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The game is over

Sports like pigeon flying, cock-fighting and kite-flying are losing their popularity



Change on the horizon With altered worldviews

Entire civilisations have vanished in the sands of time. And along with these civilisations, vanish their culture, traditions and sports. They were eventually reduced to stories passed on from one generation to another.

One such repository of tales is Old Delhi. Walking through the by-lanes of the Walled City, one gets a glimpse of the royal past, in which, besides other aspects of life, sports too played a fair role. Pigeon flying, cock-fighting, ram-fighting, kite-flying were companions of the nawabs and maharajas in their leisure time. With changing ethos, especially relating to human-animal relations, these sports are no longer in the reckoning, but those associated with such sports speak ever so fondly about their memories.

Ustad Chunni, an erstwhile but still highly revered trainer of fighter rams (locally known as mende), reminisces about the tricks of the trade. “The fighter-rams were brought from Ludhiana, Sialkot and other parts of Northern Punjab and Jammu. The daily diet of a ram includes one litre of milk, almonds, compote, grams among various other things.” Ustad Chunni, now in his 70s, says it was the growing animal activism that sounded the death knell for such sports. He and other akhada owners decided to shut shop. From more than eight akhadas, the number gradually declined, and as of now, the scene is absolutely bereft of any players. The same goes for cock-fighting. It is another sport which has been played since centuries, probably from 320 A.D, but is losing its force, due to greater social awareness, activism, and betting. In fact, betting was what caused quibbles. “When we made the poultry collide, we did it just for fun, but as youth came in, they gambled, haggled and fought,” complains Mohammad Younis, a 65-year-old cloth seller who had to sell his fighter cocks due to strict laws. Though the fanfare that came with them and the enthusiasm they evoked have definitely dwindled, cock-fights still take place in the Jama Masjid area on Sundays.

Yet another sport, kite-flying, though, remains popular in some parts of the city like Okhla, Seelampur and Old Delhi but elsewhere it lies forgotten. For some years now, efforts are on to restore the sport to its lost glory. There are many kite-flying clubs in Delhi and their umbrella organisation is the Delhi Kite Flying Association. Old Delhi has produced some of the best kite-fliers in the city. Meanwhile, Delhi Tourism is also taking some concrete steps to boost this ancient pastime. This year it is organising a kite flying event from August 13 to 15.

MOONIS HASAN ZUBERI & DHAIRYA MAHESHWARI

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