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Monday, June 29, 2015

Traditional board games workshop at Davanagere

A resurrection of interest in traditional board games was clearly evident at the Summer Camp organised by the Wiz Kids Academy of Davanagere. On invitation by Wiz Kids Academy, volunteers of Ramsons Kala Pratishtana (RKP)  taught about 12 traditional board games in a special three-day workshop from the afternoon of April 11 to the morning of April 14, 2015.

The thirty odd boys and girls had a rollicking time of their lives when they learnt board games from RKP Resource Persons comprising of R.G. Singh, Raghu Dharmendra, Dr. Dileep Kumar Gowda C.R. and artist Manish Verma.
Introductory talk by R.G. Singh and Dr. Dileep Kumar Gowda

The traditional board games like  Adu Huli Ata, Chaduranga, Aligulimane, Anay Kattu, Pagade, 16 Sepoys, Dash-guti  and several others were introduced to the wide-eyed kids many of whom were more at home with a hand-held mobile game than with a game whose playing surface was an intricate piece of embroidered cloth, colorful markers and wooden dice.
Two girls were interested to learn the complex hunt game - Anay Kattu

The rules of each game were explained patiently by RKP resource-persons. Many trial games were played to make sure the kids understood  the rules. Once the rules were grasped then it was a joyful free-for-all as small groups formed and reforms  before the games began.
Tiny tots engrossed in play

Perhaps it was the thin veneer of civilization of the kids that prevented major mayhem as they rolled dice, moved pawns, while others with some nifty strategy moved the sheep from the clutches of the tiger. Or Aligulimane where some kids seemed to show an extraordinary dexterity and mathematical ability.
Red guy is losing for sure in the game of Sixteen Sepoys

Hours later, the kids tired from the all the excitement of playing several games whose history goes back to an ancient past, finally called it a day, the minds were still on the game and all they could talk of was how they could have beaten their opponent if only they had only worked out one more permutation and combination then they would have had all three tigers pinned by a phalanx of goats.
Raghu Dharmendra and Dr. Dileep Kumar teaching the game of Four Handed Chaduranga

It was heartening to note that many of the kids claimed vociferously, as only kids will do, that they would play all the games that they had learnt here at the workshop in their homes  and that they would teach their parents and other siblings.  

Monday, August 11, 2014

Article in Business Line

We were featured in the 'BLink' of The Hindu's Business Line on 9 Aug 2014. The following well written article by Ms. Rashmi Pratap can be read online here as well.
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Board games BC

