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Jambo Paulo - Jambo Mykoli: 4 Our Games

"We played a variety of games according to the fad or seasons,'' recalls Kersi Rustomji, continuing his vivivdly entertaining account of growing up in East Africa.

We played a variety of games according to the fad or seasons. Nobody seemed to know how or exactly when a change over from one to the other took place. One time kabadi would be in, and suddenly a week or a fortnight later, it would be nargel or goolli-dunda. Apart from soccer and cricket, most of our games had Indian origins yet others like marbles or rolling a hoop were universal. Kite flying of course depended on the seasonal winds and the rainy season with its prevailing winds marked the start of it.

Kabadi a team game was played on a court that was very easy to prepare. All that was required was a bare patch of ground. Using a foot or a stick a large rectangle was marked out and divided into three parts. The two large ends comprised the court areas for each team. Between these areas was a narrow no-manís-land, wherein no member from either team could tag one another.

The purpose of the game was to enter the opponentís area and tag as many members of their team that had not to exceed eleven. The tagged members were out and had to leave the court. However, the tagging part had a condition. The person tagging entered the opponentsí court, and continually repeated the word, kabadi, and whoever he tagged was out. However, if the opposition swamped him and prevented him from returning into the no-manís-land or his court, still uttering kabadi, he was out and had to leave. In addition, if he ran out of breath and stopped uttering the kabadies before returning to the no-manís-land, or his own court, he was also out.

These games were very physical, the bouts lasted quite some time, and the team with the best score out of five bouts was the winner. These bouts also held during local festivals when both adult and childrenís teams participated, amid great shouts spurring the favourite teams. A feast of sweetmeats and sherbets of various types followed these tournaments.
Goolli dunda, I feel is to India what cricket is to England, yet it is the cheapest team sport I know of. The material for equipment readily picked up, from any dead wood, dry branch, or off-cuts from the local carpenter. Any open ground serves as a playing field. A piece of dried wood about four centimetres thick makes a short goolli and another, a dunda, a striking stick. The dunda is about half an armís length and the goolli is about ten centimetres long round like cricket stump and whittled at the ends. When struck at either end it rises in air allowing the striker to hit it. Two players one on each side or a team of eleven or more players each can play the game.

Having found a ground, a gabbi, a hole about the length of the goolli is hollowed out. The side winning the toss takes the strike while the other side spreads out in front of the hole to field. The batsman or the striker places the goolli across the hole and holding the dunda behind it flings it as far as he can. The fielder, having stopped the goolli, or from the spot where it has come to rest, throws it at the dunda over the hole. If he hits the dunda the striker is out and the next striker comes in. The striker is also out if during his fling of the goolli he is caught.

If the striker is not out, he proceeds to the next stage, which is the scoring. He gets three chances to tap the goolli ends from where it has landed, and hit it, as it rises, as far as he can. At the end of the third strike, he has to estimate how many dunda distance the goolli is from the gabbi, the hole and quote a number. If the fielding team feels that the estimate is likely to be correct, they allow it. This then becomes the strikerís individual score and the team score. However, the fielding side has another option. If it feels that the estimate by the striker may fall short of the number quoted, they get the option to measure it.

Choosing the shortest line to the gabbi, the fielders measure the distance using the dunda end over end. If it is short of the estimate quoted the striker is out, and there is no score. As the field has no limit, there are no boundaries. This is the simplest form of the game but there are also versions that are more advanced. Of course, the team with the highest score wins.

The game could last a long time depending on the team size and the number of innings agreed. Adults too played goolli dunda, and then it was another town event not unlike a cricket match. The team supporters and punters thronged the maidan, the town open ground. Khan Saab brought his barrow of roasted nuts, chickpeas, corn pop, chana batata, spiced chickpeas with potatoes, spiced roasted vermicelli, and fresh grated coconut chutney. Other vendors also sat up stalls of a variety of food, tea, and soft drinks at the verges.

A very lively day ensued, with the local band and a grand picnic. Supporters and spectators applauded, encouraging or acid comments ensued, and the crowd enjoyed every crack and banter, which rose from two supporting groups.

At the end of the match, speeches followed, with praises for the players who performed well, and the winning team received three hearty cheers. The band struck up, marched about the empty court, followed by a bunch of kids, who mimicked the march, while eating their purchases from the various vendors. With the sun going down, the crowd thinned as all began a homeward track. The band too packed up, hopped on a lorry, and drove away, some kids pursuing it for brief moments, swallowed in the increasing dust cloud.

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