TODAY -

The housie fever has risen again

Samarjit Kambam *

Housie Tickets
Housie Tickets



The Manipuris, particularly we the Meeteis are a peculiar lot. We forgive an injury fast and forget an insult even faster and we are peace loving and want to lead a life of gaiety. While the ILP issue is in an imbroglio, and the hatchet between the hill and valley people on the three bills of the ILP is still not buried, we are living life with ease. We rarely thought for the future and most of all we love gambling. This shows that we the Meeteis are easy going people with our hearts like an open book.

Last time RCW had written a piece on Housie entitled "Rise of the Tambola Fever". This year also the same fever has risen again, leaving the ILP issue and the related three bills considered as thorny and malicious by the hill people at the sidewalk. And of course the confusion and non-clarity over framework agreement between NSCN(IM) and Govt of India followed by economic blockade by Kuki insurgents and organisations which may drag on for months.

Even though the coming months are going to bleak and hard to us the Meeteis, the valley dwellers, like lost souls in a fish bowl, nevertheless we are living our lives to the fullest, an intrinsic example of living a life of harmony with no hard feelings. While the ILP issue is still in the closet without any guarantee of seeing the light of the day, winter season has already arrived and now-a-days, housie is the talk of the town leaving aside the harsh reality of rising prices of petrol, diesel and other commodities at triple or quadruple of the actual cost.

Many are leafing local newspapers by skipping the news and looking for housie ads. The Meeteis are really crazed and obsessed about housie. Years back, housie was considered a kind of government approved gambling and was participated mostly by the males. Now, it has got viral and at every housie venue the number of girls, ladies and women far exceed the number of men.

When one buys a housie ticket, he or she thinks and eyes only for the bumper prizes and buying a ticket or more seems to become a necessity as though the prizes are guaranteed for every ticket buyer. But it is impractical for all the participants to win prizes. As the numbered balls of the Tambola consisting of 1 to 90 came out from the rotating caged spherical basket randomly, the prizes depend entirely on luck. The lucky one for the day will be the winner no matter what the serial number of the ticket is.

There is no surety that one could win by buying more number of tickets even though the probability is a little higher. Now housie is evolving fast and even a syndicate is there who earns money by helping in organising housies of local clubs or civil society organizations. Now, conducting a housie is not as complicated as it was some years back. Give some money to the housie syndicate and they will do the rest. The syndicate harvest a ripe amount of profit by doing so. Syndicate?. I wondered to myself. In fact, housie in Manipur has made a colossal leap to the next level.

A few years back, big bumper housies were conducted everyday at Iboyaima Sumaang Lila Theatre till it was banned by the state government. Then, Shanker Talkies at Lamphel became the Avataar of Iboyaima Sumaang Lila Theatre. Once famous for screening box office hit bollywood movies (before Hindi films and songs were banned by insurgent outfits), Shanker Talkies switched platform to Manipuri digital films but it had to stop screening as the number of viewers dwindle and debt rises, the main reason being its isolated and awkward location, far away from the hush buzz of bazaar area, failure of Lamphel Supermarket and the pathetic main road in front of it which has remained like that for decades.

Besides, Manipuri digital films are watched at the comfort of their own homes by the people at their big screen LEDs with surround DTS sound system. Such factors have converted Shanker Talkies into a non performing asset. So it incarnated as a haven for housie draws, a kind of gambling and the practice went on unabated everyday as a regular affair as the fee for rent given by organisers of housies were more profitable than screening Manipuri digital films.

There were times where two bumper housies are conducted on a single day at the same venue. The fever of housie rose to such level that organisers played housie at Iboyaima Sumaang Lila Theatre again during 2013-14. This year, Mata Cinema hall at Singjamei area has become the centre of attraction of housie lovers and is being conducted almost everyday. Some locals were too fed up that they opposed this gambling practice tooth and nail, but the practice goes on unabated.

On an average, at the least, about ten or more bumper draws are conducted in a single day in different districts of Manipur particularly in the valley areas. Now-a-days every bumper housie is preceded by a mini-bumper which has become mandatory thereby reaping huge monetary gains by the orgainsers. The prize of houseful ranges from money i.e 3 lakh to 10 lakh rupees, or vehicles most probably hatchbacks or sedans, sometimes SUVs.

Most commonly, housies with two wheelers as houseful are conducted which may be scooters or bikes and the way it is being played can be considered quite innovative. Now we have bumper housies where there are many housefuls such as 1st Houseful, 2nd Houseful, 3rd Houseful,…. and some even goes upto 7th Houseful with all the Housefuls as two wheelers and lines are given as money. Here also a new trend has come up where there are 2nd Quick Five, 2nd First Line, 2nd Second Line, 2nd Third line, 2nd Star etc., to attract more lousy, gambling loving and gullible persons like me who have no financial discipline.

Now I have come to know why the organisers keep upto seven housefuls. The first houseful is usually claimed by one person, even upto 2nd Houseful. By then many of the ticket holders have only one unticked or uncircled number on their ticket and await with bated breath acting as a thin block to the remaining housefuls. One number… only one number different though it may be from one person to another person's need is what the crowd has been waiting. By the stage of third houseful the number of claimants increase to two or three.

