10 Indian board games to rekindle the 'Hum Saath Saath Hai' spirit of your family
Team up for some family drama
What connects an 11-year-old, a 29-year-old and a 74-year-old beyond bloodlines and Cadbury Dairy Milk? Ludo. In case you’re itching to refute this claim, remember that everybody, from your bua to my nani, the Pandavas to Emperor Akbar… even Virat and Anushka, love this star among Indian board games. So much so that, in isolation, we have been playing it with total strangers on apps.
Last year, when many of us returned to our big boisterous families and emergency exits were sealed, we squabbled over TV remotes and gave them a foundation course in privacy. Until we ran out of things to argue about and movies to stream without an unforeseen lovemaking scene ruining the moment.
On one such occasion, I planned a game night with three generations of my family and got an eye-opening lesson.
We began setting up Game of Thrones Catan after dinner, but after 45 minutes of assembling the game pieces, our interest levels were waning. My bua interjected, “Board games are supposed to be fun, not an elaborate science project. Our time was so much simpler.” Instead of arguing, I challenged her. “Let’s bring out your games.”
Out came a well-worn wooden Checkers board, a 45-year-old Ludo set, and a circular board she called Buddhijal. We took a trip down nostalgia lane as she shared stories from her childhood when she, her siblings and neighbourhood kids played for hours in the verandah. “There was a strong sense of community,” she added.
Sheepishly, we agreed. The simple game uncovered age-old anecdotes I had heard as a child from my dadi, and it was my niece’s turn to get a dose of family history: long hours of load-shedding, one black and white TV in the entire locality and how to live in a household of 23 members without stabbing anyone.
Ludo made us equals. I wasn’t looking at my older relatives as a CBI officers, trying to solve the mystery of “Toh beta, shaadi kab kar rahe ho?” They didn’t view me as an insolent upstart who still can’t make round rotis. We had cracked the code of levelling the playing field.
Catch them cheating, watch them argue like kids and throw tantrums, topple the boards, and you can back answer your elders too — everything is fair in love and Ludo.
Turns out, these Indian board games can heal injured human connections and build new ones, bridging the generation gap with a few simple moves.
At Lamiya Chitalwalla’s family reunions, things can get wild. A group of 80-somethings often regroup to indulge in a game of Dadu (a variation of the ancient game called Chaupar).
The oldies sport knee caps and dentures, a few are armed with walking sticks, but in that moment, they are more aggressive than angsty teenagers. Hurling abuses, slyly moving pieces, falling on top of each other; it’s carnage.
But she assures us that “this is how they relive their childhood and connect with the younger generations”. A friend’s mother even hand-crafted a Dadu board as part of her daughter’s bridal trousseau, making sure a bit of the family’s history passes on to the next generation.
10 ancient Indian board games to reconnect with
Following hot on the heels of the Ludo revival is a trunk full of traditional Indian board games that will help you unlock family secrets too.
From predecessors of our modern-day favourites and early games of gambling, to board games that teach young ones the story of Ramayana, vote for these 10 games and sing along, “Hum saath saath hai”.