VILLAGE GAMES

The outdoor games young boys played were soccer in the dry season and godd’de (marbles) during the monsoons. Another game played in between the dry and rainy seasons was botté – a variation othe game of godd’de – played with unshelled cashew nuts.

The beginning of the monsoons in early June was also the start othe school year. This was when we would get settled in our new classrooms, size up our teachers, pick our buddies, and spend the evenings participating in village games.

After-school games started around 4:00 p.m. and ceased at sundown when the village church sounded the Aimori or ‘Angelus’ bellThat’s when every Catholic villager would stop in their tracks and face the church as they crossed themselves and recited a set oprayers called ‘the Angelus’ for about thirty seconds. At the end of the ‘Angelus’, they would cross themselves once again and head for home.

GODD’DE

Godd’de was a team sport and the game was played on the main road where traffic was relatively light … one caminhão returning to Calangute from Mapuça and another from Betim, a bullock cart, and the odd car.

The two teams would be made up of a matching number of players, usually four per team. The other kids followed the game as spectators.

The marble was about one inch in diameter, and made of real marble. It would be held with three fingers of one hand and flicked withthe middle finger of the other hand

One team would place their marbles in a circle drawn in the dirt road. From a short distance away, the other team would toss their marbles near the circle and take shots to get the marbles out of the circle. If they succeeded in striking all the marbles out of the circle, it would be the start of the fun part of the game.

Each attacker would be assigned a target marble. He would then attempt to move it in a series of strokes as far away from the circle as possible.

A miss would be the end of his part in the game. But the losing player would have to putt his marble all the way back to the circle by getting down on his knees, using his elbow as the putter and holding his ear lobe with the same hand while the spectators jeered with chants of “ghus! ghus! ghus!”

I was about eleven years old when I was on a losing team and had to putt my marble about 100 yards and around a sharp bend in the road. My attacker was the terror of the game – a kid called Quentin (pronounced ‘keen-teen’ by the locals). He had great aim and a deadly shot. And every time he sent a target marble rolling down the road, he’d puff out his chest, grin like a chimpanzee, and strut arms akimbo in a circle to the applause of his fans.

As I was putting my way back to the circle with all the kids chanting “ghus! ghus! ghus!”, I scraped my elbow on the ground and it began to bleed. I was hurting and I still had a long way to go. My only hope for a premature end to my agony was the Angelus bell.  Instead,  a girl named Atila heading home on her bicycle came around the corner and plowed right into my crouched body… and I took the opportunity to feign injury until the Angelus bell rang.
The game came to a halt, and the opposing team spared me the rest of the ‘ghus’. That evening, I said my Angelus with real devotion.

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SOCCER

We played soccer bare-foot in a paddy field after the rice crop was harvested in August. That’s when the ground was dusty but dried solid by the hot sun. If we were lucky, the ground surface would be flat. If, however, cattle happened to walk through the field when it was somewhat slushy and in the process of drying, their deep hoof prints would harden and stay that way for the entire dry season. Needless to say, this made the surface very hazardous for all but those hardy kids with tough ankles – and there were a few of them whose dexterity in the pock-marked area of the field always earned my admiration. They played in that area by design rather than by choice, because the boy who owned the soccer ball picked his team – and his position on the field – so that he would get to play on the flat surface. The goal posts comprised two mounds of earth or two bamboo poles with a rope tied across the top as a crossbar.

BIYANI

When the cashews ripened on the trees, we would walk up the hills surrounding the village and help ourselves to this juicy fruit. The cashew seed that grew outside the fruit would be twisted off and left under the tree. This was done for several reasons.

Firstly, the nut was a lucrative part of the cashew crop which earned the land tenant a fair amount of money in addition to his main income derived from using the cashew fruit to brew the potent cajel liquor. Secondly, we were always afraid of being caught by the land tenant for stealing seeds.

