In the age driven by the new fuel called Data, virtual space is dictating terms almost over everything including the games kids now play. However in pursuit of online games, the smartphone-armed Kashmiri children have lost touch with loads of real life games.
Many Kashmiri elders turn nostalgic over the mention of Khodji Gindun. They no longer play this game in the Vale now. In that game, the players would race to a dig up hole—Khodij. The first one to throw his thing/ belonging in it would win.
They also talk about another lost game called Wish Amrit. Akin to Kho Kho, in this game, the sitting players would wait for those running to give them Amrit, elixir, so they could run. Another bygone game was Haal-e-Gindun, a kind of hockey in which the players would hit a cloth ball with a long stick.
When kids used to play these games, Kashmir was a different place, with different lifestyle and engagements. But today, amid frequent curfews and clampdowns, the elders—feeling bad about their children’s curbed routine—tell them about their recreational adventures, like Tchant Wayan—or, swimming.
A part of their lives, kids of yore would often refresh themselves in rivers or streams, the sporting activity making their summers a fun time experience.
On weekends, on open ground, they would either play Kabadi, or Dajji Ball (Ball made of rags), played with soccer style. Children would also enhance their aiming skills by playing with slingshots, or Gulel.
Much of it has gone now, as today’s kids carry out the physical activities in the virtual world. Their source of entertainment is either television or a mobile phone: a compact device with which they can make calls, play games, watch videos, surf the internet and much more, just with a touch! Parents often solve the feeding or ‘stay at one place’ issues by handing such devices to them.
And when you tell them, they’re harming the kid, they ask, what else will the child do to entertain him/herself?
“Well, they must look back at their immediate history to seek answers,” says Zareef A. Zareef, prominent Kashmiri poet-historian.
Zareef takes one down his memory lane, around 60 years back, when obviously, he says, “vibrant childhood existed where children would make their own games, which still exist, in one form or the other.”
For his healthy teeth and well-being, Zareef credits the games/sports that he and his tribe would play as children. The act of playing, he says, was known as Gindun Drakun in Kashmiri, as it would not only mean Gindun (playing) but also Drakun, which involved proper digestion and growth of children.
Then the games would be more about physical exercise, from head to toe, than about gadgets or money, Zareef says. “The intense physical activities would make the kids hungry and unlike present day children who raise a brow before eating anything healthy or unhealthy, the kids then would eat anything including raw vegetables, not even sparing the Haakh-e-Nal (Stem of Collard greens); Channa, Muth, Cholay (Chickpeas); Phuhur (Residual cooked rice) and chaff (the husks of corn or other seed separated by winnowing or threshing).”
Phuhar would attract kids when their elders would ask them to eat it, evoking their greed, saying, that it would help the girls grow long and strong hair, and boys, a healthy fast growing beard.
“The kind of food they would eat would require efforts like chewing more and eventually make their stomach healthy,” Zareef says. “The tired kids would have a proper sleep cycle and wake up, all charged up for the day.”
The injuries kids would incur would not land them up in a hospital, Zareef says, as they would be ready with the home remedies like using natural/ herbal medicine — like antiseptic weeds (Souy), Pamb Tchalan (the root of a tree) and Satismagul (lspaghula Seed).
While leading such a simplistic yet meaningful lifestyle, the Kashmir kids would play different games — among them was Gaur Mauj Goras (Blindfold).
Enhancing the team building and listening skills, this game required one of the players to be blindfolded. This player would be spun and in a jiffy, other players would go and hide while saying, “Kaetsa Chus” (Where am I?) And the player would try to catch them.
Another form of this game would be called as Joutas in which the other players would tease or push the blindfolded players. If she/he grabbed any of them, she/he would be the next to be blindfolded.
With stretched legs and feet touching each other’s feet, Zang-e-Tar, or Crossing the legs, was another game in which the players would sit on the ground. The third player would be asked to jump over their legs and land on the ground. As soon as s/he would jump, the other two players would pull their legs up, making it difficult to cross. This would often make the player fall and incur injuries. But it would end up with an uncontrollable laughter and an addition to beautiful childhood memories.
Woati Raz was apparently Kashmir’s answer to rope skipping. One or more participants would jump over a rope being swung under their feet and over their heads. The game was mainly played by girls as they were told that they would grow in height, if they play this sport.
The girls would also play a game called Hikith. They would hold each other’s hands, diagonally, and jump in rounds till they would fall, laughing.
