License Plate Game International

Reading Time: 2 minutes

In the past, I wrote about a game my family likes to play whenever we’re out and about—our own convoluted version of the License Plate Game. Recently, we made up a new international version of the game. As we rode around Mumbai, India during Spring Break, my boys noticed that the plates in India start with two letters. Our driver informed them that they represent the state the car is registered in, which set the boys off to identify them. And thus was born License Plate Game International.

Once upon a time, I knew all the states and territories of India, in alphabetical order. These days, I can recite Assam, Bengal, and Bihar before my alphabetical quest is over (which, by the way, totally misses the first two states, Andhra Pradesh and Arunachal Pradesh; oops). I do know some others off the top of my head (Gujarat, Maharashtra, Jammu & Kashmir, Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh). But then, they went and split up a few states into two (Bihar is now Bihar and Jharkhand, for example), and it’s enough to just throw up my hands in despair (if it weren’t such a silly thing to get so worked up over). After all, how important is it, really, to know all the states of a foreign country?

I decided to encourage my kids’ interest by helping them identify the states. And then, the game began. If we were to play based on our official US rules, points would be assigned based on the distance from the current state to the identified state, and points could be stolen by an opponent who could name that state’s capital. However, as I know very few of the capitals (and barely know the geography), we opted for a simpler set of rules:

  1. Name the two letter abbreviation
  2. Name the corresponding state
  3. Earn one point

In future years, maybe I’ll actually prepare ahead of time and pull out a map. Maybe they’ll look something up online and memorize the capitals, or we’ll all peruse a map in the airplane magazine en route. Maybe before we travel anywhere, this would be a good bit of prep work to do.

But for now, I’ll revel in the fact that my boys fed their own curiosity about India, and that I was able to help them. While my efforts to teach them Hindi may have floundered, they connected on their own terms. And that’s really all I wanted.