All about the handkerchief

Muhammad Ibrahim IbneTowhid reminisces about Rumal Churi, a local game that had more to do with athleticism than stealing

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Rumal churi or stealing the handkerchief is a game mainly played by teenagers and young children.The rule of the game varies from one area to the other.

The game is usually played between two different groups. Each group can have a minimum of five participants.

Although ‘Rumalchuri’ is an outdoor game, it can also be played inside the house if one has enough space to run around asthis game can be played with as many children present in one house or neighbourhood.

In many occasions, the members playing the game sit in a circle with their eyes closed. The players sing a song three or four times and within this period the thief leaves his hanky (or a small piece of cloth) behind one of the sitting players. When the singing ends, everybody opens their eyes and looks for the rumal behind them. The one who finds the rumal runs after the chor (thief) to catch him.

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The chor runs around in circle and tries to save himself from being caught and take the vacant seat of the person chasing him or her (with the rumal); if they are caught by the person with the rumal before grabbing the vacant seat, they switch roles. The game turns more interesting when it is played at a fast pace and involves all the participants, so that every time the rumal is dropped behind a new player, chasing starts immediately.

No player wants to become a thief because a thief needs to take all the trouble of finding his or her replacement. All the players sitting in a circle needs to be cautions so that they may run immediately when the handkerchief is dropped. Players cannot turn back until the thief has crossed the player and the handkerchief needs to be dropped for instance in or around a one feet radius.

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The thief and all the players needs to be active and prepared for running any time at full speed. As a tactics to deceive a player, the thief comes behind every player and waits for a few seconds. The thief does not always drop the handkerchief in every place he or she waits. This is done to confuse the player. If the player assumes that the handkerchief has been dropped and springs up, the role is changed because the handkerchief has not been dropped in reality.

Children of different areas have made adaptations to this game or changed the rule according to their convenience. In many occasions, rhymes, local songs, lyrics and even poems are recited while the thief is on the run.

The game is known as ‘mudakhela’ in some parts of Kishohreganj, while it is also known as ‘rumalkhela’ in many places across the country.