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Hath Chalaki And Other Tricks

Hath Chalakee, (using hand as a weapon), was strictly prohibited by our parents.  That means exchanging slaps and punches were disallowed through an injunction of the family court whose orders were binding on us. There was no provision of appealing against those laws. But there were no instructions about getting rolled up in to a ball, so tightly that a button or a hook may get tangled in the rivals hair or shirt needing assistance from external agent e.g. mother, because the younger two were much younger to us and either they were busy with their own games or could at best be poor referees. Mother’s help was always needed for calling truce, because without third party intervention there was no chance of reaching a compromise.

Playing or Fighting?

Biting was absolutely banned as it was as serious a crime as an assault with a knife with an intent to murder, but the urge to bite for winning the bout was irresistible. Readers, who are reliving their past experiences while reading it, while I am revisiting those, must be knowing how this desire becomes stronger when one is losing the fight and the unsuspecting opponent is so close, that you can smell the flesh. My elder sister was a keen user of that trick and raising a fake or a real scream was my time-tested defence strategy. Though it is not a clean move as per the book of rules and is like the tactic employed by Pakistan against India, of hitting and then howling for help to China or UN or US by playing a victim, but it works especially when one is pitched against a formidable opponent.

Raging Storms

 Mother as such was always at not more than an arm’s length or two away from us, in a house where the whole free space could be measured in dozen or let me stretch a bit, a baker’s dozen at the maximum, of arm’s lengths if that be used as a standard of measure. She could anyway hear us, because all mothers have their ears on their backs when their eyes are removed from their children, and they can make out about the raging trouble, from the rapid volley of cuss words being used. But they get alarmed like being in the eye of a storm, by the absence of the sounds. So, they need constant assurances like IMD weather bulletins, howsoever farcical they be, and when they are not there, they call up to inquire if all is OK?

These super humans called mothers, where ever they be their ears are trained on their children and they can see what the children are doing at an instant. No wonder, some thinkers compare them to God. Our mother, from time to time, yell a warning, like the whistle of an approaching train for us to get off the track, but that was generally ineffective, because the cause of entanglements were generally serious, too serious too get sorted out by mere warnings from a distance. But “biting” called Dandee instead of making one a quick winner, was like a red card used in football game by the referee. It could turn the tables on the user. It would end the bout instantaneously with the sure loser being judged a winner by the referee- the mother, whose loyalties were always questioned, protested against by loud howls.

Though, it wasn’t her intention to take sides but, she had to find a quick solution to pull us apart and for not being with us all the time, it wasn’t possible for her to judge who started the fight, but “Dandee” being akin to a Chemical or a Nuclear weapon could decide the game against the user. In this world of scheming and unfair people, mere allegations can’t be used as proofs, so the tell-tale signs of having been bitten had to be shown to get the judgment in your favour, but it was tough being a kid in Shimla because, we didn’t have the centrally heated home, where we could remain in light clothing, we often wore thick sweaters  over the clothes. For leaving a sign of a bite using milk teeth, one has to be a lion’s cub, I suppose, so often the benefit of doubt would let the biter get away with just a slap while a certain severe thrashing was his/her due. But whatever punishment little or more, especially if given to the wrong person, in itself was seen as a reward by the opponent and often endorsed as God’s judgement delivered. Intervention by the mother would mean a temporary truce and that in any case was necessary but was not appreciated because she would ask us to pick up the books, and order us each to separate corner to sit and read. She would warn of severe consequences, which were not spelt though, for violating the order. So, we would go to our assigned corners, sulking and wondering what wrath could disobeyance bring.

Assigned a Corner

It used to be a harder punishment because each one would act as a reporter on the other and continuous reporting on violations would start getting communicated to the mother through air waves. I wonder, how the mother would handle her household chores and keep a calm demeanor among all this commotion. That pious women was not then twenty five years of age then. She had three children or perhaps all four after having lost one and she had a commanding, demanding, short-tempered husband, but through all this, she still could find time to write beautiful Bhajans ( hymns) and be the nicest mother one can wish to have.

Another potential weapon that could be used against a strong opponent was called Naunder. It means scratching with nails, but ‘nails’ is too mild a word to describe the effectiveness of Naunder, so I would say that it means scratching someone’s face of exposed body parts, till blood comes out, with overgrown nails which are like talons. Nails, grow very fast in children and the poor children are helpless because they can’t cut them, themselves. The parents have to take care of these sharp tools and trim them regularly. The children even when they are very small, are fully aware of their armoury, and how effectively can they use that for defence and attack when pitched against a strong opponent.

Fight for Survival

These days, some big words, like sibling rivalry, conflict, antagonism or jealousy or whatever you may use to describe it, when we were young and when there were many siblings to contest, it was a pure fight for survival of the fittest and that’s why the parents were constantly worried. Ever child knows of the hurt that scratching or biting can cause  to the opponent. Though this weapon, naunder is less dangerous than Dandee, but hurt caused by it acquires greater significance when it is used on the face of the enemy. I don’t know how the very small children are aware about which weapon to use for which part for causing the maximum damage. Serious scratching can draw out blood and leave worrisome scratches on the face.

The Master Creator

The children are born with this instinct and it is as strong as is love in them for their own kind, their pets, the other creatures and their material possessions to. These attachments, fear, attacking in self-defence are very basic traits the Master creator decided to bestow upon all organisms He infused life in. It’s from there on, He left it to parents to teach to their young ones the art of living. It is primitive for the all other creatures where, survival alone is the issue, but to the human beings He gave the freedom to explore, experiment, learn, assimilate and share. It is sad that, because of the vested interests and the limitations of the thinking ability, teaching became dogmatic and questioning by the children wasn’t encouraged but frowned upon.

The lessons of love for others, compassion, sympathy, co-existence, respecting the elders, taking care of the environment, right thinking, acquiring a right set of habits too are all learnt from the parents. The values that they gave us, have stood with us even during the testing times in the course of life. Looking back at the long stretch of the path of life that I have travelled, I would say that because of those values that our parents taught us, no time was a testing time for me.

There was a great purpose in their injunction of “Disallowing” use of hands while quarrelling, because besides saving us from harming each other, it help us develop, ability to reason out and argue, which honed our ability to convince others by our speech and understand the view points of others.

Note:- All Pictures are from the internet and have been used here for representation purpose only. I don’t have any claim over these.

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Navneet Bakshi

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Chander Kiran
1 year ago

Dear Navneet, you have a better memory thanks…I don’t remember the biting and scratching …or the scuffles..I only remember harmony…again beautifully written…keep it up

1 year ago

Never experienced any “chalaki ” as you have put it!
We four (three sisters and a brother ) were quiet, affectionate and tame!! I don’t ever remember any fights even if I rack my brain!! Weekends and vacations saw us getting comics and books from library or going to a theatre and watching cartoons or roaming in the gardens and climbing mango or guava trees! Ah!! Childhood memories……
Ah!! Your poor Mother had to put up with some real tough kids, I see!!!

1 year ago

As you know, I’m an only child. I have no experience of the kind of sibling tussle you’ve written about here. But I have witnessed the many tumbles my kids have made me the referee of. All my sympathies with your mom. I know how they drive a mother up the wall. 🙂

I made it here at last, yes!

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