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In the long hot after-lunch hours during summer holidays at the grandparents, we cousins whiled away our time either reading, telling stories, or playing indoor games. The elders would be taking their well deserved siesta which meant that we had to be real quiet.

One of the games we played was called ‘word-building’. It required two people/teams. The game started off with one side giving out a word (English) and the other side following it up with one beginning with its last letter. If the first team started with the word ‘apple’, the second team had to give one which started with the letter ‘e’. This went on till one of the teams failed to come up with a word and had to admit defeat, but mostly it used to end because the elders called us to do chores.

On one particular day, the elders had retired to their rooms after lunch, as usual. We children gathered to ponder our next move. The two older cousins at 15 thought themselves too high up on the status ladder for small fry like us and so vetoed every suggestion of ours. Finally we got them to agree to play word-building. Their condition was that the two of them would be a team against the rest of us, six in number and ranged in years from 7 to 12. We agreed (there was no other way to get them to join us) to the unfair grouping and the game began in earnest.

The trick of the game is for one group to come up repeatedly with words with the same last letter so the opposing team is left floundering for words. Adopting this as our strategy, we started doling out words ending with the letter ‘y’ to our esteemed older cousins. They laughed at our efforts and returned the favor. Words like yearly, yesterday, yellowy, etc were fast used up and we had to switch tactics to, ‘whatever letter you get, give the other team a word that ends with ‘y”

Soon the older brothers started to feel the heat (same as our motley group). They were taking longer to respond when given words ending with ‘y’. The same was happening to us too whenever we inadvertently let our advantage slip. Finally came a stage when they were inordinately long coming up with a word for us, longer than the rules of the game permitted. Our requests to them to give up were skilfully parried. But our efforts too were half-hearted since to seal the win, we had to provide a word too, which we didn’t have ready.

Suddenly it came to me. The simple, humble, much used word ‘yes’ had not been played as yet. I could have jumped for joy when the realization hit. In fact I think I did do just that. I shared the word with my sister and cousins and they too jumped for joy. We were like cats on hot bricks, unable to stay still. “Give up!”we chanted, now that we had something up our sleeve. “Give up, give up give up!”. But of course they wouldn’t. There was much conferring happening between the two lofty members of the opposition. And just when we thought it was all in the bag save the victory dance, the announcement came: They had found a word and (hold your breaths people!) it was ‘Yemble’.

Yemble? What sort of word was that?!! We had never heard of it. But they stood their ground. There was a word ‘yemble’ and we better accept it. Noooooo! We said we’d check the dictionary. But the dictionary was out of bounds as long as the game lasted. In fact even pee-breaks had someone from the opposing team accompanying you to make sure you didn’t peep into a dictionary en-route. Let’s ask the adults, was our next demand. They stopped us. We weren’t supposed to wake the sleeping elders!

Arguments continued back and forth without us reaching an agreement on the course of action. We on our part, flatly refused to accept yemble. So what if it was older brothers saying there was such a word? I was a voracious reader myself and yemble sounded fishy to me. On hindsight I know why. We recognized (at least I did) the characteristic expressions of people trying to pass of something fake as the original, how the eyes refused to hold yours long enough, the glances they exchanged which broke off too soon. But they flatly refused to admit defeat or take back ‘yemble’.

Soon we were called in for tea and we tried telling the elders how we were shortchanged by the brothers at our word-building game. But the elders were least interested and thought it all too hilarious and shoo-ed us away much to our displeasure. Ever since though, we called the originator of the word  as Yemble, and the name has stuck. In fact just the other day when I mentioned I’d be writing about the yemble incident, he told me I could send him the royalty. Still as cheeky as ever.

©Shail Mohan 2016

Day 24 NaBloPoMo 2016

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