Today, senior citizens of Kashmir often use the phrase “Khand Haar Chene Chandas” (I don’t even have a single Haar in pocket.)
Haar refers to a seashell. It would be used as a currency in Kashmir, at one point in time. They still remember how its value would be calculated then: “Aath Chawal ki ek Rati, Aath Rati ka ek Masha, Aath Mashay ka ek Tola, Char tolay ka ek Chatang, Chaar chatang ki ek paw, Chaar paw ka ek ser, Paanch ser ka ek trakh, Saulan trakh ki ek kharwar.”
Hindus would play with the seashells on the occasion of Shivratri. And the game would be called Haaran Gindun. In a circumference, a player would place his Haar and the other one would hit it with his own. The one, whose Haar fall off from the circle, would lose.
Similar to Haaran Gindun was a game, popularly played in villages. It would involve nuts that would be present there in abundance. The game was known as Donen Gindun. In a room, players would sit and aim to hit a nut. If it hit the nut, the player would take it home.
Bantan Gindun or playing with small round glass marbles was another form of it. Also known as Tanga ya chout/ Bante Zaar, the game was a form of gambling with marbles. Another form of it was Rentan Gindun, the game requiring the players to dig a hole in the ground and aim the marbles or the Rent-e in it. It’s more like today’s game of carom.
During nineties when the situation confined Kashmiris to their localities, many youngsters would be seen playing Pons-e-Gueti.
In this game, a Gueti (hole) would be dug in the ground and players would take out some money and give it to the one who throws Pons-e- or money into the hole, from a distance.
At the same time, streets would be swarmed by children, to play Saz-e-Long — or, Hopscotch.
To play this game, a huge rectangular box would be drawn on the ground using coal or anything that could mark the boundaries of the box. The boxes would be named as Awal (first), Daum (second), Saum (third), Jannat (heaven), Samaundar (sea) and Jehnanum (hell). Queen (Dulij or Bata), a smaller box would be placed on top of this big box. The players (individual or team) throw a wooden piece or anything round called as Saz-e- (usually the cherry blossom black polish round box filled with mud) in the first compartment (Awal) of the big box without touching its boundaries, that too while using just one leg. Finally, the player would aim for the Queen.
Following this, with his back facing the boxes, she/he would throw the polish box from over his/ her head and jump over to the boxes in order to avoid the foul. The team or person who won more boxes would be declared as a winner.
Saz-e-Guet, like Ponse-e-Guet, would require the players to throw the Saz-e- in a Guet of the size of its size. It’s a little like today’s Golf.
Similarly, Katren Gindun or playing with broken earthen pots would also require the players to carve a shape of coin from the broken clay pots and aim it in a hole dug in the ground.
On similar lines, kids of yore would play Teenkan Gindun. Played with the stones, the game would require player to place small 5 stones on the ground and one in his/ her hand. S/he would throw it up in the air and meanwhile, grab one stone from the ground. Then s/he would throw the two in hand and pick two more from the ground until there would be no stones on the ground.
Also, there was a game called Biri-e-Te Thaep, wherein a round Bira or a wooden ball, would be hit with a wooden stick (Thaep). One would throw a Bira and the other would hit it with the Thaep.
Much like the cricket today, Latkij Lot would be played on pattern of Gilli Danda. It would be played between two teams (or individuals). One would strike, another would field. A small circle would be drawn and the striker (the one who hits the Gilli) stands inside the circle with the Gilli placed across a small hole dug up on the ground. The striker would hit the Gilli from its position using the Danda, tossing it in the air and then striking it as hard as he can. If a fielder caught the Gilli before it hit the ground, the striker would be out.
There was another game called Choure Chepe / Choure Kaar (Hide and Seek) in which a player would steal something and hide. The other players would play the role of police and try to catch him. He would be then presented before the ‘court of law’—constituted of the other players. They would then pass a judgment.
Another version of this game would be Aayes Paayes or Thapplyo.
After catching the hidden player, the other player would scream Thapplyo! The player who was hiding at first would be the one searching for the other players hiding and repeat the procedure.
One more obsolete game happens to be Turr-e-Kaar, in which two teams with equal number of participants would play the game. One team would guard something, while the other team tried to form a strategy to tackle with the opponent team and touch the guarded thing. They would kiss it (usually an electricity pole) and shout Turr-e-Kaar.
