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Updated: June 21, 2011 19:03 IST

Games people played

Vishwadha Chander
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REVIVAL TIME Try your hand at Pallankuzhi. Photo: Special Arrangement
The Hindu REVIVAL TIME Try your hand at Pallankuzhi. Photo: Special Arrangement

Gaming consoles are slowly wiping off traditional games such as pallankuzhi. However, there's still hope for revival, thanks to individual and group efforts

Nimbu paani, a coterie of cousins, and a game of snakes and ladders at the house courtyard… Sounds like a summer vacation from the distant past, doesn't it? In an age of gaming consoles and smart phones, the rich tradition of simple games seems to have been quietly left behind.

Says L. Rajagopalan: “In those days, games such as Trade would be full-day affairs. We would take a break for lunch and then continue. It was a great way of bonding with the family, with my children. I looked forward to playing snakes and ladders on Shivaratri nights. The whole family would stay up past midnight.”

Apart from the bonding they brought about, traditional Indian games contained great values themselves. For instance, snakes and ladders, which is believed to have originated in India. Known as Pachisi, each of the 100 boxes contained a virtue or a sin. The bases of the ladders reflected a good deed, while the top had the illustration of a deity etc. Similarly, the head of the snakes denoted negative qualities or a demon. The 100th box represented nirvana. Playing the game over and over again was believed to have imparted these values in kids.

Out and about

Of course, not all games were played indoors. Sample this — Lagori or Seven Stones. This popular game consists of two teams, one which attempts to build a tower with seven stones and the other that aimed to get the players out.

Interestingly, games such as lagori seem to have been very active even a few years ago. Says college student Vandana Ramesh: “We used to play the game as kids, barely 10 years ago. Right from collecting the right kind of stone to making the teams and coordinating, it was great deal of fun.”

Jaishree Ramakrishnan, a consulting psychologist, says: “Older games come with a lot of benefits — they add meaning to recreation, emotional needs of the child are taken care of, and a lot of values such as honesty, fair competition, giving up a game for the younger one and so on, are imparted to children.”

Says Rajagopalan: “We would all start in good spirit, my wife, her brothers and I. When one of us lost, we would either sulk in a corner or start crying… but eventually would be drawn into the fun again.”

Though the likes of a game of Frisbee seem hot favourites on college trips today, “those are played only for those few days”, says Vandana.

From a much younger generation, Adithi C., a school student, is quite perplexed at the idea of such games. “Why would I call friends over to play with a top?” she asks. Though the idea of relaxed family afternoons seems to fascinate her, she believes “we can relish such events now and then, not every day”.

Caught in the middle

Those born in the late 90s perhaps have the rawest deal — starting off with traditional games and slowly moving to modern ones. For instance, the likes of Vivek Ranganathan, a gaming freak. He says: “Times have changed; it's all about human-like games now.” Is this main reason for increasing demand of modern games — the life-like simulation? May be. But, heart-warmingly, efforts are on to revive traditional games — city clubs and cultural organisations organise tournaments to keep alive games such as pallankuzhi. There are also individuals such as Chennai-based Vinita Siddhartha who do their bit. She set up Kreeda, an effort revive Indian games such as ashta chemma. She has also compiled Indian games into kits that can be played indoors.

But, one must remember that the success of individual effort depends entirely on the demand for such games. And, that's where we all come in...

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