KATHMANDU: A small group of people huddled together, words of encouragement, the division of preference and never ending advice fill the air... Though there is no prize involved, the spectators become the referee, and what more, victory is celebrated whole heartedly by friends and even strangers just looking from a safe distance.
That’s the charm of road games ranging from carrom, ludo, chess to bagh chal which are widely played and very popular among the people, especially shopkeepers and youth.
The tiger’s move

Before the whole video game culture trapped us with its techno magic, this mind game of strategies and fast thinking was enjoyed by the young and elderly alike. Today bagh chal seems to be played by just a handful of the elderly.
Taking shelter in one of the temples of the mystical Basantapur, two men were busy plotting strategies. Some people, who looked too tired due to the scorching heat, were enjoying the friendly game of bagh chal between these two gentlemen.
Durga Gurung, 55, of Dhokatol sat back after his killer move and smiled as Shyam Lal Bista, 51, who lives in Basantapur itself, scratched his head to find a way out to save his sheep from Gurung’s fierce tiger.
“In the village they used to say ‘Gothalo bhulyo bagh chal ma’ (the shepherd got lost in the game of bagh chal), so you see it’s a game that started from villages,” said Gurung.
The game costs nothing — Gurung and Bista had used a piece of brick to sketch the chart of the game on the floor, used pebbles as sheep and bottle caps as the tiger.
And the game was on. No hi-fi gadgetry and worry about load-shedding or technical glitches.
So, how often do they play?
“Not very often. It’s only today that I decided to play a game or two until the sun sets,” said Gurung.
“We play to avoid feeling sleepy as we wait for the day to cool down a bit,” added Bista.
Gurung said they “have been playing this since childhood and one just needs to be clever and thoughtful to play it”.
As both got back to the game, one of the spectators informed that “once you get hooked, you get involved in such way that you don’t realise the sun going down”.

Roll of dice

While the elderly were busy with their bagh chal, in another street of the city — Ganabhal — the youth in their 20’s were busy with their game of Ludo, popularly known as ‘pott’.
Bhuwan Maharjan, 23, who has shop in the lane has made friends with the neighbouring shopkeepers. While they spent a couple of months chatting, they soon got restless. “That is when the idea of playing this game started,” shared Maharjan.
It’s been six weeks since they “seriously got hooked to the friendly match of pott”.
They feel that the game not only helps them pass time and keeps them too busy to notice the heat
during load-shedding,
it also makes them relax
after handling demanding customers.
Though the game in the beginning started with limited players, slowly it has gathered more spectators and many of them are eager to play. “New people join us and soon we become friends,” said Maharjan.

The charm of roadside games has never faded from our life. No change in trend or introduction of technology can take away the age old time pass. The roadside games not only entertain and help in passing time in any given season of the year, but also let the players have a fun time and make new friends not to mention immense entertainment to all unofficial spectators.