Whenever we took a walk on the hills, we would hear an ululating voice in the distance warning us that we were being watched. This was the signal for us to chew on our cashews, drop the seeds and head for home. But sometimes we’d throw caution to the wind and come away with a pocketful of cashew seeds that we would use in the game of biyani.

Unlike the game of godd’de, the cashew seeds were lined up horizontally on a ridge of sand within a circle, except for one at the extreme left that was placed vertical. From a starting line about fifteen feet away, we took shots at the seeds with a striker that was a large cashew seed partially hollowed out and filled with lead. We got to keep only the seeds we struck out of the circle. However, if we knocked out the one on the extreme left, we got to keep all the remaining seeds in the circle.

At the end of the season, we would roast our winnings over the embers of dried leaves and shell them before feasting on the kernels.

Outdoor games were open to every kid in the village. The only prerequisite was basic skills and team spirit. This was when caste, religion and social status took a back seat to the sheer joy of being involved in traditional village games.

We chose to play indoor games mainly during the monsoons whenever a heavy downpour prevented us from playing marbles on the main road.

CAROM

Carom was played on a smooth wooden board shaped somewhat like a square pool table (approximately 30″ x 30″), with corner pockets. The board came with nineteen circular wooden discs similar to the pieces used in the game of ‘draughts’ (checkers). A red piece was a neutral ‘queen’, and nine white and nine black pieces were assigned to the two opponents.The object of the game was to be first to sink the ‘queen’ and all your pieces in the corner ‘pockets’.

The carom board would be placed on a table to allow for two players, or two teams of two players per team, to participate in the game. The ‘queen’ would be placed in the centre of the board with the other pieces around her in a set pattern. From a base line, a player would flick a ‘striker’ to break up the cluster of pieces. From then on, every player got a turn at trying to sink one or more of the player’s own pieces until they were all ‘pocketed’. A point for each of the opponent’s pieces left on the board was counted as the winner’s score. Another five points would be added to the score if the winner happened to pocket the ‘queen’ during the game and have it ‘covered’ by pocketing one of the winner’s own pieces on the next strike.

Unlike the game of billiards or snooker, carom did not require much strategy or finesse; a good aim and a good eye for angles is all that mattered.

PING PONG

sketch264The other indoor pastime was the game of ping-pong  – also known as ‘table tennis’. One of the places where we could play ping pong  was at the home of our buddy Agnel Abreu. We played on a long dining table in a spacious dining room. Agnel had the net, the ‘bats’ (paddles), and a supply of celluloid balls to round out all the necessary equipment. In addition, Agnel was blessed with a wonderful mother who openly welcomed her son’s friends into her home and tolerated the monotonous tic toc sound of the ball and our excited yelps, with nary a complaint.

TABLAM

sketch265Another traditional game my grandmother Mãe would get me to play with her was tablam.  It was somewhat like shooting crap, and was

played on the bare floor. Instead of dice, there were four bamboo slats, about six inches in length, with the ends of the smooth side notched with two X’s, the other being the fibrous inner pith. The score was a kept on a wooden board with two parallel  rows of twelvw holes and a grid of lines connecting the holes. Wooden pegs, coloured black and yellow, were lined up in the two rows representing the two opponents. The object of the game was to eliminate the other opponent.

Mãe would hold the four slats upright, tap one end on the floor, flip them 180º, and catch them in the air. She would repeat this move twice and drop the slats on the floor. If the slats fell with three smooth sides facing up and one facing down, it was a tabla. This allowed the player to move a peg over to the other row and eliminate a peg from the other side.. The score was then kept by moving a peg on a wooden board with two rows of holes (one for each player) in an elongated ‘U’ course. It was a simple game, but I never kept score. All I know is that Mãe never let me lose like most grandparents dowhen playing with their grandchildren.

Our indoor games could never match the modern electronic games that offer spectacular graphics, dazzling action and great excitement. Our pastimes were mediocre by comparison. But one thing we had over today’s entertainment is that you couldn’t pull the plug on our fun.