With the advent of Yaoshang and Thabal Chongba season, we had talked about how our society in the past had in the past introduced socially sanctioned form of courtship to channelise adolescent urges among the teenage in the right direction. Today, we shall talk about the evolution of Yaoshang sports.
In the past, everything comes to a standstill for a period of five days during Yaoshang and even the newspaper offices are closed down. While young children and teenage youths join in the festivities, there is somehow no activity among the middle-aged and elderly persons. It is costly for them to venture outside their homes, because of the donations they had to dole out to young children and girls. Even those with emergency work or duties are not spared. So, they consider it safer to remain at home. If at all they have go for some work, a pocketful of small change and other denominations is needed to clear the way. So, a trend began among the middle-aged and elderly persons to gather in groups and pass the time either in gambling or drinking sessions unmindful of what their young ones are doing or behaving.
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Young boys will scour the leikais in groups with Aber in their hands and water balloons in their pouches while young girls in groups go for seeking donations from friends and relatives. When these two groups meet on the way, there is always chaos which sometimes become ugly.
So, a fierce debate on the various activities during Yaoshang began with it sometimes venturing into religious overtones. And somehow, the idea of organising sports during the festival was conceived wherein the young and old including the middle-aged groups are engaged in positive activities. And it became a trend everywhere.
Yaoshang sports is one such space where the young boys and girls, including small children and womenfolk, are attracted to competitions however trivial or ridiculous it may be, while the men folk are engaged in organising the competitions. These sporting activities are not for producing world class sportspersons, but of channelizing festive behaviour in a positive way among all age groups. While gambling or drinking sessions and its associated problems have greatly come down, a community spirit was once again ignited in the leikais.
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Community spirit has greatly diminished in recent times by the impact of urbanisation and the growth of service sector in erecting mandaps and catering groups. In most urban areas, community participation has become almost non-existent with most families opting for professional mandap houses and caterers. Gone are the days when every youth helps out in erection of mandaps and young girls happily participating in preparation of vegetables and food.
Besides the work, the gathering of old and young also served as a forum for community interactions on various social issues. In the olden days, no family is left alone to mourn the dead or celebrate the birth of a new child or marriage. Everybody joins in the organisation and contribute to expenses and helps in erection of mandaps with of course bamboo and other materials brought by the members of the locality, while womenfolk from every family come and contribute rice, vegetables and fruits and also participate in preparing food items and other eatables. So, we must say the rebirth of community spirit is one commendable achievement of Yaoshang sports.