When I was a child in 1950s, I used to play dozens of indigenous and traditional games in the small group of my peers and fellow children, both boys and girls. My grandson Umar has no chance to play those games of mines. His father Farooq knows about one or two games, he played in 1984-1990. In half a century, my family lost a rich tradition which it inherited from the past. This is now in my case only. This is rather in fashion for the children of this age to find new ways of playing computer games, mobile phone games and other sport activities of alien culture which are solo in nature and which separate or derail the children from their rich cultural heritage.
In the mountainous valleys of Hindu Kush range, children of Chitral still speak Khowar as their mother tongue, but they are brought up in a society which is fast losing its indigenous and cultural heritage, including games for the children. Some of these games fall in the category of intangible heritage. Here I shall focus on the games of children between the ages of 3-12, that is the age of modern ECD to elementary education. For the sake of brevity I shall confine myself to the following groups of games:
(A) Games of common gender
(B) Games of Girls
(C) Games of Boys
The write up is further divided into tangible and intangible games. I am going to pick up two examples from each section, because the list is too long and so far 45 physical and 32 oral games have been listed by researchers. Muhammad Changez khan Tariqi, in his paper for the proceedings of 2nd Hindu Kush Cultural Conference (Editors Bashir Elena and Israruddin, Oxford university press 1996 pp. 225-36) gave his account on 45 physical games. Gul Nawaz Khaki in his unpublished paper enlisted 32 oral games played by the children in Chitral in the past.
Boys and girls in Chital start indigenous and traditional games with kits available in the nature. At the very outset, young children play the following two games.
Literally it means the game of household activities. Young boys and girls get together and build small houses in open area. Small pebbles and knuts are used as utensils. Children divide themselves in different families. Boys bring firewood and other necessities of life. Girls pretend to cook food. They become guests and hosts. They exchange innocent views among themselves. Their conversation is imitation of day to day conversation between elders in the routine life. Sometimes there is quarrel among the children during the game, however they forget it once the game is over.
This game is an interesting play of wolf and sheep. One child becomes a wolf and attacks a small herd of sheep and lambs. In the game the beast tries to attack the herd while rest of the children become defensive and use various tactics to defend themselves. At the end either the wolf is ousted out as a sheep or lamb gets prey to the predator. This game is played by children beyond the age of 6 and it is played indoor as well as outdoor.
Boy kids play different games exclusively meant for gents. Following two games are selected for this write-up.
Boys play a game which resembles modern game of cricket. It is called Tuksuri dik. The game is played between two teams. Sticks are used as kit for the game. Toss is drawn with the help of a pebble, wet on one side and dry one another side. Team captains choose wet or dry and after throwing the pebble in the air, it is decided by the wet side being up. The winning team starts the game with hitting smaller stick with a longer stick from a particular place called “Khana” in the central line. The defender team tries to catch the stick in the air. If it fails, then it throws the stick to hit the hitting stick of the opposite team, which is placed on the central line of the playground in the horizontal position. In case it misses, then the former team makes runs to pick up the stick thrown by the defenders. Run is count by measuring the stick with the point where it was picked up, to the central line where the main stick is laid. Each run is called “Gogh” (virus) and for each run, a pebble is picked up. At last the pebbles are counted and the count makes the score. A player is shown out if the small stick is caught at the time of hit or the main hitting stick is hit while lying on the central line. When all the players are out, the defending or fielding team begins hitting the small stick. At the end one team is declared winning on the basis of pebble counts. This game is taken as pre-historic (archaic) type of cricket.
Another game played by boys is called balbal muzhi. This game is like “Kabadi” in nature and scope. There are two teams. The defender team gets position in the playground. A single player from the opposite team attacks and tries to touch the body of one of the players positioned in the playground. If the player touches one and runs away, he makes a score. In case he is caught by the defenders, he is out. Thus all the players come one by one. In the next phase the opposite team plays in turn. At the end, the winner is announced by the number of players caught by each team, the highest scorer is the winner.
There are a number of games played exclusively by the girls. Following are two out of such games.
Girls play with dolls. In khowar doll is called “kalbuki”. This game has no score. It is just amusement. Dolls are sons and daughters. They are married to each other. Marriage ceremonies are performed as these are practiced in real life. Onions, potatoes, walnuts and knuts are exchanged between the families of the bride and bride groom as pride price and dowry.
Young girls are fond of playing flute. In khowar flute is called “belu”. The toy flute is made of bark of small willow branches, in the spring season. There are certain notes which are played on flute by the youngsters. One such note is addressed to horse rider.
Gallup thy horse, gallop,
May your whip break,
May your horse die,
Gallup thy horse, gallop,
There are many oral games which are common to boys and girls. Some oral games have meanings. Some games consist of words which do not necessarily bear meanings. Two oral games are as following:
Bachi Ucho is an oral game for infants. During play times an elder holds the fingers of the infant and pointing to each finger, he or she says:
This is a mountain goat,
This is a hunter,
This is one, who cooks the meat,
This is one, who eats the meat,
Then pointing to the fifth finger, the following words are uttered by the elder.
This is shapating.
It did nothing.
Children have another oral game which they play among themselves. If somebody is to be blamed or somebody is to be ousted, a poem is sung and each line or word is pointed to a child in a row. The child pointed with the last line or word is to be blamed or ousted. For example there is a short poem:
Bol be shaken
Shak ta balen
The study of indigenous and traditional games of children in Chitral Khyber pukhtunkhwa will be an interesting research in traditional knowledge and cultural heritage. The study is crucial and necessary to document an endangered culture. The documentation will also help in the revival of traditional games of children in the modern society despite all odds.