Saturday, March 03, 2012

Do you have a hobby?

“Do you have a hobby?” is probably the most annoying question that well-meaning uncles and aunts ask their teenage nephews and nieces. They asked me when I was a kid. I don’t recall being irritated, though. My parents probably asked the same silly question. I don’t know if it annoyed my cousins. I’m sure it did.

Flamingo Library was located in the foyer of Hotel Sona.

At times, their cursory interest in my hobbies, after I had revealed them, stretched to: “Oh, so you play chess, do you?” And you know what’s coming next. “Do you think you could teach my son? I will send him over every Sunday morning. I want him to cultivate at least one hobby. Thanks, uh.”

Indulging in a hobby is time spent gainfully so long as you’re enjoying yourself. There’s never a dull moment. For me, hobbies are primarily about passion, creativity, private space, and personal fulfillment.

I had many hobbies and nearly every one of them was introduced to me by my father, hobbies like pouring over his assorted collection of stamps and creating my own album, playing chess or scrabble with him in marathon sessions that often lasted morn to eve, buying and reading comic-books, solving crosswords and jigsaw puzzles together, and drawing and painting everything from abstract to still life.

Speaking of chess, I spent a lot of time playing with Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky during my teens. That is, replaying their games from the controversial 1972 world chess championship at Reykjavik in Iceland.

Between these simple pleasures of childhood, we played cricket at home, with a wooden bat and a tennis ball, using a part of the door as stumps; took potshots at small wooden puppets with a ping-pong ball gun, keeping points, five for every hit; or played table tennis across the dining table,
with a stick balanced delicately on two inverted glasses serving as a net. 

Leafing through the dictionary for strange words and their strange meanings and using latitudes and longitudes to locate mysterious cities and towns in a world atlas were other useful pastimes that helped shape my growing years.

A rather silly pursuit was book cricket: you flipped the pages and stopped at random, the page numbers on the left serving as scores. We even drew up eleven-member rival teams, each a famous cricketer. It doesn’t make sense now, but it did back then. At least you didn’t sweat it out or injure yourself

During my seventy-five day summer vacation, my friends and I, bored playing outdoor games in hot sun, would pick up books and comic-books from the local circulating library and take turns reading them during the week. We, thus, read the entire hardbound Hardy Boys series from the popular Flamingo Library located in the foyer of Hotel Sona in the idyllic and sleepy town of Panjim, the capital of the beautiful coastal state of Goa, a favourite destination among foreign tourists. 

Childhood was never better. It still isn’t. What was yours like?

How others look at hobbies…

“The only insult I've ever received in my adult life was when someone asked me, "Do you have a hobby?" A HOBBY?! DO I LOOK LIKE A FUCKING DABBLER?!”
― John Waters, Role Models, American filmmaker, actor and stand-up comedian

A hobby a day keeps the doldrums away.
― Phyllis Mcginley, American author of children's books and poetry

It's the safety valve of middle life, and the solace of age.
― Mary Roberts Rinehart, American writer, often called the American Agatha Christie


  1. Oh yes, I had plenty of hobbies. I also collected stamps for years. Stamps, coins, blue glass vases, ancestors...

    In my home there were no money, plenty of children and lots of fun :)
    And also a couple of uncles who would ask silly questions.

  2. My wife tells me my blog is my main hobby. Sounds like you have a wonderful father. i have a number of intellectual interests i consider hobbies.

  3. Dorte, I've outgrown philately though I still go through my dad's collection every now and then. I do have a fair number of Danish stamps. Ancestors as hobbies... Would that be like building a family tree?

  4. Mel, blogging has become a hobby with many of us. It has replaced the good old personal diary or journal in so many ways. I'd love to learn more about your "intellectual pursuits" and hope you'll write about them on your blog.

  5. I grew up on a farm, and if I had time to have a "hobby," the belief was that such time could be put to "better use." Today I have "projects" rather than hobbies. Makes the time spent seem more purposeful. Ha.

  6. Ron, thanks for writing. Growing up on a farm must have been an enriching experience. It sure beats any hobby one might have. Hobbies are trivial pursuits though I know some who take them more seriously than their jobs. I know what you mean when you refer to "projects." They might be of a more serious nature but they can be both productive and fulfilling.

  7. What a wonderful relationship you had with your father.
    I was a Girl Scout, which took up a lot of time for years. I was in the choir at my church. I was usually on the student body council or a class officer, I went to dances, but most of all, I read. We played a lot of games, of course. No one could beat my mother at scrabble and we played card games around the clock.

  8. Book cricket? Sounds pretty cool. I used to play a lot of chess to and enjoyed it. Got some great memories from games and tournaments.

  9. I used to collect coins as a kid, now I collect bookmarks. Everywhere I go I try to get a bookmark from that place.

    I also play piano as a hobby. When it comes to board games I love Scrabble.

    And I agree that summer vacation was great for reading.

  10. Patti, I had Boy Scouts in school though I opted, briefly, for National Cadet Corps which was more adventurous with trekking, rifle shooting and boat rowing. We played a lot of Scrabble too, without a scrabble dictionary, as well as Carrom, which I forgot to mention in my post. Today, the PC-based Literati, not a bad substitute for Scrabble, allows you to play with your computer and win too. The only card game I played was Patience (Solitaire).

  11. Charles, my friends and I played book cricket like pros, with teams and rival teams and scorecards. We tossed to choose which great cricketer went to which team. As for chess, I'll go with Bobby Fischer's dictum: "Chess is life." Or, life is chess, if you like. I also played a lot of badminton and hockey.

  12. HKatz, I never collected coins though I'd a handful of them lying around the place. You're the first bookmarks collector I have heard of! What kind of bookmarks have you collected so far? I like bookmarks with a social message: we get lots of them in India. Unfortunately, I never picked up a musical instrument though I have always wanted to learn the tabla, an Indian percussion instrument or, putting it mildly, the traditional Indian drums. I agree, too, nothing beat reading a good book during summer holidays, especially with school two months away.

  13. I used to hate it when assorted great aunts would ask if I had a hobby. I spend most of my childhood buried in a book and when my mum would pipe up "she likes reading" I hated it as I never saw it as a hobby but as something essential in my daily life. Thanks for reminding me of this.

  14. Sarah, thanks for your comments. You are most welcome. Now that you mention it, I remember my parents often replied on my behalf too. Like, "He plays chess" or "He draws really well" and so on and so forth. Now I do that with my kids!