Knocked by a flower

New Age Xtra will be shedding light on some of the forgotten games of Bangladesh over the next few months in this section. This week, Muhammad Ibrahim IbneTowhid writes aboutPhulTokkaand the reasons behind it being so popular among urban and rural children and youth

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PhulTokka is generally played by children of all ages. For years, this game has been played in open spaces of the house and in school fields during the afternoon or other times ofthe day. The game does not require any sports gears and girls are active players of the sport.

The rule of the game is simple. At first, the members need to divide themselves into two teams. Each team then decides on a leader. The leader gives each member a code name-the name of a flower.The name of the game has thus been called ‘PhulTokka’ for ages.In some areas of the country, the secret names are also replaced with names of different fruits. However, members of the opposingteam do not know the names and thus only the members of one team are aware of this.

The game begins soon after the formation of the teams. The members of the two teams stand head to head in a set distance with a midline drawn between the standing positions of the two teams.  The leader of a team goes up to the opposition and covers any team member’s eyes with a cloth and calls out to a teammate by thecode flower name.  The person who is called- walks up and taps the forehead of the blindfolded person and quickly returns to his/her position. The job of the blindfolded person is to guess the identity of the tapper. At this point, the blindfolded person removes the cloth. If the person succeeds in identifying the opponent who tapped, then the player jumps one step forward. The opposing team gets their turn after this. As the game progresses, the team that gets to cross the margin first wins the game.

After one such session of the game comes to an end, another innings can start. At this stage the teams’ members can reshuffle and a new team leader might be chosen.

During different sessions of the game, the team mates sing different rhymes by applauding and cheering on their team mates. One such rhyme is, ‘Cycle bajekringkring, baburdokane. Rajarbetirbiyehoisepakkadalane. Ma debekhopabendhe, baba dibebiye. Phuleragaikoridoshmonkavori (Cycle bell rings ‘chring’ ‘chring’ in one Babu’s shop. The King’s maiden will be married in the royal house. Mother will tie her hairs and father will hold the wedding. Lots of buds will be tied with the flowers many). The game is also known as Golap-Tagar, which are names of two flowers.

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Just a decade ago, this game was well known across the country. However, with the advancement of technology and digital games, this traditional sport has faded along with many others. Even today in distant villages, it is a rare scenario to find children playing this game.

Asif Ahmed, a student of Dhaka University, tells New Age Xtra, ‘Although I was born and brought up in the capital city, I recall playing PhulTokkaduring my childhood for some time. It usually happened when my aunt came to visit our house. My aunt took me and my sister to the field nearby and we played this game with other children of the community.’

Ahmed continues, ‘I also remember that my aunt was very clever; she taught us some techniques to win the game. Although this may be considered cheating, it was a witty way to win. When any member of our team would struggle to find the person who tapped, we would help him or her with sign languages. We came up with different gestures of our own for all the members of the opposition. We would signal with our hand, nod or a girl would cover her hair, thus providing hints about who the tapper was.’

He says, ‘Although I feel guilty of cheating now, it was fun back then. The one reason behind the fun is that we or our team members would always be alert to cross check if the opponent has invented any gestures or postures to overpass us. It was another dimension of the game for a quick check and balance. The fun amplified when my aunt and I came to be in opposing teams. It was also a good way of learning the names of fruits and flowers.’

New games will come, to replace old ones. We may not play the traditional games every day, but once in a while, oneneeds to cherish those golden days of the past. The children and youth of today may find these games interesting as well.