Tired of cricket? Try gulli danda, pitthu or baander killa!

Published: February 15, 2013

We must encourage the next generations to stay in touch with our own cultural games as well. PHOTO: AREESH ZUBAIR

Growing up in the streets of Punjab, we enjoyed playing popular sports such as cricket, hockey and football, but the real flavour of street games was in our local folk games.

This piece is dedicated to all those who have played any of these games in their childhood and I hope it serves as a pleasant trip down memory lane. 

Baander killa:

The name might sound funny and the game actually looks so too, but it isn’t funny for one person – the baander (we’ll get to that in a bit).

Every participant of the game takes his shoes off and places them around a killa, that is, a wooden stake pinned to the ground. A rope or string of around two meters long is attached to the stake.

Selection of the baander:

Puggan pugayee is the usual way of selection.

I can still remember the bright smiles seen on the faces of boys who escaped being baanders. 

The game:

Once we have a baander, the game starts. The poor baander is meant to guard the shoes while holding the string with one hand – this is all while the rest try to snatch the shoes.

If someone trying to snatch a shoe is touched by the baander, he becomes a baander (yes, it’s contagious!) As soon as the last shoe gets picked up, the baander starts running toward a pre-agreed finish line some 50 yards away.

During this run, everybody throws shoes that they have picked up at him while he dodges the shoes. This violent part of the game is in fact the most fun bit!

In this game, there are no winners but one loser.

Toughest part of this game as a kid was to hold your tears when being sprayed by shoes.

I never thought I’d ever say this but Baander killa has made me a stronger person!

Pitthu: 

Also known as “pitthu garam”, this is a rather well known game in streets of Pakistan. 

Things required:

1 soft ball (usually a tennis ball is used)

6-8 small pieces of bricks/stones that can be piled up like a mini tower

The game:

Each player of the team taking the first turn (Team A) gets three chances to strike a pile of stones with a ball from a distance of 3-4 metres.

Once a player hits the pile, the other team tries to catch the ball before it bounces and if they are successful, Team A loses its turn. However, if they can’t catch it before it bounces, which is usually the case, the real game begins.

Now Team A has to reassemble the pile while Team B has to stop them by hitting them with the ball. If a player gets hit, he is out of the game.  If Team A completes the pile, they have scored!

Seka:

I’ve never played a game of pitthu that didn’t end in free style seka. Seka is where all the players hit each other with the ball (sometimes not even caring about which team they are from.) So yes, this game involves and ends at (some harmless) violence too.

I liked pitthu the most because it had all the excitement — aiming, running, catching, hitting and so on.

Gulli danda:

Gulli danda (also pronounced gilli danda), is another popular game. Played with two wooden sticks, it is somewhat similar to cricket and baseball. One longer stick (the ‘danda’) is like a bat. The gulli, a small piece of wooden stick, is placed on the ground and the batsman (or the danda-man) strikes it to raise it up in the air and then hits it hard to throw it as far as possible. The fielders have to fetch the gulli and throw it back to the batting circle before the batsman runs to the finish line to run him out. If they can’t, it’s a score.

Photo: Areesh Zubair

While playing street cricket, if someone plays rash shots, he is taunted and asked to go back to gulli danda. Gulli danda players often turned out to be great hitters of ball in cricket. 

Qainchay:

Photo: Areesh Zubair

Also known as bantay, is played with small marbles.

My golfer friends might consider it blasphemy but in a way, this is a mini version of golf. It involves marbles and aiming to put them into the holes in the ground in as few as strikes as possible. Instead of clubs or sticks, the game is played with fingers which are used like a bow. It is a very delicate game. The not-so-delicate part of the game is that since it is played on the ground, kids tend to get their hands and clothes all dirty, which makes mothers hate this game.

But, hey, what’s the fun of playing a game if you don’t get your hands dirty in the process?

Photo: Areesh Zubair

The game is usually attached with a prize: winner takes all.

The prize is all the qainchay of the opponent.

There are many other indoor and outdoor games that we all played as kids. Alongside playing and following the western games, we must encourage the next generations to stay in touch with our own cultural games as well.

Let them taste the warmth of a ‘yassoo panjoo’ game!

