Let’s steal the bride!

Shaikha Shuhada Panzeree writes about Bouchi, a Bangladeshi game that seems to have faded away over the past decade

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Brides are precious- who does not fancy of having a doll-like bride all dressed up to be taken to the groom’s house? But the bride of Bouchi-a native game of rural Bangladesh, has something different about her; she requires to be won over rather than just agreeing to someone’s proposal! But do note this that the bride is seldom a real person, pretty much most of the time it is either a tree branch or a piece of broken baked clay. And this bride is captured and needs to be rescued. The most amazing fact about the game is that it is not played by grown-ups but by children!

The game has two teams and it starts with selecting the team members and then tossing to decide which team will go to rescue the bride first. The teams can be formed by having a single member only. But hey, the more the merrier, isn’t it! The game gets intense and competitive when there are quite a few members in each team, the standard range being between three to five players.

Dividing the team follows a procedure- three people take part in the division process similar to rock-paper-scissors. They put all of their hands together and dismiss on the count of three and hold their own hands in two ways, either both the palms touch or the back of one hand touches the palm of the other one. So the people who clasped their palms together are on one team, and the rest in the other. Now comes the tossing, whoever wins this gets the opportunity of trying to rescue the bride first.

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The field for the game usually has two lines on the ground, far apart from each other, and there’s a circle drawn in the middle of one line where the bride rests. Usually the teams fix a number, let’s say five to 10 rounds to send a member to snatch the bride away, the more times a team manages to rescue the bride than the other, wins! Simple, isn’t it? But there are, of course, rules!

If playing with a crew, the rescue team can send only one person for a round to the opponent’s side, let’s call this member a runner! The runner must hold his/her breath while running to the bride and continuously utter something in the meantime. In most cases they utter ‘chiburi’, ‘kutkut’, or in some places they just use hilarious rhymes too. There is this one reason for using the utterances though, it lets the opponents know that the runner is not holding his breath anymore if there has been a pause, in which case the opponents can disqualify or neutralise him with a touch.

But if the runner does not pause and the opposition ends up touching him while guarding the bride, they will be dead too! Basically the middle ground in between the two lines is where all the elimination takes place.Although the opponents can be within the middle ground to keep the runner in check, they are at risk of being touched by him; on the other hand, the runner in no way can cross the line and go to the opposition’s side. Now, if the bride is a real person, she will be always looking for the perfect moment when she can escape avoiding touches from her guards, but if the bride is a branch or piece of clay, the rescuer has to take it and run. The runner always has an option to go back without having a successful rescue just at the cost of losing a round. But if the bride can make it to the other side of the rescuer’s line or the runner takes the bride there, they get a point; whereas if the bride or the runner gets neutralised by the opposition while trying to run, the opponent team gets a point. Moreover, regardless of how many rounds the rescuers still might have left, it becomes the opposition’s turn to be the new rescuers!

Sounds complicated? It is really not. This fun game of stealing the bride still causes nostalgia among the people who have had their childhoods spent in the rural areas. The excitement of finally having the bride, the sadness of losing her, the fright of elimination… these are undeniably the ambrosias of this lovely age-old game.