The world of forgotten games

Published March 2, 2024
Illustration by Ziauddin
Illustration by Ziauddin

Surrounded by complex and sophisticated devices and video games, I sometimes dive back into my childhood and cherish those memories when there was time, friends and freedom. When children were not enslaved to video games, digital products and electricity for entertainment. When there were different games, different rules and different tools — but all giving immense joy.

Unfortunately, the digital revolution has swept and erased many of our old traditions, leaving behind deep holes between modern and old lifestyles. Consequently, we have forgotten many of the interesting games that our forefathers used to play. It seems like time has raced ahead and the world of traditional games has been forgotten and erased from our memories, and replaced by modern games like football, cricket and, most importantly, digital entertainment. Some of those games might have been played by you — the generation Z and Alpha — but let me give a brief overview so that you might find alternatives to the addictive video games we all are surrounded with.

Also, this article might prove handy at times when there is a power failure or your device stops running, and you are left with nothing to do. Then the games I will be discussing will come in handy, especially when your cousins come over and dismiss the idea of a movie night or a video game tournament. You can introduce them to the world of amusing and pleasurable games that your parents used to play and the games that must not be forgotten with time.

Gilli danda

Though most of you must have heard the name of this outdoor game as a popular traditional sport, very few may know the rules of this game. Well, it is somewhat like cricket, as there are two teams.

As the name suggests, danda is a long wooden stick that acts as a bat, while the gilli is a small oval-shaped piece of wood that balances in a depression. The player throws the gilli in the air and strikes it with the danda. Simultaneously, the opponent team tries to catch the gilli before it hits the ground. If they are successful, the batter goes out and the other comes in. If not, the nearest fielder has one chance to throw the gilli back to the depression to make the batter out. If he fails, the batter scores a point. The team with the most points wins.

Pittu garam

This is also a preferably outdoor game in which two opposing teams take part. There is a pile of stones and a member of one team tries to knock it using a ball. Once knocked, that team has to reconstruct the pile. Meanwhile, the opposing team uses the ball to hit the players. If the ball hits the player, the player is knocked out and the team has to make the pile without that player. Once it is done, the teams switch the role.

Kabaddi

This is a more famous game, perhaps because of its ancient importance as well as international recognition. It is still played in the rural areas of Sindh and Punjab; while in India, it has a full-fledged league called Pro-Kabaddi League, and then there are kabaddi matches taking place in global events like the Asian Games. However, unlike other games, it requires a softer ground that is of mud and clay.

Although it has different versions, one of the renowned ones is the two-team formation. A player from one team enters the opponent’s area and tries to tag a player and run back. The other team members make a sort of ring to hold the player within it. If he is captured, he is eliminated from his team. If he succeeds in tagging a player, the tagged player is eliminated. Both teams then switch roles. The team whose members are all eliminated, loses.

Kushti

Like kabaddi, kushti is also a famous game and is played on soft ground. It gained much importance in the pre-independence days in the subcontinent. Many players are even remembered today, including the famed Gama Pehelwan, belonging to British India.

Unlike other games mentioned above, this is usually a one-to-one competition in which each player tries to throw the other to the ground and make his shoulders touch the ground. However, while playing kabaddi and kushti, one must make sure that the ground is soft as that of mud and not hard. Also, there are certain regulations like how to get hold of the opponent and certain strategies for players to defend themselves, which do not allow violence at all. So use the guidance of an experienced sportsman to avoid injuries during these games.

Oonch neech

Although there are different models of this game, the basic idea is that there is a chaser on the ground (neech) and all the other players run to the elevated area (oonch), which could be anything like a sofa or on a small mound of clay, a block even a shoe. The idea is that except the one who is trying to catch, all the others have to run to any place that is not at ground level or their feet must not touch the ground.

During this time, all the players on the oonch dodge him and switch places while the chaser tries to catch them. But if the chaser catches anyone, the player is tagged and becomes the chaser.

Langri pala

This is also a running game in which two teams are present. Team A sends in a player who is hopping on one leg. All the members of Team B are in a confined space. The target is to hop and either tag the opponent player or make him run out of the confined region.

While the other members try to run until the hopper gets tired or loses his stability and puts the other foot down. If this happens, then another hopper is sent from Team A to catch Team B members. If the hoppers finish, team A loses, and if all the players are either tagged or run away, team B loses.

Aik pakar ke do

This is a relatively alive and famous game amongst children and teenagers nowadays. It is also a running game in which the chaser tries to tag the other players. Once a player is tagged, he also partners with the chaser and the two collectively tag the other players.

The same happens if a second player is tagged. The game continues until all the players become chasers. Then, a different player gives his turn as a chaser, and the game restarts.

Baraf paani

Another renowned and interesting running game is baraf paani. The game starts with one player being the chaser, while all the other players run. The goal of the chaser is to catch the players and call out “Baraf!” which means the one who is caught freezes and his team has to release him from the chaser by touching him and calling out “Paani”.

The chaser’s target is to freeze all the members as he catches them. While all the other ‘free’ members run around the ‘frozen’ partners and tag them to free them and they become part of the game again. The chaser has to avoid this. The game remains entertaining for all the members and doesn’t end until all players are tagged.

Yassu panju

Out of all these games, this is the only one that can be played while sitting and resting at a place. A maximum of five members can play and each one is given a name out of these five names; “Yassu, panju, haar, kabutar, dolli’. Then, they display a number from their fingers and the countdown starts. A counter calls these five names in the order and each name is called after one finger is tapped. The name called when the last finger is tapped is eliminated and the rest of the players repeat the game.

When only one member is left, he faces a punishment which usually involves him holding both his hands together in front of the other players. They try to slap his hand while he moves his hands away. If the player misses, the next player gets his turn of slapping. Once all the players get their turn, the game starts over again.

Kho kho

This is yet another interesting, inexpensive and enjoyable tag team game played in a line or a rectangular court. The game is best played with more team members, with at least two teams of nine players each taking turns chasing and defending. The aim is for the chasers to tag all defenders in the shortest time.

In the game, eight chasers start on the centreline, while one starts as the active chaser. Defenders enter in groups of three and try to avoid being tagged. Chasers can swap positions by touching and saying “Kho”.

Defenders are dismissed by being touched by the active chaser, stepping out of bounds, or entering late. After each group of defenders, the next group comes in. The team that tags all opponents the quickest, wins.

The game can be played casually by varying team sizes. The main goal is fun through simple chasing and evasion.

These were just a few of the games that are attached and linked with our culture and old times. They are quite interesting, though sometimes underrated, and we should at least try them. Also, what is more important whenever we play a game is enthusiasm. Fun has no limitations. All that is needed is your keenness. Then, playing a game of gilli danda in the sunshine can also become your desired dream.

Published in Dawn, Young World, March 2nd, 2024

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