There are several indigenous sports in Pakistan (and India) which many of us have played in our past lives but they don’t get much coverage in written media. e.g. gilli danda, kanchay, lattu bazi, patang bazi, gali cricket, kabaddi etc. One such very popular game is called langRi paala.
Today I have taken a trip down the memory lane and tried to recall my golden days of being a langRi paala champion in school. I then tried to google the rules of langRi paala and not surprisingly nothing came up. This lit a bulb in me and this article is an attempt to produce a first-of-its-kind document to list official rules and regulations for the great game of langri paala.
Before we go any further here is a sketch of a langRi paala match. Since there is absolute dearth of printed and photo material on this sport, hence this hand drawn sketch by me. Therefore either paas karo ya bardaasht karo.
The name of the game is langRi paala.
The word langRi means a disabled leg. Note again that it means only one disabled leg.
The word paala means the playing arena or playing court.
While the word langRi sounds like a word straight out of Ferozsons’ Feroz-ul-lughaat Urdu jadeed, I am not sure about the origins of paala. I went to a majority Gujrati speaking school where all kind of paala games were played e.g. seeRhi paala (played on stadium seats and stadium aisles), langRi paala, stage paala etc so I am just making a guess that it could be a Gujrati word. I’ll take our readers comments for citation here and make corrections, as necessary. I had earlier published this post at another blog and a friend gave following comment on the origins of words langri. His explanation looks quite plausible to me.
The word “langdi” is of Sanskrit provenance. The original word is “langhah” as also “langhin”. The word is retained in the modified form of “langda” in modern Hindi. Incidentally, the word “langhin” deriving itself from the verb “lem” is also the root of the modern English word “lame”.
The Spirit of the Game:
There are two teams in a game.
Playing area is confined by an agreed upon rectangular area called paala.
A toss of a coin decides which team will ‘bat’ first and which team will ‘field’ first.
The terms ‘batting’ and ‘fielding’ are borrowed from the universal game of cricket which is understood even by non living things in South Asia, hence its effect on langRi paala terminologies should be understandable.
The fielding team sends in a player hopping on one leg.
The hopper guy’s job is to either tag the players of batting team or push them out of the paala (playing area) which renders them Out. Once all the ‘batting’ players have been declared Out the ‘fielding’ team comes in to bat and the process repeats.
The job of the ‘batting’ team is to dodge the hopper guy until he puts his second leg down on the ground (or both legs go in the air – which also happens sometimes.) When this happens the hopper guy is declared ‘Over and Out’ and the fielding team sends in a new hopper.
If the fielding team runs out of all hoppers then it is called a ‘Follow On’ (another term borrowed from cricket.) In such case all the batting players that were already ‘Out’ become alive again and batting team gets another ‘innings’ of dodging the hoppers. The fielding team which is pretty tired by now is a picture of Agha’s sher:
nasheeli nigaheN, qadam luRkhaRaaye
woh aaye woh aaye woh aaye woh aaye
Some Universal Rules:
*) There is no limit to the number of players in a team. It can be a one-on-one game or tens of people can be in a team.
*) There is no limit to the size and shape of ‘paala’ (playing area.) It is usually a rectangle drawn in sand by somebody’s foot and the area of a ‘paala’ depends on teams’ stamina and the number of players in a team.
*) As the number of players increase the size of paala also increases proportionally.
*) A ‘langRi paala’ tournament can also be held among three or more teams.
*) There is no time limit to this game. One can play it to their heart’s content or should I say as long as they can continue to hop on one leg.
The Finer Aspects of langRi paala:
*) This game is usally played in schools which are too strict on letting their students bring cricket bats, soccer balls, frisbees etc to school. In such cases the ‘empty handed’ students have no other choice but to recite following ‘sher’ and play langRi paala .
hum bhee tasleem ki khoo DaaleN ge
be-niazi teri aadat hee sahi
I also belonged to one such strict school therefore I excelled in langRi paala much before making to schools’ cricket team.
*) In one version of the game, which is played during school recess the team who gets to ‘bat’ all through the recess time usually shouts ‘muffat ki batting’ in the end and run to their classes.
Note: There is a fine difference between the correct pronunciation of ‘muft ki batting’ and the joyful taunt of ‘muffat ki batting’. The word ‘muffat’ means ‘muft(free)+joy’ and it is used when you get something for free and opposition doesn’t get it.
*) langRi paala is as much a ‘mind’ game as it is physical. One has to get into the skin of opposition by taunts to get them to make mistakes e.g. the batting team may taunt the hopper on one leg by shouting
“chup chup khaRay ho zaroor koi baat hai”
and the hopper may reply this before leaping for the final tagging glory:
“pehli mulaqaat hai ji pehli mulaqat hai”
and then shapaaaka!!! – which is usually the sound effect of a harsh tagging on the back of a batting guy.
The hand sketch to the right shows an illustration of a tagged out batsman.
*) As I mentioned earlier I played most of my langRi paala with Gujrati speaking friends so some taunts went in the form of ‘filmi’ dialogues e.g. the hopper would say in English/Gujrati: “I love you..prem karo cho”
and the batting side would reply in same poetic wazan as: “ab ke pakaR ke bataa tu.”
*) I want to end this post on this Ibn-e-Insha sher which is Urdu-Punjabi mix and most likely was written for langRi paala. It goes like this:
ajab paida kiye haiN yaar tum ne apni suhbat ke
koi langRa, koi loola, koi kaana, koi Dhera