In Part Two of R. K. Narayan's novel The Painter of Signs, Raman and Daisy visit a remote village, after which they return to Malgudi. Due to unforeseen circumstances, they need to spend a night on the road, Daisy sleeping in a bullock cart and Raman sleeping under it. The next morning, Raman discovers that Daisy spent much of the night in a tree:

Then he asked suddenly, 'When did you learn tree climbing?'
'We used to play Gorilla when I was young; whoever becomes a Gorilla must climb a tree and stay there. We used to play this for hours day after day, and that's been helpful. (...)'

Is this based on a real game or did Narayan make this up? If it is a real game, what were or are the rules? If multiple versions of this game exist (or existed) in India, I am most interested in a or the version played in the state of Tamil Nadu, from which Narayan originated.

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I cannot find any definitive claims about the existence of such a game. There are certainly climbing games originating in India. Anila Naaya, for example, involves one player calling "squirrel" or "dog" with increasing speed to instruct the others to climb up or down. A player who fails to follow the instruction in time is "out".

It is, of course, almost impossible to prove a negative and my failure to turn up anything on "Gorilla" does not provide certainty that it does not exist. However, I think we can infer that it was likely made up by the author for one simple reason: it's a bad game.

Beyond a dictionary definition, most observers agree that to be considered a "game", an activity must meet certain criteria. Wikipedia lists them as:

Key components of games are goals, rules, challenge, and interaction.

And you can find other, similar summaries. Anila Naaya meets these criteria: it has rules, a goal (not to be "out"), challenge (to climb quickly), and interaction (players must follow the instructions of an "out" player).

The narrator of the story offers none of these details for "Gorilla". It's possible that they've simply failed to give the details but the really telling thing is that "Gorilla" has no apparent goal. It seems to be simply to stay in a tree for as long as possible, which is simply not something children would have the patience for. As such, it would not be a fun game and not widely or frequently played.

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