Chennai woman appreciated for promoting traditional games

By Bhavani Prabhakar Published on Jul 30, 2018 12:12 PM IST

Chennai: When Prof Balambal told her colleagues she was flying to Germany to present a paper on pallanguzhi, she was mocked at. There is nothing to talk about the Indian game, they said, and advised her to just enjoy the trip.

But the comments did not deter her and she went ahead with her plan. A few years later she published her book about the traditional games of south India.

The octogenarian was recently awarded the Pride of Inner Wheel Club by the KK Nagar chapter of the club for her contribution to education and society.

Hailing from a middle-class background, Balambal is one among 11 siblings in her family. Despite the financial problems, her father made sure all his children were educated and Balambal is proud to say that she was the first graduate from her family.

“Soon after graduating, I began to work as a teacher in a school in Trichy and shifted to Chennai after marriage. All of a sudden, I enrolled myself for a postgraduate degree in History when I was 30 years old. I was the oldest person in my batch and did not attend the convocation as I was embarrassed,” recalls the historian.

Balambal went on to top her masters and she chose to enrol for Ph D when someone requested her on seeing her capabilities.

“It all happened by chance. I immediately agreed to enrol and my thesis was about feudatories in the country. The thesis was well-received by eminent colleges in the UK,” adds Balambal.

She started working as a lecturer in Madras University after this. From then on, she has presented numerous papers in her field of study.

While all this was happening, her life took a sudden turn when her focus shifted towards researching about traditional board games of south India.

“Way back in 1995, a professor asked if I can present a research paper on the indigenous games of Tamilnadu. I found it interesting and my paper was about dhayakattai, aadu puli aattam, parama padham and pallanguzhi,” she says.

In a very short span of time, she rose to fame and was invited to present similar papers all around the world and got a perception on how the Indian games are seen and played in other countries.

In addition, she has organised several workshops about the games and creates awareness. For the past seven years, she has been organising traditional games during the Mylapore Festival.

Talking about the differences in the game, she adds,”In our country, pallanguzhi is widely played by womenfolk, whereas, the same game is played by men in Africa and I was surprised when I learned that pallanguzhi, which is called as, Mancala, is their national game.”

Going beyond considering such games to kill time, she believes that the games have a lot of significance and teach values to lead a happy life.

“For instance, pallanguzhi strengthens mathematical skills, parama padham teaches the law of karma and rebirth, aadu puli aattam is all about using our brain and physical body to defend from the enemy,” says the scholar.

“Unlike PC games, you have to sit together with your friends or families to play the traditional games which creates a strong bond, thus, bringing joy and life while playing. It is much needed considering that today's kids are so engrossed in gadgets,” adds the scholar.

Balambal, a resident of KK Nagar, can be reached at 9025895777.


On the academic side, Prof Balambal has so far guided 12 Ph D scholars, 60 M Phil students, written 190 research articles and nine books.