Emperors sat engrossed in front of them, as did commoners, and now a handful of people are attempting to revive the centuries-old board games of India
The Chennakesava temple in Belur, Karnataka, is not just an architectural marvel on the banks of the Yagachi river, it is also a repository of more than 20 board games, played possibly by priests as well as temple caretakers in the 12th century and until much later. Similarly, at the Mahalakshmi temple in Kolhapur, Maharashtra, the grid of the game Sixteen Sepoys is clearly visible on a stone plinth. And in Varanasi, the gateway to salvation, board games can be found etched into the platforms lining the banks of the Ganga, as also inside numerous temples. 
From Pallanghuzi to Pachisi and Chaupar to Chaduranga, a range of astonishingly inventive games were played by emperors and commoners alike in the centuries gone by.
Yesterday once more: Traditional board games researchers RG Singh and Dileep Kumar of Ramsons Kala Pratishtana, Mysore, play a game of Dash-guti etched on a platform at Sheetla Ghat in Varanasi. Pic: Raghu Dharmendra
Today, a handful of people are attempting to revive these traditional board games of India. Whether they are doing it as a non-profit initiative or as a commercial venture, their motivation is the same — to familiarise the internet generation with these games and preserve this precious legacy.
“We have documented ‘board’ games inscribed on the floors of over 100 temples, mostly in Karnataka,” says RG Singh, honorary secretary at Mysore’s Ramsons Kala Pratishtana (RKP) Trust, whose hunt for traditional games has taken him from Orissa to Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh to Tamil Nadu, other than the cave temples of Badami, Aihole and Pattadakal in his home State.
Long before TV or movies were even dreamt of, how did our forefathers spend their free time? After mulling over the question for years, in 2000, Singh, together with Dileep Kumar and Raghu Dharmendra of RKP, began researching in earnest. “One of the things they did was play ‘board’ games, inscribed in temples, houses... The next question was, ‘Can we revive them?’” says Singh.
While curiosity was the germ of the idea for the RKP trio, it was the close bond with their grandparents that led Dr Ramya Surapaneni of Spardha Games and journalist Vinita Sidhartha of Kreeda Games to introduce board games like Puli-Meka (Tiger and Goat), Mancala and Dahdi (Nine Men’s Morris) to the masses.
Games grandparents play
“My grandparents used to babysit my children and, despite the 80-year age gap, my kids enjoyed spending time with them. They played games that my grandparents played when they were growing up,” recalls Sidhartha. Around 2002, when she became tired of content writing, Sidhartha decided to make these games for friends and family. “I also made some pieces for sale and we sold out in the first week. That’s how Kreeda Games was born.”
For dentist Surapaneni — who specialises in smile designing, and shuttles between Hyderabad and Indore for work — traditional games held values for life. “Winning and losing, following rules, learning to cope with loss and being a sport are traits that video games and computers can’t teach children,” she says.
She used to visit her grandparents regularly in Nimmakuru, Andhra Pradesh. “We bonded over board games. I also encouraged my cousins to visit them during the holidays. That’s when I realised that traditional games were a great way of inculcating values apart from strengthening family ties,” she says. She founded Spardha Games in February, and has since launched four games.
Both Sidhartha and Surapaneni used their savings and help from family to fund their ventures. Today, Kreeda sells anywhere from 500 to 1,000 games every month, priced between ₹100 and ₹800. Spardha’s prices range from ₹800 to ₹25,000.
Road to revival
Each of these revivalists had to surmount several challenges along the way. “You need pawns and dice, the manufacturing process has to be understood and artisans have to be roped in to create the games,” says Singh. Given his experience at Ramsons, an established company in the handicrafts sectors, Singh was confident the games could be made by artisans. But putting it all together took almost five years.

Pray, play: The Chennakesava temple at Somanathapura, in Mysore district, has carvings of the Mancala board game; (right) the Adu Huli , or Goats and Tigers, game grid inscribed on the wall of a well at the Chennakesava temple in Belur. Pic: Raghu Dharmendra