PHOTOS: AREESH ZUBAIR

Read more by Aleem here or follow him on Twitter @aleemzubair

Muhammad.Aleem.Zubair

Muhammad Aleem Zubair

A chartered accountant in Lahore who loves cricket, food, poetry and music . He holds expertise in Auditing & Business Advisory, teaches and conducts corporate training every now and then. He tweets @aleemzubair (twitter.com/aleemzubair)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • https://twitter.com/AreeshZubair Areesh Zubair

    While taking the pictures I spent some time playing all these games with these kids. Bachpan Yaaad agaya tha..Recommend

  • Hamza Awan

    Thanks for writing this article. But You forgot to mention some which i used to play with my sisters and with my cousins when i was a child while growing up near Jhelum. It includes Chuppan Chupai ( Hide and Seek ) , Stapu ( Like Hopscotch) , Pugan Pugai, Yassu Panju, Baraf Paani, Kho Kho and Heli to name a few.Recommend

  • Kashif Farooqui

    Next time kindly do mention an Ancient but dying Sports and Culture of Northern Punjab especially prevalent in the Potohar and Hazara Division and that is known as Gatka ( The Warrior Dance with Sports or Martial Arts of Punjab ). Gatka includes a Dance before the fight with the sticks and then people used to fight only for fun with light sticks and it is like a Local Fencing Sports and it is pretty ancient as well. In the past when Warriors used to prepare for the fight they used to Dance to tell everyone that they are ready and still Gatka is prevalent and we should preserve this Ancient sports and dance in Upper Punjab at all costs.Recommend

  • https://twitter.com/aleemzubair Aleem

    @Hamza Awan:
    I’ve played all those games that you mentioned except ‘Heli’. Could you explain what it is? May be i’d have played it with a different name.Recommend

  • https://twitter.com/aleemzubair Aleem

    @Kashif Farooqui:
    Never heard of this game before. Sounds interesting. Agree with your point we need to promote these games as an important part of our cultural heritage.Recommend

  • Muhammad

    Loved this piece.
    Had a good laugh.
    Rehashed some memories.
    Thanks for that.Recommend

  • Magus

    These games are a waste of time. If you have so much time, pray.Recommend

  • Mehboob alam

    To Magus: guess you have never the opportunity to taste the pleasure of our very own games. i m 24 and still will love to play marbles but if i do that i can be tagged as psycho………i know one such case. khu bilawray ba gure da daroghno ye. Recommend

  • Kashif Farooqui

    @Aleem Well because after the creation of Pakistan it was almost over somehow but only a handful of people play it and dance like that. Just Search for Gatka and you will find many Warrior Dances of Punjab mostly done in Indian Punjab as In Pakistani Punjab it is almost died down and must be revived. Along with Gatka people used to play with Woods and that is a very nice game. I am planning to make a Small video on it and then i will write an article on ET if they will approve to tell the people more about this unique art.
    Here you can Consult Wikipedia article for this.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gatka

    And here is the Video of Hazara Region of Pakistan where People still practice it along with Potohar region but in Central Punjab people no longer practice it due to lack of knowledge.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q6JBRinzz7URecommend

  • Musthaq Ahmed

    We will jolly well play all these games , if only our sports instructor sports a short and a smarter beard !Recommend

  • Asim

    Beautifully written and funny, a rare combination in the blogosphere.
    And a great piece for enlightening the new generation of our culture.Recommend

  • Raj Kafir

    @Kashif Farooqui:
    Gatka is attributed to Sikhs and its promotion will be a threat to Islam in Pakistan. Majority of Pakistanis speak Punjabi and Punjabi language has no official status in Pakistan. The reason is Punjabi is considered to be the language of Sikhs and Sikhism. When Ghulam Ishaq Khan was the President, a white paper was issued to snub the promotion of Punjabi in Pakistan. The bizarre logic given was that promotion of Punjabi will be a threat to Islam in Pakistan. Similarly Pakistan will never promote Gatka since the rulers of Pakistan know that once majority of present day Pakistan Area was ruled by handful of Sikhs.Recommend

  • http://gilgit Hkhan

    these are the basic games which are still played in many areas of the world that reminds us that we all humans are somehow related to each other despite the distancesRecommend

  • Khawar

    In Islamabad, we had a game called “PAALA”, We use to white wash the street road with pair of two parallel lines Intersecting each other making a cross sign after every 3 metres or so….2 teams, one had to run between the lines and others had to cross all the intersecting lines to win…amazing game…the ones that got caught or touched were out of the game…P.S it made our street look so cool every summer. All street kids participated in free white wash :)Recommend