Mountain Walking

Kanche Khele Ho (Playing With Marbles)

While wandering around the market at Manikaran last week, I took a trail that led to the banks of the Parvati river (whose roar was echoing in the entire valley). Suddenly, I spotted a few young lads playing with marbles, popularly known as ‘Kanche’ in most of Northern India. Seeing them squatting down and blissfully playing with the “Kanche” transported me back to my own childhood.

Born and brought up in the hills, I learnt very soon that playgrounds (or any flattish piece of ground or field that could be used for playing ) were a luxury, and that the elder kids had the authority to play on them first. With no video games or any other source of entertainment, the only choices left were Hide and Seek, the mountain version of alley (Gulley) cricket, a few board games such as Ludo, Snakes and Ladders, and those few who knew how to play it – chess.

The most exciting game of them all however, was playing with the ‘Kanche’. With a very small amount of flat land required for the game, it could be played anywhere and the marbles could be bought from the market, costing a rupee for 4 in our younger days. The rules were simple, as the winner took a certain amount of marbles on winning from the loser or the losing team. The game also required a high level of skill, concentration and accuracy.

A few “Kanche” games (with their local names) played by the people in the mountains are:

Yakka’: In this game, a player has to get one marble inside a hole made in the ground. On succeeding, the player gets all the marbles collected from each of the players participating.

Chakri’: Here, a circle is made and every individual is required to place a marble inside the circle. The objective is to hit the marble inside the circle in such a way that it comes out of the circle, along with the marble that the player is hitting with. If the marble with which the marble in the circle is hit fails to come outside, then the player is penalised and required to give one marble as penalty. The objective is to knock out as many marbles as possible without the foul.

Dhai’: In this, the player has to hit the marbles inside the hole in the ground in such a way that one or more marbles comes out of the hole. The catch is that the marble from which one hits the other marbles shouldn’t end up inside the hole after the hit. Failing to do so would result in the player being penalised by having to give away one marble.

As I watched the “Kanche” game in progress, I fondly remembered my carefree childhood days, when my brother and I used to play our own versions of the marble games in our yard.

WM Kanche 01

Observing the finer nuances of the position of the hands and fingers maybe; Photo: Abhinav Kaushal

WM Kanche 02

No matter how simple or easy looking the game is, the postures always look artistic; Photo: Abhinav Kaushal

WM Kanche 03

These kids prefer chess under the shade in the monsoon season, when rains frequently cause obstructions while playing in the open outside; Photo: Abhinav Kaushal


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