Will the samanthipoo pinch us back to the reality of traditional games

“Samanthipoove, samanthipoove mella vandhu killitu poo… kaalattumani, kaiattumani,” then a stealthy walk and a roar of laughter. At the Keezhamattiayan village mandhai, the little boys and girls presented a picture of joy.

Armed with laptops, ipods and mobiles, many urban children are depending on gadgets to engage themselves. They race virtually, becoming madly competitive without getting physical exercise. Even for ordinary calculations they consult their calculators. And they become miserable if they are away from their devices for long.

Children in villages still seem to be know how to amuse themselves with anything and everything around them. All they need are a few playmates and they will have loads of games to play for hours together.

Retired art history professor Venkatraman feels that traditional games record the life of the common man, a way of life that has lasted generation after generation. “They improve mathematical and language skills, dexterity, memory besides developing children’s strategic thinking.”

“Though these folk games have no proper history or records,” he says, “they state antiquity of country and culture. In fact, these games can be called the cultural foundation of man.”

Reflecting village life

Women who spent their childhood on the streets of Keezhamattiayan village feel their lives have been shaped by their games. “The games reflect the village way of life, which is slowly slipping into oblivion,” says Nallaponnu. “These days, children do not play as much as we played.” She and her friends used to play far into the night, even after being roundly scolded by their parents.

Angammal lists about 25 traditional games that she and her friends enjoyed in their childhood. “Even in teenage we happily played all through the night unmindful of school and studies.” “Every game has a message, information and knowledge that are mandatory for life besides some physical activities,” says Muthulakshmi .

In Mandikunju, children hold their legs and jump like frogs. The position is similar to a yogic posture. In Poosanikaai, the children are taught farm activities like tilling the soil, making ridges and furrows, sowing of seeds, weeding, watering, applying fertilizer, identifying ripe fruits and marketing their produce.

In tune with nature

As they play Kaalattumani Kaiattumani, the children learn the names of fruits, flowers, festivals and months, besides improving their language and pronunciation skills. Each child has to identify the person who has pinched his or her shoulders.

They jump between lines for Nondi pandi and whirl around holding hands in Akkaakka kili sethupochu. A girl bends and children jump over her in a game called Lahe. In Uppukummi or Manalkundru, children carry their playmates on their backs in search of hidden piles of sand.

Most of the time, these children do not use playthings. They just dig a hole in the sand, draw lines and squares on the ground with sharp stones and start their games.

At most, they use broken pieces of pottery, sticks, seeds and stones that are often discarded soon after the game is over.

An octogenarian Thumakkaal in the village says, “Most of our generations are illiterates. We knew nothing about these gadgets but we do addition and multiplications in a jiffy. Thanks to the folk games that taught us the technique.”

In spite of their televisions and mobiles, many children still love playing outdoors, though they spend less time in the playground than their mothers.

Thirteen-year-old Abirami of Keezhamattiayan village says, “I love all the games because they are different and I never feel tired playing them.”