TODAY -

Rise of the tambola fever

Samarjit Kambam *

Housie Tickets
Housie Tickets



I have come across a guy in his early twenties who had won a Hyundai Verna, a Renault Duster SUV and umpteen two wheelers such as Honda Activa, Suzuki Access, Yamaha Ray, Yamaha Alpha etc. He is a guy who eat, drink and sleep housie and turns out to be a very lucky chap whenever it comes to housie. When asked about any secrets or formulae, he expressed that there is no formula, trick or strategy. As the numbered balls of the Tambola consisting of 1 to 90 came out from the rotating basket randomly, he relied entirely on luck.

He further told me that in housie there is no surety that one could win by buying more number of tickets even though the probability is a little higher. When asked what he had done with all the prizes that he had accumulated he told me that he had conducted two bumper housies – one for the sedan and one for the SUV and had sold the two wheelers. When asked how he managed to conduct them by himself, he replied that it was not as complicated as I thought. "Give some money to the housie syndicate and they will do the rest" was his answer. And he harvested a ripe amount of profit by doing so. Syndicate?. I wondered to myself. In fact, housie in Manipur has made a colossal leap to the next level.

A few years back, big bumper housies were conducted everyday at Iboyaima Sumaang Lila Theatre till it was banned by the state government. Now Shanker Talkies at Lamphel has become the Avataar of Iboyaima Sumaang Lila Theatre. Once famous for screening box office hit bollywood movies (before Hindi films and songs were banned by insurgent outfits), Shanker Talkies switched platform to Manipuri digital films but it had to stop screening as the number of viewer decreases and debt rises, the main reason being its isolated and awkward location, far away from the hush buzz of bazaar area, failure of Lamphel Supermarket and the pathetic main road in front of it which has remained like that for almost a decade.

Besides, Manipuri digital films are watched at the comfort of their own homes by the people at their big screen LEDs with surround DTS sound system. Such factors have converted Shanker Talkies into a non performing asset. Now Shanker Talkies has become a haven for housie draws, a kind of gambling and since two or three months back this practice has been going on unabated everyday as a regular affair as the fee for rent given by organisers of housies are more beneficial than screening Manipuri digital films. There are times where two bumper housies are conducted on a single day. The fever of housie has risen to such level that organisers have started playing housie at Iboyaima Sumaang Lila Theatre again since a few days back.

On an average, at the least, about ten or more bumper draws are conducted in different districts of Manipur be it valley or hills. Now-a-day every bumper housie is preceded by a mini-bumper which has become mandatory thereby reaping huge monetary gains by the orgainsers. The prize of housefull ranges from money i.e 3 lakh to 10 lakh rupees, or vehicles most probably hatchbacks or sedans, sometimes SUVs. Most commonly housies with two wheelers as housefull are conducted which may be scooters or bikes and the way it is being played is evolving.

Now we have bumper housies where there are many housefulls such as 1st Housefull, 2nd Housefull, 3rd Housefull,…. and some even goes upto 7th Housefull with all the Housefulls as two wheelers and lines are given as money. Here also a new trend has come up where there are 2nd Quick Five, 2nd First Line, 2nd Second Line, 2nd Third line, 2nd Star etc., to attract more lousy and gullible persons like me who have no financial discipline.

Now I have come to know why the organisers keep upto seven housefulls. The first housefull is usually claimed by one person, even upto 2nd Housefull. By then many of the ticket holders have only one unticked or uncircled number acting as a thin block to the remaining housefulls. One number… only one number different though it may be from one person to another person's need is what the crowd has been waiting. By the stage of third houseful the number of claimaints increase to two or three.

Another number of the tambola will be announced and three of four claimants will crop up for the fourth houseful. Likewise the number of claimants increase as the number of housefull increases. By the time of seventh housefull there's bound to be five or more claimants. If the bumper houseful are, say Activas, then two Activas will have owners while other to-be owners will be given money. Say, if the cost of an Activa is Rs. 60,000, the three claimants are given 15,000 rupees each, the four or five claimants are given 10,000 rupees each, the six claimants are given Rs. 8000 each.