“By 2005, we engaged with craft clusters across India. We visited these places, understood the manufacturing process, and designed the product based on the motifs and other inputs provided by artisans,” says Singh. This project took him to inlay craftsmen in Mysore, Kalamkari artists and wooden toy (Etikoppaka) makers in Andhra Pradesh, Batik artists in West Bengal, hand-weavers of Solapur in Maharashtra and Pipli appliqué artists in Orissa.
As the manufacturers of traditional games prefer natural materials over plastic, achieving scale and finding the right supply-chain partners prove to be major challenges. “Many games are played with shells. We decided not to use them to preserve biodiversity. We researched and came up with a substitute — paper powder. But another challenge was to ensure that the probabilities (of the dice throw outcome) did not change with the use of other products,” Sidhartha explains.
RKP does not produce more than 800 games a year as all the pieces are handcrafted. “We don’t want to use mass methods of manufacturing,” says Singh. The prices start at ₹300 and go up to ₹20,000 for large pieces like the Mancala game board with 14 pits in brass, which can also be used as a showpiece.
At Kreeda, the various parts — dice, pawns, boards, packaging material, rules pamphlets and so on — arrive from different suppliers. “Each element of a game is sub-contracted to a specific supplier. We assemble everything in our own office. Managing inventory is very tough,” says Sidhartha, even as she looks for new ways to streamline supply chain and inventory management.
While RKP retails its traditional games on a non-profit basis (it runs a successful business in Mysore selling saris and handicrafts), Kreeda and Spardha are just about breaking even. “Financial challenges remain, but it is passion that keeps me going,” says Sidhartha.
Aside from logistical and funding challenges, these manufacturers are hampered by the absence of uniform rules for traditional games. Every few kilometres, the same game is played under different rules and even a different name. So, for instance, Goats and Tigers is known as Adu Huli, Puli Meka,Baag Bok, Huli Kattu and Bagh Bakri among a host of other names. “Our researchers use the common denominators from all such games to make the basic rules,” says Surapaneni.
Appealing to GenNext
Efforts are on to make the games more contemporary. Kreeda has created a module that teaches maths using traditional games, another for executive training, and an educational aid for specially-abled children. Its three-series game based on the Ramayana familiarises children with the epic and its characters.
Spardha, meanwhile, is attempting to carve out a new market by reminding people of the games that were traditionally gifted during a marriage. “In South India, there is a tradition of gifting board games at marriages. We are trying to revive that,” says Surapaneni, who already gets about a third of her sales from marriage halls.
As things stand, the revival of traditional games largely remains an urban phenomenon. The buyers are mainly from the older generation as they are likely to have played them or at least heard of them. An emerging category of enthusiasts comprises IT professionals eager to reconnect with their heritage. “They have also created gaming apps for Tic-tac-toe and Nine Men’s Morris,” says Singh.
The games are also a favourite with souvenir hunters and corporate gifters. “Many corporates are putting in bulk orders for occasions like Diwali,” says Sidhartha.
In the meantime, e-commerce sites such as Amazon, eBay and Snapdeal have weighed in with their own brand of support. “We can’t get their reach. We can piggyback on them and reach out to a larger audience,” says Sidhartha. She recently sold a game to a buyer in a small town of Spain. “Anybody who learns about them wants to try them.”
Mancala in Spain? The game is certainly on.
(This article waspublished on August 8, 2014)

Monday, December 2, 2013

Re:Play




When was the last time you played Goli on the streets of India ?
When was the last time you got tired hopping in a game of hopscotch ?
When was the last time you played a game of strategy and plotted your victory ?

Experience these games in many ways through 
Re:play
a performance duet inspired by traditional Indian games
at Atta Galatta bookstore, Koramangala Bengaluru
at Alliance Francaise, Banjara Hills,hyderabad

video


Through performance and storytelling Re:play is a game that is played with the audience between the audience and within oneself.

The performance is an immersive experience of the sounds rhythms patterns structures colours and narratives that traditional Indian games lend themselves to. 
This 80-minute journey evokes themes of mythology contemporary events memory Indian history as well as Indian folklore and asks the audience to be present in unique ways. 
The audience becomes part of the performance and through their participation the performance gains a new meaning.

Dates and Time: 

Bangalore
29th Nov (7.00 pm), 30th Nov (2.30 pm & 7 pm) and 1st December (2.30 pm & 7 pm)

Hyderabad
6th Dec (7.30 pm), 7th Dec (2.30 pm & 7.30 pm), 8th Dec(2.30 pm & 7.30 pm)

To know more about Re:play and the team, visit: Visual Respiration


To book tickets to this show, visit: Bookmyshow

Sunday, September 15, 2013

An Ode to Kreedaa Kaushalya


Games that were played from sun up to sun down
Those on which, parents never did frown.
They were played with passion and brought true joy
These were not just any old toy.

These were games which challenged the mind
And played where ever a little corner you could find.
They enchanted, entranced and excited the soul
Even if it was just dropping tamarind seeds into a bowl.

The 'gilli' that often made many a child smile,
While mothers spinned yarns, mile after mile.
Board games were not played because people were bored.
But played because they just could not be ignored.

Games give joy, take away pain.
Oh it's great to be a child, or, a child again.
May the creed of Kreedaa Kaushalya grow
And spread far and wide, high and low.