Then three of four claimants will crop up for the fourth houseful. Likewise the number of claimants increase as the number of houseful increases. By the time of seventh houseful there's bound to be five or more claimants. If the bumper houseful are, say Activas, then two Activas will have owners while other to-be owners will be given as money.

Say, if the cost of an Activa is Rs. 60,000, the three claimants are given 15,000 rupees each, the four or five claimants are given 10,000 rupees each, the six claimants are given Rs. 8000 each. The balance amount goes to the organisers. Now, out of the seven Activas, two will be driven away by their owners but five will be left without any owner.

Taking advantage of the situation, the organisers buy two more Activas from their fat profit and conduct the same seven houseful Activas the following day. Besides serving as a great attraction to housie lovers, the more the number of housefuls, the more beneficial it is to the organisers. Once upon a time local clubs found a hard time collecting money from door to door of a locality for conduct of a housie draw and the unsold tickets were torn apart in front of the crowd. Now-a-days, all the tickets are bought in a single day by the housie freaks including umpteen women.

Like professionals who organise 'melas' cum 'fairs' by going from one place to another eking out huge profits, nowadays these professional tambola organisations or syndicates are gaining more and more experience and have acquired great expertise in this field leading them to introduce new and innovative ideas. These group of professionals conduct housie at different locations by greasing the palms of heads of various registered local clubs or organizations and conduct housies for their own gain borrowing the names of the local clubs viz, this Association, that Association, this Organisation, that Organisation….. the list is endless, all in the name of fund raising for charity. The ironic thing is that such profit mongers have brainwashed the people into believing that they are doing social works. Now such characters run here and there, conducting housie somewhat early at a venue and starting afresh a little later at another venue on the same day.

Manipur is a peculiar state. Over and above peculiarity it is a state filled with uncertainty. Most of the rules applied in our state are nascent. Say, the Motor Vehicle Department had made it mandatory to wear helmet by two wheeler drivers as a safety measure followed by a mad rush of panic-buying of helmets with the sellers making the best use of the situation by selling them at double or triple the price of its actual cost. After a few months everything goes back to square one and two wheeler drivers commute as usual sans helmet.

During winter some grizzly women use to sell petrol in bottles and big containers with red-hot charcoal heater by the side at night time. There was a time where state security forces extort mobile phones from passersby for not having the SIM in their own name. After a few days, it was forgotten. Likely, the state government banned housie years back stating the practice as tantamount to illegal gambling. But with the arrival of this ever year's autumn season, housie gets resurrected and becomes a routine affair. Now it has gone full throttle. The only thing in Manipur that's certain and permanent is the draconian law i.e. AFSPA(1958).

In Manipur, wherever it may be, whenever a bumper housie is conducted, the venue gets jammed with people like a swarm of honey bees on a bee-hive. Those who turn up a little late return home due to non-availability of ticket as all the tickets have been sold. This shows that the number of housie obsessed people have raised exponentially. Some like playing housie to such an extent that they become nocturnal creatures commuting here and there searching for venues where housies are conducted. They even proceed to other valley districts of the state in their quest of housie.

Most of the people of any state or nation love gambling, some even have gambling in their blood and housie no doubt is a kind of gambling. Honestly speaking I also like housie not for the prizes but as a social event to fizz out the stress and tension of my power-packed schedule, monotony and rejuvenate myself by mingling among the crowd. I am a person whose luck goes below zero, for God has created me in such a way that I should reap only by the sweat of my brow.

For this season, a few days back I and one of my housie freak friend went to Mata Hall at Singjamei as he had already possessed a bumper ticket and I didn't want to dishearten him. When we reached there I also booked a bumper ticket. As always the timing of bumper was 4.30 sharp. But as you know "Meitei Poong"(Manipur's time where 1 minute is equivalent to 1 hour), even when it clocked 6 p.m., mini draws were being conducted one after another. Waiting, being one of the most arduous tasks, we took part in all the mini draws without winning any prize. First it was Rs. 100 for a set of tickets, then 200, then 300 and reaches upto Rs. 500 a set. We did not win even a dry leaf.

The participants have full zeal and enthusiasm on their onward journey towards their housie venue, each one of them thinking of bringing home a car or a two wheeler or huge amount of money as if they were sure to win the prizes. As we got nearer to the venue we got high-spirited and confident as if we were going to collect bumper houseful prize.

My friend would say if he were to win a car he would sell it straightaway because he doesn't want the car driven by him to be called as 'Housie Car' by the people. But when the exciting bumper housie draw gets over, everything goes topsy turvy and our hopes collapsed. The worst part of participating in a housie is the unpalatable and unpleasant feel that we get while returning home empty handed along with an empty purse in the middle of the chilly night on a deserted street with the state security forces giving us more unpleasantries in the name of frisking.


* Samarjit Kambam wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was posted on October 28, 2015.


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