Kai Po Che? – The decline of traditional sports and games in India

[This is my first post featured on the TheFrustratedIndian website]

So, what is your favourite game, I asked my neighbourhood children at a party in India. “Angry Birds”, said a 7 years old boy. “I love cricket”, said another 14-years old girl. “To watch, I mean, you know… IPL and stuff… it’s so exciting”, she added. With a lot of exclamation marks in my mind, I decided that they are just children and don’t really think before answering.

But then I thought, even if they were adults, would their answers have been any different? Do we ourselves have had any experience playing sports other than cricket, badminton, and table tennis?

Sure, most of us recently watched and lauded the recently released film Kai Po Che. A few years ago, we also went gaga over the Dheel de de re Bhaiyya song from the movie Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam.

But how many of us have ever actually said Kai Po Che the way it is supposed to be said, that is, while flying kites? I say with major exceptions of some population of Gujarat, none. For that matter, how many of us have recently uttered the words “Kabaddi kabaddi” or “lagori“?

Well, yes, I am being a little too optimistic in expecting all readers to even have heard about these sports; so let me start by listing some of the most ‘used-to-be-popular’ traditional sports of India.

 

Kabaddi

 Played in India from mythical times and given a national status as early as 1918, Kabaddi has fetched us every possible gold medal at all Asian Games and world championships ever held. Yet, I last remember to have played it only in school, more than a decade ago. And none of the “urban” now-in-school people I know seem to have ever played it. Now, Kabaddi is as athletic and technical a sport as any of the modern ones, sans the need for a big ground or any equipment. What it lacks, I guess, is the glamour.

Kho kho

 This game has been known in India since the beginning of the Mahabharata era. It used to be a rather popular game in schools and during evening play-sessions. Not any longer, it seems. Again, this game is as athletic and tactical as games can get.

Gilli danda

 This game is believed to be the origin of games such as cricket and baseball, although this hasn’t been ever proven, or for the matter, contested. In this game, a player bounces a gilli (a small cylindrical wooden object with pointed edges), of the ground by hitting it once with a danda (a wooden stick), and then hits the air-borne gilli to send it as far as they can.

Lagori/pitthu/lingorcha

 This game of breaking a mound of seven stones with a ball, and rearranging the mound before the opposing team finds the ball, was played by girls and boys alike, all over India. I haven’t seen any kids playing this game of late, though I have seen its version being played as a team building activity in a couple of corporate team building sessions, which is quite heartening.

Kanche/gotya/marbles

 Though this one doesn’t really qualify as a sport, it used to be widely played in India. It is said to improve players’ aim and their ability to concentrate. Also, collecting the marbles won from other players was considered a bonus (or the main attraction? 😛 )

Kite-flying

And finally, Kite-flying! Although this sport is believed to have originated in the Indian subcontinent, it is much more popular in other countries now. There are a handful of professional kite-flying tournaments in India, too (with lots of foreign participants), but at the local level, there’s hardly any soaring high!

 

If outdoor sports aren’t your favourite, there are several other indoor games too (that are going in to oblivion these days, of course): Spinning top (lattu), Indian Ludo (Pachisi/Dyut/Saripaat), Sagargote/ Gajge, Hide-n-seek (Lukka Chhipi), and so on.

All these games are extremely interesting, and it’s a pity hardly anybody plays them anymore. (Although I am glad that certain traditional sports such as Bull-fighting, Cock-fighting and Hunting have diminished!)

So, what made us turn a blind eye towards these sports/games? I suppose the advent of the originally colonial game of Cricket would be a common answer. But no, it is not just that – internet addiction, increased homework, and above all, unavailability of empty grounds to play are also important factors contributing towards the decline.