- Kalpana Singh

Monday, June 24, 2013

Cadfael, Bede Griffiths and Board games

What’s the connection? Plenty. Cadfael, because the televised series of the Benedictine monk who has been a man of many parts, introduced one the hidden fact that there exists in India several Benedictine Monasteries including one established by the iconic Dom Bede Griffiths.

This was where the monks and guests of Sachidananda Ashram of the Shantivanam Benedictine Monastery, when not working in the field, or praying , settle down for a game whose description is found in Kreeda Kaushalya portion of  Harikrishna’s magnum opus, Brihajjyotisharnava, composed in 1871.

Sachidananda Ashram is located on the banks of the River Kaveri sacred to the Southern region of India in  a small Tamil Nadu town called Tannirapali some 50 kms from Erode.

The monastery is not western in its orientation but is like an Indian ashram and the monks wear saffron lungis and cotton shawl to cover their bare upper bodies.

 The small chapel near the entrance is built like a typical Hindu temple and the Holy Trinity are shown dressed in Kurtas and dhoties while Mother Mary is dressed in a white sari with a pale blue border.

The monks live in small, neat thatched one room circular cottages and the guests are given similar accommodation. According to the Rule of St Benedict, the founder of the Order, guests are welcomed irrespective of their religious beliefs or even non religious leanings and can stay for three to four days as guests. Gratis!

 Of course, a small contribution to one of the Ashram’s many charities is welcomed.

The food is plain simple but substantial and vegetarian.

The Sachidananda Benedictine Monastery, was established by two monks, Fr La Saux better known as Swami Abhishiktananda  and Fr Bede Griffiths who also took on an Indian name but the name he was christened at his mother  monastery, Prinknash Abbey,  was Dom Bede Griffiths and that name stuck.

 
In  most of the other Benedictine Monasteries across India,  the monks, both old and young did nothing much between Lauds, Matins, Sext, None and Compline but gather up a couple of other monks and settle down for a good old-fashioned gossip about the current affairs.

Most monasteries get all English language dailies and monks can confuse you with the pious expressions, which they are taught to assume during their training period in the monks boot camps, when they avidly gossip about the latest scandal!

Here at Sachidananda Ashram library, there are several photocopies of the ancient spiritual game of snakes and ladders, the Gyan Chaupar. Obviously everyone played a game or two between siesta and the next meal!

The monk who had been deputed to be the Guest Master and Librarian had made these copies from an original  antique piece which had been collected by an Hippie from the Himalayas.

Anecdotal legend says that Fr Bede was shown this gift by the Hippie who claimed his name was ‘Louis Pasteur’ ( Straight... There is a card at the library saying this Pasteur was donating the game board along with the dice for letting him stay for two months).

Dom Bede Griffiths is supposed to have replied that this gift was a powerful tool that would be positive aid to spiritual growth.

We landed at  Sachidananda Ashram unannounced from Kodaikanal, on the recommendation of Prof. Calculus of the international school at Kodai.... ‘ It’s alright. old chap just drop in. .. as long as it is not the middle of the night... might look askance ... ask questions and that sort of thing....

Take a look at that old Spiritual Snakes and Ladders board when you are there. Worth a dekko...’ was the Prof’s parting words.

At tennish in the morning saw us take an auto from Marrudar to Tannirpalli and Shantivanam as the locals call it.

Place looked deserted and wandered through the unlocked gate, past a couple of somnolent cows, to be greeted by the sight of an out-of-breath Pug come waddling. The mutt led us unerringly back to the hut of Bro. Martin who welcomed us warmly, showed us to the cottage allotted  and handed a piece of paper with the timings written for breakfast, lunch, tea and supper.

The dear father was most surprised when asked about prayer timings, the Mass and that sort of thing.

