highest form of research”. While my main task was to help the women toilet building group, trained by AMMACHI Labs, to formalize their SHG and open their bank account for officially getting paid as trained masons – these ladies are now building toilets around the village! What really stayed with me was the impact we have on children or vice versa through fun & Slotsbaby games.
Abhi ya Kabhi?, as the game is aptly called, is a monopoly like board game conceptualized by Sreeram, AMMACHI Lab’s brilliant thinker & creator of many more creative, thought provoking games, crafted mainly to inculcate certain ideas and values amongst villagers. Like in Monoply, Abhi ya kabhi? Has real life situations as its central theme. As the players go round the board through different life situations, they are required to take decisions leading to certain circumstances, like in real life. The purpose is to collect smiles (for happiness) & spend wisely – the winner is the one with maximum smileys and wise monetary decisions. Abhi ya Kabhi? Focuses primarily on introducing the villagers to the principle of right decision making and its powerful impact in the long run. It also highlights the importance of happiness above everything else. The game has interesting life situations like sadhana & yoga to pressing social issues like alcoholism & sanitation or smaller mundane yet fun activities like buying clothes or toys.
With a bunch of Ayudh volunteers and Amrita Vidhyalayam kids, our visit to Byse, the first day, was to be an interactive program with a packed itinerary of games, kite flying, bhajans and a skit prepared by the students. With everyone having set tasks, mine was to create the Kannada version board game, Abhi ya Kabhi? with the village kids. The idea was to fit in local nuances, social issues & cultural influences particular to their lives in Byse so that they can use the game to better understand situations and make clear, thought out real life decisions.
With lots of colour, sparkles & ideas, the kids had to draw a given situation for each block. The notion behind this exercise was to help children learn about life situations creatively while we get a glimpse of how they perceive certain situations and what makes them happy. Though implanting certain ideas, especially about social issues, was integral to the process, their expression through drawings was a lesson in itself. From understanding the inconvenience of lack of roads or hospitals to the pain caused by an alcoholic family member to the joy of a toy purchase or the togetherness portrayed by a family portrait of close knit members holding hands, the board game was soon reflecting life in Byse, seen through these children.
The end result was a sparkly, whimsical board game for Byse, with each block looking like a work of art fuelled by fertile imaginations. While the children were introduced to the importance of sanitation, education & infrastructure, what they teach us through their drawings is the joy derived from simple things, importance of happiness & the value of untouched innocence.
Another highlight for me was my afternoon trip to the local haat (Sunday market) with Sangita & her sister (kids from Byse). A short walk through the scenic landscape spotted with emerald green arcanut trees, colorful wildflowers, earthy huts & a bridge over a calm, winding river, our destination was the weekly Sunday market at Nagara (the closest town to Byse). The girls lovingly decided to be my guides for the day and fussed over taking me to every stall, ensuring I don’t miss out on even the tomatoes being sold J From checking for fresh veggies to buying trendy sun glasses & colorful bangles, this aimless yet wonderful wandering with my guides was another glimpse into their value system. With unmatched innocence, simplicity & love, the values inculcated in these children is a lesson for every urban family & may also be a solution for some pressing urban problems like peer pressure, consumerism amongst children & the diminishing of cultural values. With these lingering thoughts, I enjoy my ice cream while the little ones are already being responsible and talking to the bus conductor to ensure I reach home safely.