Young girls would also play a game called Tulay Langun. Lifting each other on their backs, one player would say, “Tulay Langun?” And the other would respond, “Tulan Ches.” It would be followed by Haar-e langun? Tulaan Ches. Ponse langun? Tulan Ches. An extended form of chorus would sound like — Tulay Langun? Tulan Ches; Makdoom Saebun? Khatchan Ches.
In those days, the kids would even play the indoor game, like Hukus Bukus (Akus Bakus). Singing popular Kashmiri rhyme, the players would place their hands adjacent to each other, sitting in a round. One player would sing the rhyme while moving his finger from one hand to another. The player on whose hand the rhyme ends, would show his palm and be excluded from the game till all others would be out as well. The rhyme would be: “Hukus bukus telli wann che kus / onum batta lodum deag / shaal kich kich waangano / Brahmi charas puane chhokum / Brahmish batanye tekhis tyakha.”
As an outdoor game, Garam or Santoli would require a team of two to find broken earthen pots, give them a shape of Saz-e. Seven Sazas would be stacked on each other, forming a tower-like structure. With a ball made of rugs, a player from one team would be supposed to aim at it and hit it in three attempts. If the structure would fall, the opposing team would try to stalk it up again while the other team would try to hit their every player with the ball. If they would be able to do it successfully before they would stalk it up again, the team would be declared a winner. However, if the team successfully compiled the structure, they would chant Garam!
Also, while playing a game called Rabd-e-Cycle (Rubber Cycle), kids would take out a cycle tyre through streets, hitting it with a stick, making sure it doesn’t fall down and run for long distances. They would decorate it with caps similar to those on cold drink bottles made of glass.
In good old days, the government would provide timber, including Devdor, Zangul, Hatab, Kavur, Budul, Viri zyun to people like they provide ration today. The woodcutters or Tabardars would break the huge wooden blocks. While doing that, small chunks of wood would fall as residue. Kids would then come and stalk them together, forming a bonfire to warm themselves. It would be called Har-Kij-Ler, a form of sporting activity.
As an outdoor game, Kaath Shah-e-Bamb or Hatti Hatti/ Lakad Lakad, would be played by two teams. One team was supposed to somehow touch anything wooden: wooden pole, tree or anything as per the wish of the opponent team. This team would say, “Hatti Hatti, Konsi Hatti Maangay” (Wood, wood, which would do you want?) The team would point to a particular wooden thing, saying, “Ye Wali” (This one), and challenge them to run towards it.
While they would run to touch it, the opposing team would try to catch them or throw the cloth ball at them.
Kids would also use Murabba paper to form Tik Wavej, resembling the shape of a windmill. Holding it in their hands, the kids would run long distances while the Tik Wavij would move in rounds. Sometimes, the kids would learn to make it and sell it to other kids. They would also place it on their bicycles and watch it make rounds. Today, it’s available in the market and is sold off as a fan on which you press a button and it makes rounds. It is not as charming as it would be.
One of the oft-played indoor games then was playing with thread. It would require a player to tie a thread on both of his/ her hands. She/he would try to form shapes including egg, fish or two parallel lines. The other player would tactfully take it from his hand and make another shape till more shapes wouldn’t be possible. They would also form a spinner Biri Baten and play with it.
In another game, Dogge Chumet, one player would sit with his head down, making sure he is not able to see anything. Other players would come and give him a Dogg (punch) or Chumet (pinch) him on his back. S/he was supposed to guess as to who punched or pinched him. He would continue to sit in that position till he would guess the right name.
One of the easiest games to play was Aaryo Maryo Taaryo Tich, mainly used for a toss. All the players would pile their hand on each others’ and flip together. They would show the dorsal or their palm as per their wish. However, the odd one out among the majority would win. Similarly, the kids would play Thar Nakuk (Head and Tail), wherein they would flip a coin in the air and hold it in their hand while the others would guess if it was head or tail.
In a game called Ready Ready, the kids would make a toss and the odd one out would be declared ‘out’. The players would run away screaming Ready! He would run after others, till he catches one among them. The one caught would repeat the process. It would last till the kids would exhaust themselves.
Kids would also imitate wrestling legends like Rustum, Saam or Gama Pehalwan, belonging to various nationalities, while playing a game called Pehlawan Dab. Most of them would proudly call themselves as Habib Kod-e, one of the celebrated Kashmiri Pehalwan.
Today, these games have become a part of legend. Kids have many options available to entertain themselves now. But perhaps, they can still keep their childhood simple, if only their parents take some pains and teach them what they enjoyed once.