The result, one spent three days lounging in the library, only stirring oneself to head for breakfast, tea at elevenses, lunch at 12 , tea and biscuits at 4pm and supper at 7-30 pm. Lights out at tennish or thereabouts..  

When asked about the legendary Gyan Chaupar , we were shown the treasure  kept rather carelessly in one of the cupboards over a pile of P G Wodehouses.

Gyan Chaupar loosely translated means, ‘Game of Knowledge’  or you could stretch things a bit and call it the ‘Tao of Knowledge.’ Or even better call it the good old board game of  ‘Snakes and Ladders.’

Gyan Chaupar is not very different from the Jain Gyan Chaupar boards, it just doctrinal differences.  In the Hindu Gyan Chaupar boards games  extensive use is made of  Sankhya, Yoga, Vedanta or Tantric philosophy.

Simply put, on throws the dice, moves the required number of places  and as luck would have it climb the ladder or slip down the snakes throat and exit at the tail. The squares are given names that are indicative of desires, attachments, wise living and so on.

There is even an ancient Tibetan version of the Snakes and Ladders that is called, ‘ Determination of  the Ascension of Sages.

In this version the player progresses according  to the throw of the dice ‘hell states and other inauspicious states  by way of the Tantric Path to Buddhahood or Nirvana.

A Late 10th Century work, ‘Rishabhapanchashika’ attributed to Dhanapala, runs thus: “ Like gamesmen, the living beings on the gaming board of Samsara ( the cycle of rebirths)are carried away by the dice ( or senses), but when they see you, O Jina, the place of refuge (or square on a game board), they become free  from possession by prison, slaughter and death.”  

That about sums it up about the game and its variations that are to found elsewhere across the country.

So the next three days were spent when not eating Sattvic food  and lounging around , seated on the high verandah around the library, spreading out the Gyan Chaupar board and watching monks and other guests gathering around like ants to a honey pot and working out how one’s karma worked  and figure things out.

One other place you need to check out if you are interested in board games of this kind is to make a beeline to Ramsons , the huge handicrafts emporia opposite the zoo in Mysore, and ask and ye will be shown varieties of traditional Indian game boards.

Ramsons Kala Pratishtana, a trust formed to foster traditional handicrafts of India , hosts several annual exhibitions that showcase board games, dolls, and lamps from all over India.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Sw Vivekananda and the game board

First,  before all those denizens get all worked up about  what they are about to read, it must be stressed in no uncertain terms that this post is a work of pure unadulterated fiction.

Having got that off our chest, we can begin sowing seeds of doubt in your fertile mind.
 
But then everyone who gets his daily dose of high delusional fiction from the various  dailies of  Mysore would have undoubtedly heard that Swami Vivekananda had stayed in Mysore for a few days though one evening daily claimed in a Leader that  the revered swamiji had stayed in the city for three weeks and meditated in the  Nirajana Mutt.

A Mutt is the Hindu equivalent of Liberty Hall  kind of Monastery!

But here’s a strange tale that surfaced very recently, whispered in hushed tones by a royal lady was that a priceless game board was gifted to the Swamiji by then Dewan, Sir Seshadri Iyer.

And that, said the royal lady, was now under the gavel at Sotheby’s London. Looked up the Sotheby’s auction catalogue and sure enough there was the board and quite a few other things from the Palace repository  which had no business being in Sotheby’s at all.

But then that is another story.

This game board,Devi Sayujya Mukti Atta (Karmic game of snakes and ,ladders )  was a complex invention of  Mummadi Krishna Raja Wadiyar, the Master of Board Games as he is known today in the world of  international game board experts!

Why was it given to Swami Vivekananda?

There are no records of the Swami being attached to one of the great games mentioned in the Kreeda Kaushalya portion of Harikrishna’s magnum opus, Brihajjyotisharnava, composed in 1871.

The Swamiji was a wrestler and given to working out. ( One thinks ‘ Pumping Iron’ might not be suitable here. )

And why this game in particular? Why not a plain old cloth Pachisi board or an ivory chess set?

