“Every society has a great deal of practical knowledge which is often expressed most creatively and effectively through tales and toys of that society,” says Sudarshan Khanna of the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad in his book ‘The Joy of Making Indian Toys.’

Ironically, ever increasing urbanisation has crippled this practical knowledge, to a large extent, from being passed on from one generation to another. Invasion of television into almost every household, the glamour of expensive factory-made toys and obsession with cricket have overshadowed indigenous toys and games.

Gone are the days when scores of children, irrespective of their economic status, joined in a game of ‘gilli,’ or ‘goli.’ Now, electronic gadgets such as video game consoles keep the affluent busy while the others struggle for space amidst high rise buildings and busy road junctions to keep their passion for the ingenious games alive.

Ten-year-old U. Asiq of Ismailpuram here is not even familiar with the term gilli, a game for which children take much pains to find the right kind of wooden sticks and then chisel them off to bring out the required shape. He plays cricket on the Vaigai riverbed in the company of children much elder to him.

“We do not have any playground near our house. So, we play here (riverbed) every Saturday and Sunday. Sometimes, my friends take me to the Medical College grounds. But it is far away and it is crowded all the time because many teams play there at a time,” the enthusiastic boy says.

S. Hariprasad (14) of Munichalai also shares the same concern. He too is worried about not having a good playground in his area. Games played with ‘goli gundu’ (round marble stones) or ‘bambaram’ (a top), which are considered to be a medium for children to display their skills, are not among his favourites.

The ingenious games are not restricted to boys. Girls too have a wide variety of them to play. Chillakku, a game which increases the physical stamina of players as they have to hop with one leg; Kallanga, juggling of stones or pebbles and Pallankuzhi, a wooden board game aimed at sharpening mental arithmetic abilities, are the most popular.

B. Muthu Meenal (13) claims that she knows to play Pallankuzhi and Kallanga. But she plays them rarely because most of her time is spent watching television. The skipping ropes give her company on other occasions. She is not familiar with making toys of her own with paper, cardboards and discarded materials.

Many children are losing out much on the joys of childhood. They neither have sufficient knowledge of ingenious toys and games nor facilities required to play their favourite sports such as cricket. Much is said and written about waning popularity of indigenous art forms and it is high time that such toys/games are also accorded equal importance.

Keywords: gamescricketgadgetsMadurai