Where Have all the Local Games Gone?

Has it been a long time passing? ‘Civilization is the limitless multiplication of unnecessary necessities’—I partially agree with Mark Twain, especially for this quote. From the context of our own Manipuri society, civilisation in fact seems to have multiplied many unnecessary wants and necessities amongst us. Citing just a mere example of the local games, modern kids have grown up playing with China-made electronic toys or computer games. Thence, they have zero idea about various indigenous games that were quite popular some good old years ago.

Come evening, we used to make our own play groups then and to decide upon which game we should play on that particular day. The Leikai Lampaks were frequented by kids from the nearby localities. Every evening it was quite an exciting experience—for each one of us to gather up somewhere with our favourite cousins or friends and indulge in playing anything or everything—till the evening transcends and till our worried moms would reach the playgrounds calling our names, shooing us homeward.

The annual (final) exams, during winter season, were greeted with open arms not because we were ready to conquer the questions but because a long vacation of almost three months was on the way. Sooner the exams ended, the better it was for us because we would not miss playing those games anymore. And especially on the last day of the exam, we didn’t mind being beaten up by our moms simply because we were caught playing in our school uniforms. Those were better than the best days of our lives indeed; and even if those days are never meant to come back, the memories satiate us, and at times, help us flick an innocent, unnoticed smile on our faces.

Today, we hardly see the kids playing those local games anymore. Computer games, play stations, tekken games—all these have become the favourites amongst the kids nowadays. Maybe their parents are rich enough to afford them all these civilised games; or maybe due to the exploding population and the mushrooming homes and buildings in each locality, there aren’t local grounds left for the children to play. Perhaps, the town has become quite a terrorised region that the parents are scared of sending their children to play somewhere at the local ground. Whatever may be the reason, it saddens me to a great extent that our local games are almost alien to the current generation. Though the age-gap is not even a decade, things seem to have gone haywire in all these years.

The other day during my latest weekend getaway at Lansdowne town with a few friends, we really enjoyed talking about all those games we used to play as kids then. I also discovered some pretty fascinating local jargons for one of the games which we usually know as ‘Swa’. The play norms at Khurai vary a little from Wangkhei (that I got it from our interesting conversations about this very game on that day). ‘Swa’ used to be one of the most favourite games we have ever played almost every evening especially during so many winter months. A game that used to invoke among us a thrilling gusto, I am gladdened than glad to admit that ‘yes it was the most enthusiastically played game amongst us during those carefree childhood days.’

Besides the swa-ful memories, the maarbon (Manipuri accent for marble) games used to engross us for long hours. While Swa was meant to be played during the evening, maarbon games were meant for the whole day. There is an ‘Emashi’ in our leikai who never allowed us to play maarbon at her shumaang. And of all the available shumaangs, quite ironically, hers was perhaps the most fascinating place for us to play any maarbon game. She used to shoo us away like anything but we were so damn care. Every morning we used to gather at her lawn and play the games until she would yell at us. Many a maarbons we lost frantically running away from her home, many a maarbons she didn’t return, but did anyone care about it? As long as we had another morning, another kouta of maarbons, we didn’t mind being called as shameless kids.

I don’t know the reason exactly, ‘Where have all the local games gone?’, but from my personal point of view, it seems to be an open threat to a meaningful slice of our cultural norms. I would be more than sorrow indeed to tell tales about our local games to my grand kids someday. But it seems most of us have to do that. It is more or less some kind of helplessness but who has a choice?

By and by, on a sweet note, to all my contemporary friends and acquaintances, let us keep cherishing all the good memories of our childhood days and about all those games we have played. Cheers!

This article was published on 20 Aug 2011
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