Perhaps Chamarajendra Wadiyar felt that since Ramakrishna Paramahamsa was a Devi Upasaka, a devotee of  Mother Kali, and since Sw Vivekananda too was also a staunch devotee, the right gift would be the ‘ Devi Sayujya Mukti Atta which roughly translated means ‘ Attaining heaven, Devi’s Abode.’

Would the Ramakrishna Ashram and Vidyashala library in Mysore throw some light?

The voluminous records of books and letters maintained at the Sri Ramakrishna Ashram Library do not, I repeat , do not contain any references except for this  statement,’It is believed that Sw. Vivekananda had visited Mysore and had met the Wadiyar king who financed his visit to Chicago  to attend the World Congress of Religions. But there are no other records.’

The reference to the Wadiyar is to Chamarajendra Wadiyar who was the king after Mumadi Krishnaraja Wadiyar.

Other records particularly correspondences of  the Dewan mention that the Swamji was a guest of the Dewan.

Seshadri Iyer had met Sw Vivekananda in Bangalore and on learning that he wanted to attend the Chicago World Congress of Religions  but did not have the necessary wherewithal to buy the steerage fare, was taken back to Mysore.

The Swami was introduced to the King and Chamarajendra Wadiyar financed the trip of Sw. Vivekananda to Chicago.

Sources at the Ramana Ashramam in Tiruvanamalai in Tamil Nadu,  mentioned that Dewan Seshadri Iyer was related to Ramana Maharishi and added that that the tale of the game board of Mummadi being gifted to Sw Vivekananda was not true but yes, there was just such a game board at the house of one of the descendants of Seshadri Iyer.

But how the game board came to be in Tiruvanamalai and does it still exist or did it wing its way to London and end up under the gavel at Sotheby’s, one will never know.

But games similar to the one to be sold at Sotheby’s and other such traditional board games of India will be showcased when Ramsons Kala Pratishtana hosts its yearly Kreeda Kaushalya Mela of the Traditional Board Games of India.

Google Kreeda Kaushalya or Ramsons or better still if you happen to going walkabout in Mysore, stroll down to this emporia opposite the zoo and take a walk down lanes of dim and distant memories of the past when there was no TV and a few hand radios and one recreation that kept the family together was sitting around a traditional board game.

Life on the Street

Mysore, the city of the magnificent Mysore Palace often wrongly called Amba Vilasa Palace, in the late 50s was still a somnolent city whose characters seemed to have stepped out of fictional Malgudi created by that master story-teller R K Narayan.

The street where one lived was just off the conservancy lane in the then new extension, Laxmipuram.

If you have read R K Narayan’s ‘Swami and His Friends’ or ‘Mr. Sampath’ you will recognise that RKN’s ‘Lawley extension’ is nothing but then newly formed Laxmipuram extension.

If you walk past RK Narayan’s house which still stands today and to the corner of  Hardwicke church and down the road, you will come to Vani Vilasa market.
Beside the arched entrance to the market, next to the Mysore jasmine seller and the agarbathi incense stick sellers you will find yourself at the door, actually a three paneled door, that folded like a huge concertina, of the ’Honesty Tailoring Hall.’

Stone steps lead to the shop which still stands today with a gnome seated at a sewing machine surrounded by various un-tailor shop accessories like vials of strange Ayurvedic medicines, pennants of some political party, planks of plywood, cartons and a bicycle propped against one of the shelves, obviously unused for years,  going by the patina of grime on  the machine.

Fixed to the door there remains from the past an old photograph greying a bit, the frame chipped, showing several serious looking men sitting and standing all dressed in cotton suits ‘ borrowed’ from customers who had yet to collect them. Above their heads is the legend, ‘Honesty Tailoring Hall.

The stone steps of Honesty was a hangout of various gentlemen who ‘vaguely’ worked in ‘Aramane’ ( The Palace).

