Chindro, Patpatoni and Meergati are all names that may be familiar to people in our border regions, as the traditional games they once played as children. However, these days interest in such traditional cultural games has begun to decline, leading to active efforts to once again promote these amongst Pashtoons.
Already, practical efforts have been made to bring such games into the mainstream, as in February of this year, the provincial government in Peshawar organised a traditional games event, which was held in Qayyum stadium in Peshawar. The event was aimed at female contestants and players hailed from all parts of the province including Mardan, Peshawar, Bannu and the tribal territories. Along with this, the government has also previously organized inter-regional cultural games on a provincial level.
Safina Babar, who is Assistant Director of Sports in the province and also organizes female sports events, spoke about the efforts being made, “The government is committed to promoting local traditional games played in various parts of the province and have taken practical steps in the past by organizing events specifically to promote them.”
Urban areas have seen the biggest decline in interest in traditional games, while in more rural areas some young children still continue to play them. Babar feels that the media and new technology has led to decreased interest in not only partaking in the games, but also in people’s general efforts to stay fit and take part in such recreational activities. “People used to play many of those traditional games, but trends have changed these days and the youth is much more interested in more commercial, western games. The younger generation make no time to exercise these days, in rural as well as urban areas. People are much more consumed with video games, computers and mobiles.”
Some of the traditional games such as patpatoni (hide and seek) and meergati (collecting pebbles) are mainly for the fun and amusement of young children, having been passed down from elder generations. However, others like danda goli (ball and bat), which can be played with two teams of up to six players have the potential to be played on a higher level as a team sport.
Babar therefore feels that such games should be revived from a grassroots level, “Local and traditional games can be promoted in schools, colleges and universities. If there is sufficient interest there, than we can make more efforts to play these games on a provincial and national level.”
Speaking to students in Peshawar, many agreed that such games needed to be promoted further. “I used to play traditional games like danda goli, patpatoni, kanche and belawri in my childhood, but these games are not played so much anymore,” says Sajad Ali, who studies at the University of Peshawar. He suggested that sports societies could be used to help raise their profile, “The sports societies at university could help promote these games and in this way the younger generation will take more of an interest.”
Fellow student, Nasirullah echoed the view, “I really enjoyed traditional games and I think schools and colleges should include them as part of the sports curriculum to promote them further. Parents can encourage children, by sharing their experiences of these games from when they were young.”
He also suggested that the rules of such games needed to be properly regularized, “If we have proper associations who set clear rules and regulations, it will help to validate their authenticity so that they can be included in tournaments. The government should also try to include those alongside modern games at a national and inter-provincial level. In this way we can promote them in each part of the country and maybe even on an international level!”
Seeing children play such traditional games in streets and among friends may just seem like a pastime for the young, but for others it highlights an important way of helping to promote the local culture. Babar says, “Indigenous games are hugely important – they show part of the lifestyle of our forefathers. In other countries, many of the popular sports have their roots in old traditional games. Over time, these were updated and soon became popular sports played internationally.”
For this reason, Babar feels it important to raise the profile of such games, as only through playing them regularly can efforts be made to modify, improve and bring these games forward for the new generation and gain popular appeal. Not only ensuring that such games continue to be played, but as Babar highlights, helping to promote the culture, “To help promote the local culture of any society, it is necessary to encourage and promote the traditional games of that society.”