How many of you have heard of ‘dadhi chhua’? Now, what was that? No? Never? Well, how about ‘Padda Kudi’ or ‘Atti Patti’? ‘Gobar Danda’? No? No clue? I don’t blame you. If you are not from Jamshedpur, you wouldn’t have heard any of these names ever in your life. These are games that kids play, or at least, used to play in Jamshedpur. Mention any of these games to a Jamshedpur guy and you can be sure of sending them on a trip down memory lane evoking a strong sense of nostalgia. Hell, you might even see them secretly shed a tear in the memory of those golden days that will never come back. Yes we used to play the usual cricket, football, basketball, badminton and hockey, albeit with tree branches, not hockey sticks. But then, during the long summer holidays, when we got bored playing the usual games, we would go back to ‘Atti Patti’ and ‘Gobar Danda’. My limited research in the field indicates that these games are completely indigenous to Jamshedpur. Nowhere else have I seen or heard of kids playing ‘Dadhi Chhua’ for instance.
Another such game unique to Jamshedpur is ‘Jamantis’. The inherent violence in the game would lead the casual observer to conclude that the game was invented in America. But no Sir, this is Jamshedpur’s very own. An easy game to pick and play, it is also very easy on the pocket – a huge help considering the meagre allowances we used to receive from our parents. All you need to play the game is a ball and an open field. Now, you would argue that that’s true for plenty other ballgames – football, volleyball…well, you don’t even need goalposts and nets for this one. A ball (tennis, rubber, leather or hard plastic) and an open field…that’s all you need. Um…well, there’s more actually…you also need balls of steel. This isn’t a game for the faint hearted. We used to say silent prayers before descending on to the filed.
Here are the rules:
1. There are no teams – each man to his own
2. You take the ball in your hand and try to hit the other players on the field with all your might.
That’s all there was to it. Just hit the other players as hard as you could. The ball would hit the player square on the chest, back, face, or God forbid, the groin, incapacitating them for some time. At times, it would ricochet from the body in another direction leaving other players either running after the ball or scurrying away to ensure they were farthest from it to avoid being hit. Yes, you would also occasionally miss the player completely. But trust me, being a veteran of countless ‘Jamantis’ games, I can assure you this was very rarely the case. There were too many players and the playing arena invariably too small.
After the game, when I used to go back home, my entire body aching, I used to survey the damage in the bathroom. Various red patches on the arm, chest, and abdomen that would turn blue by the next morning. But these ‘injuries’ never deterred me and my friends from playing the game. Sometimes the injuries got serious. I remember, once my friend, who was also my next door neighbor getting hit pretty bad. We were playing in the field right across our street, and one of the sharp shooters (I swear a lot of us could have been snipers in the Army, given our deadly aim), threatened to throw the ball in my friend’s direction. My friend the skilful player that he was ducked immediately, but the wily sharp shooter stopped, took aim again and hit him square on his left eye. The next day I saw him returning from the Telco Hospital with a big white bandage over his eye. He recovered all right, and within a week was back on the field. We were like Spanish matadors…no injury could keep us away from the arena.
And then Azharuddin would score a century, or Kapil Dev would pick up 5 wickets, or Maradona would lead his team into the final of the World Cup singlehandedly…and we would be lured into playing cricket and football again, trying to emulate our heroes. However, we would get back to ‘Jamantis’ every now and then, either by choice or by force – absence of bats and wickets for example. That did not dampen our spirits too much. Because we knew we could entertain ourselves by taking a ball in our hands and hitting the others as hard as we could.