TODAY -

Introspecting Some Old Games

James Oinam *

An illustration of 'Introspecting Some Old Games' by  James Oinam
An illustration of 'Introspecting Some Old Games' by James Oinam



Although often discouraged by elders, teenagers and those in twenties would often throw up small child up in air and catch him or her on falling. The thrill of the free fall is liked by some children a lot and can be clearly seen in their expressions.

Sometimes the elders would swing the child upwards and then let him or her fall (the child does not leave the firm grasping hands all this while) and sing the song: 'Ting, ting chauro, epa machum taro, epu machum taro, ting, ting chauro' (means something like grow up quickly, shed the fluid of father, shed the fluid of grandfather).

On the Manipuri All India Radio, with mildly cracking sound, early morning one could hear the group song: 'Te, te tenawa, Keisampatki tenawa, Heinouna munlaga tenawana harawi, ouu' (Parrot, parrot, Parrot of Keishampat, When the mangoes are ripe, Parrots are happy).

According to N. Khagendra (Land of Gods and Goddesses), the song was a part of a game children used to play. There would be two teams in this game. At the beginning, one player each from each team would play captive and would be put among the opposite team. Then turn-wise a rescuer would be sent into the realm of the opposite team.

This rescuer has to make the sound 'ouu' (or sing the entire song given above), without break in breath. According to Khagendra, this play was probably inspired by the battles between various tribes in the olden days, and the habit of taking women and children as war captives.

Chingtamlen has noted how polo games might have kept men (and soldiers) ready for such battles. Only a few agile men on horses would enter into enemy territory, plunder, take war captives, and return before the enemy could assemble their soldiers to fight back. I believe at least probably came from the colonial British.

One of them is the 'Ring-a, ring-a roses'. According to some legends this game was inspired by the great plague in Europe and large-scale death it caused ('We all fall down'). (Some American version has the last lines as: 'Ashes, ashes, We all fall down'.)

The other is hide and seek game, where one player seeks out other players hiding in all kinds of places (closets, under the bed) in the house. The seeker must spot and identify the hidden persons (from a safe distance) before he or she is touched by one of the hidden players. If touched, he is 'dead'.

We see this game played by the children in the book Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. This game might be copycatting of king's soldier seeking out rebels, or the conflict within various Christian groups seeking out one another, with hidden chambers in houses for hiding (the movie Skyfall, also the name of the mansion in the movie, shows such hidden chamber).

This was among a few games we played as child. That seeker can 'kill' the hider from a distance may be a reflection of his superior weapon (gun perhaps). In yet another game, we formed into two groups of equal number. Opposite sides of land/neighbourhood plot would be selected for hiding areas.

In those days, lantana and other hedgerows were used as walls for common plots of land shared by families. Players from each side 'look out' for players of opposite side hiding at the opposite end. When you see them, you call out his name, and point out the hiding place, if asked. The person spotted out is 'dead/out'.

This is apparently the coming of guns in the society reflected in the plays. One last play that I remembered while reading N. Khagendra seems to reflect the apprehensions of the local population with respect to foreigners.

In this game, there is one aggressive player on one side and, on the other team, a leader and her followers clinging to the leader in a chain. The aggressive party is a crow from foreign land and other team is the mother crow and her children (indigenous population?). The aggressor wrestles with the mother crow, by pulling and pushing while interlocking each other's fingers (which lock the palms of aggressor crow and mother crow).

The aim of the aggressor is to break the chain and capture the isolated baby crows. All this can be interpreted from the exchange of words between the aggressor crow and the mother crow:

Aggressor crow: 'Kwak, kwak.' (Crow, Crow).
Mother crow: 'Kari kwakno?' (What kind of crow are you?)
Aggressor crow: 'Mayang kwak-ne.' (A crow from foreign lands.)

Then the aggressor asks for permission to go by the side, above, and then below. The mother crow refuses to grant permission every time. The reasons given are: 'Above lies father sky' and 'Below lies mother earth'. (In certain prayers (mantra), the presence of parents around you is invoked for safety.) On getting denial, the fight begins.




* James Oinam wrote this article for e-pao.net
The writer can be contacted at jamesoinam(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was webcasted on July 05, 2017.



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