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Dream, Aim, Luck and Cash
We spend about one-third of our lives asleep and spend more than two hours each night dreaming. Dreams often fascinate and mystify us, a kind of strange experience that occurs with every human being; a fiction or an illusion that we would envision. Sometimes, the subconscious mind often knows more than the conscious and if interpreted deliberately, reveals an incredible outcome. Relatively, here in Shillong, dreams are worth interpreting, especially, when it is worth a fortune.
Losing teeth in your dreams symbolizes a change on the cards for an individual. In the same manner, it is believed that a snake in a dream indicates an enemy is circling an individual. The fun facts when it comes to dreams and illusion is that when you happen to meet a person who is a native from Meghalaya and interpret your dream to him, he is going to convert your dreams into figures. And what more- you may even win a jackpot!
Strange, but true! Travellers voyaging your way towards the hills of Meghalaya should take notice of the small stalls and kiosks by the road-sides, especially in the state's capital, Shillong. These stalls often hang slates with figures scribbled on it. Note that it is no ordinary number, but rather a deal. 'Teer' which is derived from a Hindi word meaning 'Arrow' is the name given to the traditional sport that is commonly taken part by the Khasi-Jaintia natives.
The game consists of a row of archers aiming at the cylindrical shaped target (made of straw of hay) and involves betting upon a number. This form of age old gambling has been legalized by the state; anyone who has acquired a license can open a betting counter anywhere in the state. The amount returned from every face value of the money ranges from a minimum amount of One Rupee (Re. 1) and can go on to any maximum amount that a bettor can go along with utmost returns based on several schemes and calculations.
As I went on analysing the betting system with Mr. Charles Mawthoh, a veteran archer, he said, "The betting starts from a minimum value Re.1 per number with a return of ₨.80, and the higher the stake is, the higher the profit will be. However, there are also sequences of betting system that offer large amounts of profit." I later acquired a brief knowledge of Mr. Charles on how a number is declared- A quiver of arrows hitting the target is collected by a steward who is also an official who looks after the counting of these arrows. The arrows are then collected for counting which are then placed in a frame having units of rows and columns. A count of ten arrows is said to be one unit. After a final count of all the arrows is evaluated, the lucky number of the day is finally announced. The numbers resemble a number system that ranges from 00 up to 99; therefore, forming a total of 100 numbers. Any bettor can deal on any of these numbers by cashing on it. The bet is played for two rounds (First Round and Second Round), and what is more interesting is that if a number is forecasted for both the rounds, it is considered a bumper or "hitting the forecast" as the locals would say. It has maximum return with a minimum amount dealt with, i.e., the bettor would take home a sum total of Rs. 4500 from just a Rupee.
The game of Teer does sound enticing and one would surely feel tempted to try one's luck. The game rule advises the bettor to recall their dreams that will then be converted into a particular number corresponding to the dream. But what follows next is even more exciting and interesting. It is believed that if one happens to see dreams related to death or tragic incidents, then the number 9 or 69 is considered lucky to put your deal on; 56, meanwhile, is considered to be a fancy number of love of a romantic dream. Relatively, animals are considered to resemble numbers like 4, 7 and 3; water bodies correlates to number 7 while dreaming of a house corresponds to the figure 8. Mr. Charles Mawthoh, a regular Teer player, is apparently an expert in interpreting dreams and tells me that dreams are tools that he uses to forecast the number of the day and accordingly, put his bet with sheer confidence (that it is going to be just another day of Teer money pouring inside his pocket). This may sound amusing, but this belief has been in existence for many decades and has been rolling down from one generation to the next (an illusion you visualize during times of the sleeping period and has something to do with tomorrow's number). Amazing, isn't it?
Archery has been in existence for many decades played by the forefathers of the ancient Khasi tribe called 'Siat Rong- Biria'. Till date, this game is played by local archers from various villages and towns drawing in large number of bettors while spectators observe this lively event. Archery in Meghalaya is not only a sport. It has a traditional significance to the Khasi-Jaintia culture as it commemorates the ancient famous freedom fighter U Tirot Singh, who was once a great Khasi legendary king and a skilful archer during the British regime.
However, the popularity of the game has gained so much momentum that it has caught the attention of the people of Assam as well. Popular in places like Khanapara, Panjabari and even in places as far as Lakhimpur, teer lovers throng the counters which are mostly make-shifts on the roadside to get their tickets, but what is more fascinating or amusing is when the results are declared. "It's almost like a fish market," a sub-agent explains. "The excitement among the people here is amazing," he quips while adding that people throng his small counter in the evening to have a glimpse of the 'Number(s)'. The business is soaring in places as far as Maligaon Chariali and Dharapur Chariali. Reportedly, these sub-agents in Assam are encouraged by the police as commissions are collected from them.
An arrow in the Khasi culture is also considered an important weapon of protection. There is a religious belief while performing rituals in naming a baby boy. Three arrows are presented to him; the first arrow is said to protect the family, the second is to safeguard his clan, and the third is for the protection of the overall society from any future threats. Thus, it is not always about the game and gambling bustle that is involved in the game of archery, but also the traditional and cultural beliefs that is being followed and persevered.
(Featured image: Officials collecting arrows shot at a traditional archery stump)