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CENTRAL ZONE

When past comes into play

Kreeda is an attempt to research, revive and create awareness about tradition through fun and learning. Meet Vinita Siddhartha the energy behind this movement...


"I DON'T really know where we are going, but we're going somewhere," says Vinita Sidhartha about Kreeda, which is a movement to revive traditional games and forms of play. Though Kreeda turned one this week and has a collection of about 20 games based on traditional stories and games, Vinitha says she wasn't sure how well the idea of bringing time-honoured games back to life would go down. "We're really happy with the way it's turned out, and we have more new games lined up but we're still not sure what the next big step will be," she says. They've dusted off games such as Pallanguzhi, Aadu Puli Aatam, Kattam Vilayattu and Gilli Danda and researched and repackaged them for the new age children, "who read less but are more aware of the world around them," according to Vinita.

"Most modern games are adaptations from Indian games. For example, snakes and ladders is based on Parama Padam, which is what the Pandavas and Kauravas play in Mahabharata. Many traditional games can also be used as learning aids," she explains. The tamarind seed game, that involves blowing and picking up seeds is all fun, and helps to tune motor skills, hand-eye co-ordination and teaches basic counting.

What started as a series of articles on traditional games for a newspaper has evolved into a movement to revive these dying forms of play. "M.Ct.M School was the first to call and ask me to provide games for their play hour. More schools started calling, then we did some workshops and finally we decided to produce the games for a larger market." But Vinita's idea of a larger market does not mean huge billboards, tie-ups with manufacturing giants or even presence in multi-brand chain stores. In fact, Kreeda games are available in only eight stores in Chennai. Only 50 or 100 pieces of each game are produced at a time. "One of the reasons for this is that we get constant feedback from customers. And small batches mean we can make the improvements within six months. Another reason is that we're really not making enough money to run off huge numbers." Vinita gets local artists and artisans from south Chennai, where she lives to help in the production of the games. College students are hired for design and colour schemes, screen printing for the games on canvas is done by a local printer, boards and coins are carved out by her carpenter and the tailor in the next street helps with the sewing and tailoring. Cowrie shells that form coins for the games are bought from fisherfolk and local shell suppliers.

Research on Kreeda's games involves spending time at old-age homes and travelling to areas to get the entire history, purpose and benefit of a particular game. "It's a lot of work, especially since some people remember only snatches of the game. We then have to find more people who know the game, then corroborate one person's version with another." She adds that many people have got in touch with her to tell her about games that they played as children. "Recently, I was in Leh and was trying to find out about their local games but it's quite difficult, because, sadly, people are forgetting the games their grandparents taught them." At present Kreeda's range focuses on South Indian games — among the latest is a game from Karnataka called Kalaney Belaney.

Kreeda's games come on canvas or cloth and the coins are usually cowrie shells, while the dice is the traditional long dice or thayam. The games are entirely eco-friendly, "totally in their original form." The newest game, Vanavaas — The Adventures in the Forest, comes with little wooden `padukas' (if you're not sure what those are, look into an Amar Chitra Katha ) as optional coin accessories. Vanavaas is a game that takes players through the story of Rama leaving the palace and heading into the forest. Not a `traditional game' in the real sense but it's based on mythology. "I don't remember anyone teaching me the Ramayana, but I picked it up through games we played and stories my grandmother told."

Kreeda means play in Sanskrit and signifies not just the act but also the spirit of playing. "Some of our happiest memories are moments spent playing games that also promotes interaction between generations," she explains. To reinforce her point, she recounts the story of an elderly lady she met in a home, who still had the cowrie shells with which she had played Four Shells with her grandson. "Though she's lost contact with him, she keeps the shells to remember the fun she had with him. I'm sure the grandson remembers her playing with him too."

Contact Kreeda at mpage@powercen.com or visit their site www.kreedagames.com that goes live this weekend.

SHALINI UMACHANDRAN

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