The balance amount goes to the organisers. Now, out of the seven Activas, two will be driven away by their owners but five will be left without any owner. Taking advantage of the situation, the organisers buy two more Activas from their fat profit and conduct the same seven housefull Activas the following day. Besides serving as a great attraction to housie lovers, the more the number of housefulls, the more beneficial it is to the organisers. Once upon a time local clubs found a hard time collecting money from door to door of a locality for conduct of a housie draw and the unsold tickets were tore apart in front of the crowd. Now-a-days, all the tickets are bought in a single day by the housie freaks including many women.

Like professionals who organise 'melas' cum 'fairs' by going from one place to another eking out huge profits, nowadays these professional tambola organizations or syndicates are gaining more and more experience and have acquired great expertise in this field leading them to introduce new innovative ideas. These group of professionals conduct housie at different locations by greasing the palms of heads of various local clubs and conduct housies for their own gain borrowing the names of the local clubs viz, this Association, that Association, this Organisation, that Organisation….. the list is endless, all in the name of fund raising charity.

The ironic thing is that such profit mongers have brainwashed the people into believing that they are doing social works. Now such characters run here and there, conducting housie somewhat early at Iboyaima's or other venues and starting afresh a little later at Shanker's on the same day.

Manipur is a peculiar state. Over and above peculiarity it is a state filled with uncertainty. Most of the rules applied in our state are nascent. Say, the Motor Vehicle Department had made it mandatory to wear helmet by two wheeler drivers as a safety measure followed by a mad rush of panic-buying helmets with the sellers making the best use of the situation by selling them at double or triple the price of its actual cost.

After a few months everything goes back to square one and two wheeler drivers commuted as usual sans helmet. Blockades along the national highways are uncertain for it may start any day and continue for months. Selling of petrol and diesel in black-market was banned but a few days later the practice emerges like tentacles of a hydra. During winter some oldy women use to sell petrol in bottles and big containers with red-hot charcoal heater by the side at night time.

There was a time where state security forces extort mobile phones from passersby for not having the SIM in their own name. After a few days, it was forgotten. Likely, the state government banned housie the previous year stating the practice as tantamount to gambling. But with the arrival of this year's autumn season, housie resurrected and has become a routine affair. Now it has gone full throttle. The only thing in Manipur that's certain and permanent is the draconian law i.e. AFSPA(1958).

In Manipur, wherever it may be, whenever a bumper housie is conducted, the venue gets jammed with people like a swarm of honey bees on a bee-hive. Those who come a little late returned home due to non-availability of ticket as all the tickets have been sold. This shows that the number of housie obsessed people have raised manifold. To many, the main news of local morning newspapers were skipped searching for pages where advertisements for housie appear. Some like playing housie to such an extent that they become nocturnal creatures commuting here and there searching for venues where housies are held. They even proceed to other valley districts of the state in their quest of housie.

Most of the people of any state or nation loves gambling, some even have gambling in their blood and housie no doubt is a kind of gambling. Honestly speaking I also like housie not for the prizes but as a social event to fizz out the stress and tension of my power-packed schedule, monotony and rejuvenate myself by mingling among the people. I am a person whose luck goes below zero, for God has created me in such a way that I should reap only by the sweat of my brow. For this season, a few days back I and one of my housie freak friend went to Shanker Talkies as he had already possessed a bumper ticket and I didn't want to dishearten him.

When we reached there I also booked a bumper ticket. As always the timing of bumper was 4.30 sharp. But as you know "Meitei Poong"(Manipur's time where 1 minute is equivalent to 1 hour), even when it clocked 6 p.m., mini draws were being conducted one after another. Waiting, being one of the most arduous tasks, we took part in all the mini draws without winning any prize. First it was Rs. 100 a set containing six tickets, then 200, then 300 and reaches upto Rs. 500 a set. We did not win even a dry leaf.

The participants have full zeal and enthusiasm on their onward journey towards their housie destination, each one of them thinking of bringing home a car or a two wheeler or huge amount of money as if they were sure to win the housefull. As we got nearer to the venue we got high-spirited and confident as if we were going to collect bumper housefull prizes. My friend would say if he were to win a car he would sell it straightaway because he doesn't want the car driven by him to be called as 'Housie Car' by the people.

But when the exciting bumper housie draw gets over, everything goes topsy turvy and our hopes collapsed. The worst part of participating in a housie is the unpalatable and unpleasant feel that we get while returning home empty handed along with an empty purse in the middle of the chilly night on a deserted street with the state security forces giving you more unpleasantries in the name of frisking.


* Samarjit Kambam wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was posted on December 07, 2014.


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