But think about this: none of these reasons are unavoidable, we can work around them. Especially as we always complain about how sedentary our lifestyles are; how addicted the younger generation is to the likes of Xbox, iPad, and the internet; and how even the snazziest of the gyms are always full, playing all or some of these games to alert our bodies and our minds can ease a lot of our complaints. And we will be happy for keeping our culture alive. 🙂

 

What do you readers think about this? Are you ready to say the real Kai Po Che sometime soon? Do let us know. 🙂

[All images courtesy: Wikipedia (1,2,3,4,5,6)]

Their feelings, too!

Here is the loose translation of a Marathi poem I wrote a couple of years ago (You can find the original poem on my Marathi blog, here). It is based on the concept of irony, and me having to tell you this explicitly, is an ode to irony itself!

****************************************

He was a little boy

Innocent, and care-free

I always want to be like this,

Dreamily thought he.

But alas, his teachers said

You must learn the world’s ways…

Can’t even educate their own children,

About your parents, the world says!

—                   —                  —

It was a piece of rich brown land

Just-plowed, soft, and moist

It wanted to stay that way,

And play with the blowing breeze, it voiced.

But the farmer said,

If I didn’t want to sow,

Why would I ever

Take all the trouble to plow?

—                   —                  —

It was a sheet of plain paper,

Very crisp  and very white

It didn’t want to be written on,

Lest get dirty it might!

Oh, but the writer had other plans

I paid money for it, he thundered!

Why would I do that, if I didn’t want to use it?

Wouldn’t it be a waste, he wondered!

—                   —                  —

The little boy did not imagine then,

That he would grow up to be very successful and rich, indeed…

The piece of land, too, didn’t fathom,

That on its crops would so many people feed…

And nor did the paper know that the words written on it,

would help thousands of people in their lives, to succeed…

Had they known, it would have been so much better!

They would have endured the present happily,

And would have been delighted, later!

—                   —                  —

The teachers, the farmer, and the poet were elated,

In the glory of their achievements they basked…

But how were they to know, that while improving the future,

The pleasantness of the present they masked?

Had they known, though, would it have been better?

Would they have been a little sad,

Then, or later?

Should I venture into fiction??

For a long time, I have been at a loss of ideas for new blog posts… and more than ideas, it’s the expression that I am not able form.

So i thought, why not try my hand at fiction? Stories and topics that have interested me, but never happened to me…. I guess I should give it a try!!

 

And ofcourse, may be I shall be able to express myself in a better way, ‘coz what is fiction but a reflection of the reality?? 😉

The journey of a million miles, starts with thousand steps!

Confused with the title?? Think it should be “The journey of a thousand miles, starts with a single step.”?

Well that holds true if you intend to travel only a thousand miles, if your journey is going to continue beyond that,(well in life, it does, right!! Much beyond that!), in fact to a million miles,then, only when you take thousand steps do u gain sufficient momentum to finish this loooong journey!!

Just like this blog…I started it quite some time back…but it doesn’t seem to have gained much popularity…..but today finally… my blog stats showed 1000 hits!! (Too bad i didn’t take a snapshot when it was 1000!! 🙂 )

A biiiig Thanks to everyone who visited this blog, and made me believe that I could go about well on this journey of million miles……Will try to write more and better, from now on!! 🙂

My first experience of social service

[Post updated on April 20, 2016] There’s this organization in Pune called Eklavya Nyasa, that works with the children of Commercial Sex Workers (CSWs.) Recently, my employer wanted some volunteers to go to this NGO and interact with these children every weekend. I jumped at this opportunity!

It was an overwhelming experience! For the first session, we decided to play with them and to generally speak to them about traffic rules, personal hygiene, and about India, by asking them to participate in skits. Since we were the first batch to go, we also had to share our experiences with the batches who would go on future weekends. This post contains a part of an e-mail that I wrote to the group about our experience:

“All right, as far as yesterday’s experience goes, there’s loads and loads of stuff to write. For starters, I would like to say that these few hours that we spent with the kids gave us peace of mind, and disturbance of mind, in equal proportions. Peace, because it’s a wonderful and soothing feeling to be amidst these children; and disturbing, because behind those smiling faces is hidden a truth so bitter, that makes us feel very, very fortunate as compared to them. And the difference hurts!

