Published: 21st May 2021
Meet Manish Kataria, whose simple games on Zoom are helping COVID patients beat the isolation blues every weekend
Manish Kataria is aware of how isolating COVID can feel. So for those who don't have severe symptoms, he organises online games that lifts spirits and makes one feel like they'll never walk alone
If life is a game, Manish Kataria, popularly known as Manish Freeman, has mastered it big time. Now, the 30-year-old is choosing to use his mastery to uplift the spirits of all those folks in solitary confinement who have tested positive with mild symptoms and don't know what to do with their time. This youngster is ensuring that at least every Friday, from 4-5 pm, they are thoroughly engaged. Wondering what are these games and who this Good Samaritan is? To understand the present, Manish gives us a quick flashback.
Ice breakers — games that break the tension and enable intermingling — are what attracted the youngster who was born in Sri Ganganagar, Rajasthan. He started playing these with complete strangers in a city park every Sunday. This was back in 2011, by the way. When numbers shot up from five to 50, he knew there was scope for something bigger here. "There were simple, non-judgemental and non-competitive games which could be played among any age group," shares Manish. From these strangers, to their birthday parties, office events and so on, the word started doing the rounds about this 'gamester' and very slowly, this became his profession. He started devising, modifying or adopting all kinds of games that promoted team building, leadership and anything else that was the need of the hour. We hear he has a repository of 100 such games that can be played in-person and about 40 that work well online as well.
Last year during the lockdown, Manish started Quarantine Play Fun Time albeit informally, depending only on word of mouth. But since the second wave gripped and shook the country this March, he more consciously started investing his time and energy into entertaining COVID-positive patients whose isolation was really getting to them. "There are not merely ice breakers, they help people break out of their shells and just be themselves," emphasises the youngster who is currently based in Pune. All of these happen on Zoom and he tells us that breakout rooms have been a blessing.
Conducting workshops | (Pic: Manish Kataria)
Games are of all kinds, but most importantly, what Manish does is make sure he understands the pulse of the team. If they are in need of some physical movement, they play music and dance and if more serious business is in order, Manish just pulls out a game from his deep hat of activities. Calling out numbers in Hindi and asking the participants to give him the English word for it, if you are a Hindi speaker, you know how tricky it gets. Then there are mathematical games like calling out numbers from 1 to 10 and clapping whenever a specific number, like seven or nine, repeats itself. Try this in a group and you'll realise that fun has been redefined for you. The games sound simple enough, right? That's the key! The simplicity, playing it in a group and having an amiable host like Manish is what works here. "Once there was a 65-year-old who was bedridden and her oxygen level was low. But she did not just attend one session, she kept coming back for more," he says proudly.
Participants are free to give as much money as they please, there is no fee and if you are unable to pay at all, that's fine too. Manish takes enough sessions for corporates and schools to sustain himself. Right now, his focus is to drive away COVID-positive blues with games.
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