George Scott Robertson.

The Káfirs of the Hindu-Kush; online

. (page 36 of 38)
Online LibraryGeorge Scott RobertsonThe Káfirs of the Hindu-Kush; → online text (page 36 of 38)
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game on my house-top. It surprised me that no one
was hurt. During the game three boys were sent flying
off the roof. Fortunately the fall was not more than
twelve or fourteen feet, and was into heaps of snow many
feet in depth. In the distance the same game was being
pursued with vigour on the tops of houses two and three
stories high, but perhaps for my benefit the young Kt4firs
outdid themselves in their rough-and-tumble amusement.
They were soon more or less completely smeared with
blood from cuts on shins, fingers, &c. The game was
played as follows : — One side, consisting of four boys,
faced an equal number of adversaries, whose object it
was to defend a goal marked out by a circle a foot in
diameter. Each boy seized a big toe with the hand of
the opposite side and hopped about on the other foot,
w^hich was kept in front. If he released the big toe or
was thrown down, he had to stand aside and become a
spectator until the round was finished. He was per-
mitted, however, on occasion, to place the held foot on
the ground and rapidly pass the foremost foot behind it,
and might then do his best rushing about in crab-like
fashion and fighting, but he must still never let go the



big toe for a single instant. The plan of operations
was usually for the whole of the attacking side except
one to hop forward and try fully to occupy their oppo-
nents, or knock them over and put them out of plav,
and in this way allow their own " back " to get through.
Sometimes the scrimmages were most exciting, 'llie
long scalp-lock is justly considered the best of all pos-
sible grips. More than once the attacking back had got
right through and nearly reached the goal, when one of
the opposite side caught him by the hair, swinging liini
clean off his feet, and in one instance off the roof as
well. It was impossible not to admire the ])erf('ct
temper and good-nature of the boys. They dashed at
one another like little furies, with fierce and determined
faces, in more than one instance streaming with blood ;
but the moment the round was over they were as happy
and jolly together as possible. Their keen sense of
justice was admirable to witness. In the whole course
of the game there was not a single dispute. Several
men looked on, cheering the performers with laughter
and applause, but they were never appealed to in a
single instance to decide any point in the game.

A favourite amusement of the boys is shooting arrows.
A dozen little Kafir boys found a dead crow near my house.
This was a great find. They stuck it up, and at about twelve
paces riddled it through and through with arrows, 'i'lie
worst shots were not more than a few inches out. It was a
curious reflection for me, tluit any ouo of these cliilchcn,
in an ambush, could send one of their iron-ti})pe(l arrows
through a man's heart. 1 subsequently heard of an in-
stance where a Kafir boy, hardly more than tliirtt'rii,
killed a Pathan in the way mentioned. The bows are


weak to look at, but shoot very well. The usual game
is for the boys to divide into two parties and shoot
at marks, which consist of two pairs of sticks stuck
into the ground, twenty-five or thirty yards apart. At
such ranges the shooting was sometimes wonderfully

The boys are very fond of rough-and-tumble fighting,
one section of a village against another. I have watched
the boys at Kamdesh amusing themselves in this way at
my next-door neighbour's. They would turable from the
house-top into the room below, then out of the verandah
on to the raised platform, and thence down the notched
ladder and along the edge of a little cliff which bounded
the level space on which my house was built. Once
there, that round of the game seemed finished, and there
was nothing for it but to begin all over again. One bov
was dragged a dozen yards simply by the hair of his head,
while another urchin was pulling his legs in an opposite
direction. He was only about nine or ten years old, but
he never made a murmur. Why his hair did not come
out was a wonder. Many a time the boys, tumbling down
the ladder, had hair-breadth escapes from being killed
or maimed for life. No one, except my own followers,
seemed to think that anything unusual was happening.
One of my men rushed forward to interfere, and got
laughed at by all the spectators. The boy is father to the
man, and this Spartan form of enjoyment, the ferocious
looks, the absence of anything like laughter, the savage
cries and fierce blows, must teach the Kafir youth to
endure anything. The tortures which English boys occa-
sionally inflict on one another are as nothing to the
sights we witnessed. As soon as it was all over, victors


and victims alike showed by their naanner that iiotlniii;
unusual had occurred.

It will be convenient here to describe also the amuse-
ments of the men. The shil-throwin^^ has been already
described at page 585.

In the early spring, every day and almost all day. arclu-ry
is practised as a sport. The men and lads divide into two
parties, and shoot at marks placed on opposite slopes of a
gully, or some other convenient spot. 'I hey consist of a
single stick about two feet high, and are usuallv about
eighty yards apart. Almost everybody joins in the game.
Those who are too old to play, and others who come late,
are entJiusiastic spectators, cheering every good shot.
There is almost always some one among them accus-
tomed to public speaking. Such a man, when some par-
ticular cleverness has been shown, will break out into
laudations of the marksman, particularly if the latter be-
longs to some well-know^n family or is a famous warrior.
Such a one will be greeted with a speech running some-
thing like' this : — ''Oh, well done! well done yoii, thou
son of rich parents." Being proclaimed the son of rich
parents was always considered a high form of ])raise.
The mark itself was very rarely hit, never more than
two or three times in an afternoon. l)ut comparatively
few shots were very wide of it. 'Ihe two sides tired
alternately, man by man. The moment a man had shot
his arrow he scampered off to the mark, apjjarcntly
quite heedless of those behind who were still shooting.
There was often some very careful measuring required to
determine which of two or three arrows sticking in the
ground was actually nearest to the mark. No disputes
ever arose. If there were differences of opinion, some


bystander was appealed to, and his decision was invari-
ably accepted as final. An amusing point of the

Online LibraryGeorge Scott RobertsonThe Káfirs of the Hindu-Kush; → online text (page 36 of 38)