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Meet Sreeranjini from Bengaluru, who is on a mission to revive ancient and traditional games

Hema Vaishnavi
26th Dec 2017
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Kavade aims to create a common platform for a spectrum of age groups to experience the joy of reliving traditional games.

Situated on a terrace in the Seshadripuram area of Bengaluru is an attic that has been attracting crowds across age groups.

Dubbed the Kavade Attic, it’s an exploratory space, a board game cafe, a party venue, a place for conversation and laughter — a place like no other in the city. But what makes it so special?

Kavade is an alternative world of entertainment, touted as a hub for simple pastime, a respite for tech-tired fingers and a refuge in the times of digital invasion.

From ancient board games to exploring cultures

In 2008, in a small room on the terrace of a commercial building, Sreeranjini, a mother of two, decided to bring to life an idea she’d long been harbouring. Although the focus was on ancient board games, a large part of the initial merchandise also included handcrafted learning aids.

It all started with what counts as entertainment for the family. Wanting to take a step away from tech-based pastimes, Sreeranjini toyed with the idea of introducing her kids to the games of her childhood. Accordingly, Chowkabara, Ali Guli Mane, and Adu Huli Aata were initiated in the household. Her kids thoroughly enjoyed these games.

The lovely memories of playing with cousins and neighbours during summer holidays, my longing for the Chowkabara game that was etched on the path to the main entrance of our home, steered me in this direction. I felt that the current disconnect with other people, flora, and fauna can be mitigated with some of our ancient pastimes, says Sreeranjini about how she started Kavade.

Upon seeing the idea come to life, the excitement caught on with her friends and family, helping Sreeranjini with her cause and spreading the message. Soon, traditional board games became the mainstay of home entertainment.

“Soon after, there was a chance encounter with an NGO group that works with palm leaf crafts. A face-to-face session with artisans unveiled the charm and intrigue of traditional board games and 'handmade' craftsmanship, prodding me to dig deeper," says Sreeranjini.

From dusty history books to sit-down sessions with grandmothers, the quest went on to different parts of the country, tracing clues and crumbs along the way. This enriching pursuit became a project for life, a labour of love.

A few games Kavade has been able to revive are Pagade, Chowkabara, Dayakattam, Ali Guli Mane, Navakankari, Bhadrakatam, Ganjifa cards, Pima sticks, Kai Mel Kashi, and Huli Kuri Aata. These games have been revived from the regions of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Odisha, Benaras, Africa, Europe, and the Mesopotamian civilisation.

The store with all these games remains the main showcase, although Kavade initially participated in a few exhibitions to spread the word. Today, Kavade sets up stalls in select locations.

The Attic

An extension of the store is Kavade Attic.

It is an articulation space for sunny sit-downs and breezy evening engagements. The Attic was founded to invoke a pace of life that is slow and relaxed, says Sreeranjini.

Hgousi a range of board games from Kavade, Attic echoes the sentiments upheld by the store. Motifs of different cultures and their games dot the terrace top, providing a visual commentary of their vibrancy. From Russian and Roman to Native American and Indian, Attic provides board game experiences that transcend time and territory.

The Attic sets the ambience for many cultural events — exhibitions and workshops, book reading and storytelling, music and theatre, screenings, and more. It is also a space where group games like lagori and hopscotch can be played.

Kavade also does installations of games for verandahs, boards for the bedside, and game benches in schools, including installation of super-sized versions of some of the interesting games.

We’ve also made recreation centres in resorts, experience zones at events, and hideaways for homes. Beaming with vibrant colours, these ancient game zones can add a unique dimension, becoming the centre piece of the turf, says Sreeranjini.

Other custom-made services Kavade doles out are corporate gifts that come in the form of tailor-made board games to incorporate the brand logo and message, traditional floor games custom made into wooden tables, and return gifts for kids’ birthday parties.

Sreeranjini believes that it is time to take a step away from one-time-use and plastic giveaways and encourages gifts like Kavade's custom board games.

Kavade conducts and hosts workshops at the Attic, some of which are weeklong activities that help children engage, explore, and understand different arts and concepts. Recently, Kavade hosted a weeklong workshop dubbed ‘Ecology Through Art,’ which aimed to help children explore the natural world through activities, games, and sketching​. It was facilitated by Abhisheka Krishnagopal, a wildlife researcher involved in bird migration studies who is also a visual artist and nature educator.

Talking about the immense response Kavade has received, Sreeranjini says,

We still attract a small percentage of shoppers. But the shoppers who enter our store or the experiencing area are totally kicked about what we have to offer and are very supportive with ideas to popularise this initiative. Children love playing and games are magical. Most parents find it hard to pull their kids out of our space, and that says a lot!

Sreeranjini plans to design these games into public spaces in the hope of exponentially increasing access to traditional games.

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