‘Down ground’

“Is there something you remember or have a memory from your school days?”

“Well, school days included a total of 14 years. Right from being a small kid to becoming an adolescent. I don’t know which part you’re interested in knowing about”

“Some memories of yours when you were, say, in class 4 or 5? When life was not very complicated. You know what I’m saying”

“Ah! The down ground! Yes, I remember the down ground just fine”

The school where I studied until my class 10 was spread across in two properties. It still is. ‘The primary school’, as it was referred to, housed classrooms for LKG to class 5. This campus was magnificent in its own way. Only if  we, as kids, had understood what architecture and heritage really is, we would have admired the masterpiece all day long. It had two playgrounds, one right across the class rooms and one was down the hill which we used to refer as ‘down ground’. Actually, there were three playgrounds. One which I missed out was a small play area right in front of the kindergarten section. Oh, the monkey ladder in there! Well, we’ll talk about the monkey ladder another day.

The ‘down ground’, which was the biggest of them all was where we kids used to play most of the time. Call it cricket, football, chaincut (yes, chaincut was a game), hide and seek and many other interesting games I currently don’t remember. It was not just a ground meant for playing. We used to eat our packed lunch, bask in the sun, have our petty fights and did many other activities of late in there. One very interesting thing here, which you don’t usually find in other playgrounds, was that it had about three huge tree trunks in the edge of it which were cut at some point of time. Only now can I imagine how big a tree it would have been given its massive girth. The size of each one of these tree trunks was so huge that it would take about six of us to make a human chain around it. We used to climb on them, play around, jump, break twigs and what not. These were also used as spectator stands during a cricket match. And god knows, it was exceptionally comfortable.

Then there were bushes all around the ground. Bushes of various wild plants and shrubs. A few had very straight and tender stems whereas a few others were wildly grown. Although we had no proper cricket stumps, we never ran out of them. These straight tender stems would perfectly fit in to do the job of stumps. The place where bushes were in abundant also acted as the perfect place to go treasure hunting. As naive as it may sound, but rubber balls, stumper balls (god they really hurt when we played seven stones), Cosco ball (read: tennis ball), cork ball, stitch ball and any other ball was considered treasure of our times and we knew exactly where we would find them. We learnt the lesson on persistence, much before in life, right in here. There is a ball, somewhere out there, hiding, and all you have to do is look for it. Keep looking for it until you find one. You know it is there and you know you would find it only if you were patient and persistent enough.

We hated the down ground, and our moms hated us more, when it rained. The muddy slush would make it impossible for us to play there. But hey, it’s just one hour of lunch break and we’re not letting the slush ruin our plans. You know what comes next when you go berserk in a slushy playground.

As of now, the huge tree trunks are gone and so are the bushes. The ground looks clean and tidy just the way a playground is meant to be but I miss the old one though.

“So, the down ground? What was so special about this place?”

“Everything”