A nostalgic journey down the memory lane at an advanced age retrieves small joys, wonders and bits and pieces of treasures one thought lost forever. Some of them stand no chance of staging a comeback. The long home confinement of the past 12 months often took one on a toy train journey uphill, down the valleys, through the narrow pass between two steep peaks, over the ridges and along the walls of mountain ranges of the mental landscape. If one has a powerful memory, one cannot help enjoying the joyride as one comes across lost treasure troves presenting themselves before the onlookers' eyes with values discovered afresh.
How about rediscovering simple bliss in the traditional games and sports that could be played almost without any gears and implements? Games like gollachhut, dariabandha, danguli, kanamachhi, hide and seek and the likes were very popular forms of outdoor sports among children up to the late 60's. Like many other dying traditions, these games have either become a thing of the past or are on the way out. If they survive at all, it must be in some remote corners of the hinterland.
Gollachhut was a game that took test of running skill ---at most times the art of swerving and dodging one or more pursuers, stamina and intelligence. Penetration of the defence line of the opposition players required both presence of mind and agility to evade their touch. After all, one such touch means 'death' for an aspirant of reaching the finishing line. The side holding the fort (a hole) in which the 'goalie' keeps one foot planted and the rest extends the line formation by holding each other's hands. This extending arm of the 'goalie' starts rolling round and round all the while contracting and extending in succession and looking for an opening to breach the opposition wall and cross the finishing line. The opposition wall also feigns as if the defenders are allowing one to pass but in fact ready to pounce on as soon as one tries his (not her because it is a boys' game) luck. Similarly, one from the hand-holding group suddenly makes a foray from the middle to lure one or two from the wall to pursue him as part of a subtle move. This creates a breach in the defence line for a few to run up to the finishing line. Outfoxing the opposition counts. What a gem of a game it was!
Dariabandha needs a rectangular field that is marked by curving out lines. The entire field is divided in to several equal rooms with two straight lines passing in the middle from one arm of the rectangular to the furthest. Thus two equal rooms are created on both sides of the middle lines and also one after the other lengthwise.
Here also equal number of players is divided in two groups. But if the number of players exceeds the defending rooms or lines, more finishers can be accepted. But not more than two defenders to protect the citadel can be allowed. The rule is simple: those aspiring to cross the last line have to dodge and evade the defender of one room to go to the next room until the last line is crossed. When one side has made the last lap, the two groups reverse their roles, defenders becoming finishers and the vice versa. This too is a wonderful game in terms of physical manoeuvrability, speed, smartness and wit.
Danguli is not as innocent a game as the other two. It requires two sticks ---one long and a short---usually made from bamboo branch. In this game defenders stand in a long row to kill the short stick eight to nine inches long that the thrower places on the ground to pulverise it with the longer one to haul as far as his physical power might allow. If one of the defenders can hit it with his stick, the game is over for the thrower. Another takes his place.
The danger with this game is that the small stick at times veers its course and may directly hit one of the defenders at the most susceptible spot like eyes or nose with tremendous force of a projectile. It can permanently damage organs like eyes. This cannot be a favourite game.
'Kanamachhi bho bho jare pa tare chho' and hide and seek are more a fun game than a sport requiring exceptional skills and intelligence. Usually the youngsters ---both boys and girls ---play these games. But as the boys grow bigger they consider it unfit for them. They become attracted to ha du du, gollachhut and dariabandha. Ha du du has been revived internationally. But the others seem to have fossilised with the invasion of modern games, cricket in particular.