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Ottaya? Erattaya?

Summer vacations were mostly the only time of the year we could meet our cousins and families who lived far off. (not so far, but still far enough for Mom to argue that we wouldn't get up for school the next day). I personally enjoyed my trips to my Aunt's house, where we had four more naughty ones to break the monotony of meaningless fights that me and my brother had gotten so tired of having.

But there was yet another reason we loved this place and that would be the Tamarind tree in her backyard. We used to munch onto those until our tummies signal that more would be a bad idea. My aunt, knowing us, would've already collected all the tamarind seeds that she could have, before we come.

Ammumma was the one who used to collect them from my aunt. She would carefully gather them in the pocket she made in in her lungi while draping it and bring them to the Verenda in front of the house. Just the sight of her slouching and cupping the open end of lungi pocket was enough for us to gather around in the Verenda and sit in a circle leaving enough place for her to join in. As soon as she sits, she'll spill the seeds onto the floor and we patiently wait for her to roughly divide them among all of us. Nobody complained of having more or less, not because we obviously sucked at math, but as it was Ammumma who distributed them among us.

The game was extremely easy. Usually we start with Ammumma, she gathers as many (or as few) seeds inside her palm hiding it from all of us and simply asks "Ottaya? Erattaya?" (meaning "Odd or Even?") and the person to their right takes a wild guess. After the guess is made she opens her hand makes a pile and separates pairs of seeds around the pile, we wait anxiously till the last three or pair of seeds to see if the guess made was right. If it's right, Ammumma loses all the seeds she used for that round to the other person, else she keeps them and this would continue in rounds and rounds till the last one gathers all the seeds.

A game so facile would keep us engaged for hours and it used to be all the more special when she sat with us because we saw a side of her which we resonated with, playfulness.

When I look back now, it is amazing to see how such simple games taught us little lessons which has shaped our minds today. The fun of anticipation, taking turns, letting go if we made a wrong guess and trying again.

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