Now officially a sport, Langdi takes giant leap

Confined to backyards for years and a favourite pastime of bored kids during vacations, langdi has taken its first step towards becoming a serious sport.

The game, where you try to catch a bunch of players while hopping on one leg, now has a registered national body the Langdi Association of India (LAI) and the second week of 2010 will see a state-level tournament in Murad, Maharashtra followed by an inaugural all-India meet in Nanded.

The founder members say they had to overcome many obstacles and endure the ridicule of the skeptics to make it possible. They're gearing themselves up for more.

"A friend of mine gave me an amused look and said that I had gone mad," recalls LAI secretary Suresh Gandhi of the time when he first mooted the idea of setting up an association. "I became a butt of jokes as he suggested that I should also start hide-and-seek or even chor-sipahi associations."

The 54-year-old Gandhi is not an isolated case, almost everyone striving for langdi to be taken seriously has a funny story to tell.

One of the first practitioners of the sport in its serious avatar, Varsha Kumawat, a final year B.Com student at RKT College, says: "The other day I told my class mates that I had to go for langdi practice and it became a joke. They called it juvenile, but I guess it was in good humour. I think very soon they will join me," says the 21-year-old Kumawat.

Past successes

Gandhi points out that this is not the first time a sport is facing such a reaction. A few decades back, he says, he had played a role in kho-kho going out from rural Maharashtra and becoming a popular sport in schools across the country.

"If I had been bothered by what people say I wouldn't have been connected to kho-kho during its early days. Today kho-kho players are getting jobs in banks through sports quota. I want to do the same with langdi," says Gandhi, who is also associated with the state kho-kho body.

Interestingly, most of the players who want to take up langdi happen to be kho-kho or kabaddi players, as its requirements are similar to those of the two sports.

Buddhiraj Gaykhe, a kho-kho player of Amar Krida Mandal, says that langdi practice has increased his level of alertness. At the same time though, the 22-year-old says it is embarrassing for a well-built man to be hopping on one leg "like a schoolgirl".

Not bothered by the response, Gandhi is busy spreading langdi by organising seminars and finalising the rules of a game he hopes to introduce in other Asian countries as well.

Meanwhile, work at the grassroots level has started. Sandesh Shinde, the secretary of the Thane District Langdi Association, says: "In municipal and language schools, they understand the idea quickly but our challenge is to introduce this sport to private schools."

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