Afghani children, even amid the turmoil and horror of a civil war, continue to play traditional games. These activities have endured despite interruptions to education from lack of schools, families torn apart by the conflict, and the ever-present threat of injury and death. Children's play in Afghanistan has also continued in spite of religious laws promoted by the Taliban banning toys such as dolls, kites and stuffed animals.
Aaqab (Eagle) is a tag game. One child is the eagle and sits on a rock. The other children, or pigeons, stand on the home base or safe area. The children leave the safe area and pretend to be pigeons pecking at the ground for food. The child who is the eagle leaves the rock and chases the other children. When the eagle touches a child, that child is out of the game. Play continues until the last pigeon is out. Another eagle is then chosen.
Bujal Bazi is a game that resembles marbles but is played with sheep or goat knuckle-bones. There are many regional variations, but the object of the game, similar to marbles, is to knock the opponent's knuckle-bones out of a circle drawn in the dirt.
Gudi-paran-jangi, which means flying puppet or doll fighting, is the national pastime of kite-fighting that was banned by the Taliban as un-Islamic when that regime was in power. Kite flying, unlike the hobby that it is in other parts of the world, is a competitive sport. Afghani kites do not have tails. An adhesive mixed with rice and ground glass is applied to the kite string. Kite fliers often wear leather gloves to avoid injury to their hands from the string. The goal of this pastime is to sever the kite string or shred the kite belonging to the opponent.
Kabaddi is a game that is traditionally played by Afghani boys but, in contemporary and international sport, admits girls. There are two forms of Kabaddi: Gaminee Kabaddi and Amar Kabaddi
In Gaminee Kabaddi, the game area is about 14 yards by 10 yards, divided by a line in two halves. The game consists of two 20-minute sets with a break of five minutes to change sides in the alternating defense and offense. There are two teams of 12 players, seven on the field and five in reserve, who compete with each other for scores by touching or capturing the players of the opponent team. The game begins with the side winning the toss to go first sending a raider who enters the opponent's court. The raider chants “kabaddi-kabaddi” as he tries to touch any or all the players on the opposing side and return to his home court in one breath. The person whom the raider touches will be out. The opposing team's goal is to hold the raider and stop him from returning to his court until the raider takes another breath. If the raider cannot return to his teammates while he chants "kabaddi," then he is out. Each team alternates sending a player into the other team's court. Fouls are called and the player put out of the game if the player goes outside the playing field or if any part of his body touches the ground outside the boundary. Each team declares a lona (or two points) if the entire opposition is declared out.
In the Amar form of Kabaddi, the game is usually played in two 20-minute halves or can be played in 10 or 15 minutes each. The game is played in a circle with a line dividing the field into two halves. Each team consists of four to five raiders and five to six stoppers. Only four stoppers are allowed on the field. Each time a stopper prevents a raider from going back to the opposition's starting point, the stopper's team gets a point. When a raider tags one of the stoppers and returns to his team's starting area, that is a point for the raider's team. Only one stopper can target a raider for tagging. If more than one stopper tags a raider, then the point is awarded to the raider's team. If a stopper pushes a raider or a raider pushes out of boundaries, then the point is awarded to the team of the one still standing in the play area. If both the raider and stopper go out of bounds at the same time, then no team gets a point.
The players are divided into two teams who line up on opposite ends of a field, along two lines opposite each other. A small circle that represents the goal is drawn on the middle of each team's line. Each player holds his (for this is a boy's game) right foot up behind the back with his left hand. When someone shouts “Go!”, the players in each team seek to reach the other team's goal, while preventing the other team from reaching their goal. The players stop the opponents by making them lose their balance and stand on two feet. The players who lose their balance are out of the game. A player who touches the circle on the opposing side wins a point for his team, and the players from both sides who are out return to the game. The first team to get 10 points wins.
Sang Chill Bazi
Sang Chill Bazi (Pebble Games) is a game for girls that resembles the Western game of jacks. There are two stages to the game. In the first half of the game, each player chooses five pebbles. The girls decide who will go first, often with a version of “rocks, paper, scissors," and that player puts four pebbles on the ground. She tries to toss up the one remaining pebble and grab one of the pebbles on the ground without losing the initial pebble. Next, if she is successful at picking up one pebble, then she tries to pick up two, then three and finally all four. If the girl misses during any of these turns, then her opponent gets a chance to try her skill. If a girl succeeds in picking up all the pebbles in the first round, then the challenge, in the second stage, is to pick up two pebbles at a time, then three at once and finally four. The girl who completes all the stages is the winner. The game can sometimes end brutally for the loser. The winner has the option of tossing up a pebble and pinching her opponent's hand until the pebble hits the ground. This pinching is repeated with all five pebbles.
Anne Cagle has been writing ever since she was a toddler who could scribble with crayons. Her first published article, at age 12, was in a teachers' newsletter. She was published in "Optical Prism" magazine and has worked as a reviewer for the Webby Awards. She holds a degree in English from the University of Oregon.