Sitting on the steps they would for the tailors to take a break  and all would gather around to play a game of Pachisi.

The game board has been described in great detail in Kreedaa-Kaushalya portion of Harikrishna’s magnum opus, Brihajjyotisharnava, composed in 1871.

  Harikrishna, Who? A scribe of ancient times !

But for more about this game and others one needs to check out at  Ramsons Kala Pratishtana of Mysore, a trust set up to revitalise the handicrafts and traditional board games tradition of the country.
The folks there will give you a run down about the Pachisi. Ramsons Kala Pratishtana is located at Ramsons, the largest and most comprehensive handicrafts emporia in Mysore located bang opposite the zoo.

Pachisi ( the word means 25 in Hindi) used to played for stakes  but many play just for fun.

The  Pachisi board is four-armed with playing squares which are known as ‘Houses’ embroidered on a usually embroidered piece of square cloth.

 Instead of ordinary cubed dice, stick dice are used. There are four sets of counters( each set has four ) coloured red, black, yellow and green and as mentioned a pair of stick dice.

Each of the four players competes to send his counters down the centre of the arm from the middle, counterclockwise around the perimeter and back to the starting point. Skill is needed to thwart  and block the enemy  and ‘killing’ opposing pieces during the race.

But then it was not the game itself but the small motley crowd  that gathered around on the steps leading to ‘Honesty Tailoring Hall.’

One of the characters who often dropped by from the printing press opposite also figured in one of the RKN’s novels as the man with the original Heidleberg machine.

 He used to have some half-a-dozen copies of the novel, ‘Mr Sampath’ in which he figured and would point out with pride to the passages where he was mentioned.

Another character who when he dropped by for a fitting was the original Vasu, the star of the ‘Man-eater of Malgudi.

Pachisi was not for him and fancied himself as a master Chess player.

 This Vasu which was not his name, had trained as a taxidermist with the world famous Van Ingen and Co who stuffed various wildlife from all corners of the globe at their factory on the outskirts of Nazarbad. Indeed the work done by Van Ingen was said to be even better  than 'Rowland and Ward.'

Vasu when not sitting by the window seat of his establishment that was once on Chamaraja Double Road, could be seen polishing his 'Purdey Over and Under' till it glistened in the faint light from the road.

 There would be a stuffed owl and on the stairs, a stuffed tiger cub with a slightly drunken expression and a pair of glassy-eyed mongooses whose fur looked like a moth-eaten doo mat.

But that is another story.

Like story of the Muslim flower vendor who sat just outside Vani Vilasa Market  and  and often dropped in on a game when he saw us gathered on the steps of ‘Honesty Tailoring Hall.’

 It was this nameless Muslim flower vendor  who even as he adeptly created magical garlands of intoxicating jasmine of the Mysore variety,who coined the name, ‘Mysooru Malige ‘  when the great poet K S Narasimhaswamy  confessed one evening when he went to buy the usual foot long garland of jasmine that would be kept before the Gods, that he had just written a book of poems that could be sung and set to music but was however stumped about what to call the book.

As the poet narrates in one his letters to the legendary C D Narasimahiah who during his tenure as Professor of English created the rarified air of Cambridge within the campus of the Mysore University, that  it was his friend the flower vendor who had coined  the name, Mysooru Mallige....

The rest is history.... songs  from Mysooru Mallige are sung to this day just as the game of Pachisi is played to this day in the lanes and bylanes of this laidback city.

When Ramsons Kala Pratishtana hosts its yearly Kreeda Kaushalya Mela of the Traditional Board Games of India, that’s when one gets to see and buy choosing from an exotic and eclectic range of Pachisi board games along with hundreds of other types of games.

Check the website, Kreeda Kaushalya or Ramsons or better still if you happen to going walkabout in Mysore, stroll down to this emporia opposite the zoo  and get mesmerized.

And if you are an old Mysorean who is back searching for your roots then these games will help you rediscover a lost past of the fictional city of Malgudi.