Okay, so after a fair amount of brainstorming on Saturday, we met at the DagduShet Halwai temple on Sunday, practiced our skits, our dialogs, went through our “Do’s and Don’ts”, and went to the building where the kids gathered to read and play! Indrayani Gavaskar (The chief coordinator and daughter of the founder Renutai Gavaskar) was there and so were a couple of kids. We sat down and started speaking to them, sticking to our formula of “likes-n-dislikes: yes, personal-n-family questions: no”. Slowly, lots of other kids started flocking in, and believe me, if one did not know their background, they would seem very normal. We started asking their names, their favorite movies, games, actors.

We played Antakshari with the kids, and the younger lot seemed to enjoy it a lot. But there were older kids too, and they looked a little bored.

Hmm, then it was time for the long-planned skits. But no, the children refused to do any sort of skit. They were pretty much interested in mimicry and stuff like that, but when we tried coaxing them to do skits on topics, they wouldn’t budge.

So, the change of strategy: we simply had to get all of them talking about how much they know and understand about traffic rules, personal hygiene, and India.

Much to our surprise, they knew most of the things. Traffic Lights and Zebra Crossing, washing hands and having bath, dressing wounds, brushing teeth, they knew it all. That they didn’t really practice all that is another thing.

They knew our National Anthem very well, and the Pledge too (which I’m sure most of us volunteers did not.) They also knew the 3 colors of our flag, the Ashok Chakra, etc. And they had a quest to learn, because when we mentioned Ashok Chakra to them, they started asking us questions about the Ashok Stambh, the Sarnath Stupa, the “structure with 4 lions” on currency notes, etc.

I mean all-in-all, they were a bright lot. They were extremely interested in listening to stories, so we had story-telling sessions with them. We played games too, and they knew all those games before.

One thing that many of them did not know was reading the clock. So each of us grouped a few kids and taught them how to do it.

There were quite a few talented kids, and well informed ones too. For example, we were pretty surprised when a boy called Ramzan told us that Italy won the FIFA World Cup, and that there was a head-butting controversy during the match!

Vaibhav is very good at painting, Sooraj at making crafts (he had made this very cute caged lion), and most of the other kids seemed genuinely interested in learning something creative, BUT not in form of lectures or the usual “study” ways. That was pretty obvious by the fact they rejected our idea of skits forthright.

Okay, now to the darker side, because the above description shows only one side of the picture. There was this girl Pooja, who asked me at least 4 times whether they were going to get “dabba“. (they were hoping we had brought them goodies).  There was this girl who was called “Don” by her friends because she was quite aggressive at times (the reason for her behavior being her abusive father, which we learnt later), there was this guy Ramzaan who generally kept to himself and didn’t get involved with others, simply because if there was a fight, he couldn’t control himself. Well this list could go on and on and on, but I don’t know whether this is the right platform to list everything.

Neha came up with a very good idea that we can have some kind of a collaboration with the Andha Vidyalaya, wherein the older children from Eklavya Nyasa could write the exam papers of younger kids. This would have 3 benefits: 1) the kids would get to interact with the outside world, 2) the ones who will write the papers will feel that they too can be of some use to others and may be 3) they will realize that there are other underprivileged people in this world.

Another thing I would really like to appreciate is the way the guys gelled with the kids. I have always observed that boys generally don’t take to young kids, girls are better, but I must say that all 4 of these guys completely washed away my belief. The children really flocked towards all of them, and they too handled them absolutely comfortably.

Well, there’s a lot more to say, but I’ve written such a long e-mail that I think half the recipients are not even going to read it fully :-)))))

So more about this, when we actually meet.

But as a bottom-line, this was definitely a very enriching experience, and it would be a pleasure and an honor to have more of such kind.”