Times have changed, so have games

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Today’s children are no longer acquainted to the popular games of yesteryears, as television shows and video games grab them early. Muhammad Afzal Sofi reports.

In the changing world as old things make way for the new, the choice of games among children is following suit too. Many games that were popular among Kashmiri children a few decades ago are almost gone.
“I don’t see children playing the games I used to play as a boy in 60’s or as a teenager in the 70’s. Those games have vanished now and it is pity that we are losing them,” said Abdul Razaq, 60 year old resident of Sopore.
Razaq remembers hopscotch and playing with marbles as popular traditional games among the children during his childhood.
Hopscotch, or Saz-loung in Kashmiri, was popular both among boys and girls. Children would draw a pattern of six squares in two adjacent rows. Then they would take turns in throwing a brick chip or stone splinter into a square and while hopping on one leg push it through all squares with a foot. If the chip or the foot landed on a line, the player was deemed out and the next player would take his turn.
“We used to play hopscotch both at school and home. If today I ask any child about hopscotch he will simply stare at me,” said Razaq.
Children would love to play with marbles (Bhaant’e) – the little glass balls available in various colours, with beautiful designs inside them. Children would play marbles in open grounds. When a player would win by hitting the targeted marbles he would keep his opponent’s marble(s) but if he lost he had to part with his own one(s). “There was hardly a boy who would go outside without marbles in his pocket. Many even carried them to their schools,” recalls Razaq.
However, there was a taboo attached to game of marbles as it was considered sort of gambling it.
For Abdul Rehman, an octogenarian, sports like Pitto or Pitto-gram and Gulli danda were favourites in his childhood. “Boys especially in villages would keep themselves engaged in Gulli danda and Pitto for hours,” Rehman said.
In Pitto-garm, boys would split into two teams and five to seven small stone chips, or preferably baked clay chips, were piled up. A boy from one team would hit the pile with a tennis ball till it fell down and scatter. The other team would then pick up the ball and try to hit it at running boys who would have to set up the pile again. If any of boys was hit by the ball his entire team would be out and it would be turn of the rival team to hit the pile.
Gulli Danda, also a popular traditional game of entire Indian subcontinent, was mostly played in open, harvested, paddy fields. There were different formats of this game most popular among them was known as Suta. Suta was a circle drawn on ground usually one meter in diameter. The person would get two chances to hit the gulli thrown towards suta by opposite person. If the person would miss hitting the gulli or it would fall into the suta he was likely to lose the game.
Each spring and early summer boys mostly teenagers would come out with their self-prepared kites of different colours and sizes. They would assemble somewhere in open fields or river banks waiting for the breeze to help their kites fly as high as possible. Kite making and kite flying both were considered an art then.
In addition to sports children would love to indulge in the art of origami. Both boys and girls were expert in making boats and aeroplanes of paper. They would float their paper boats in the streams and watch them going round and round. Hardly any school boy or girl did not like making paper planes and fly them during free periods. The longer and higher the planes flew the more excited they were.
Children would also love blowing soap bubbles. They would blow bubble after bubble with straw or thin plastic pipes after dipping it into the soapy mixture prepared by them. The bubble would suspend in air for some time until they burst. Sometimes children would prick them with fingers which would burst in air without making any noise.
Children were also adept in making pictures with the shadows of their fingers and hands, on walls in front of lighted candles or lanterns. The children would assemble around them and draw the images of different animals and birds most popular images were of barking dog, flying kite etc.
Nowadays children are not well acquainted to the games and arts. Experts say that the prime reason for this is our addiction to the television, weakness for video games and our fixation to cricket. “There is a big role of television and new technology in changing the tastes and preferences of children. Children now spend most of the time before television, watching cartoon channels or like to play video games which are easily available to them,” said Asima Khan, a sociologist.

About Author

A journalist with seven years of working experience in Kashmir.

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