Tambola Thrills: Why are Hyderabadis excited about this timeless fun group game?

In Italy, Tambola is a designated Christmas activity for families and other communities

By Beyniaz Edulji  Published on  30 Jun 2024 9:43 AM GMT
Tambola Thrills: Why are Hyderabadis excited about this timeless fun group game?

Hyderabad: The craze for Tombola is back at the city’s kitty parties, fundraising events and get-togethers. This fun game – also Indian Bingo or Housie – is a fun game where participants possess one or more numbered tickets or cards.

For many of those, who thought it was just a game, there is more to it.

Tombola is played to raise money for the education of girl children, charity sales, entertainment events and as the central piece of entertainment at the reunions of friends and families.

In the charity and entertainment events, small-time business houses sponsor the shows with the largest participation of women. Participation in the game is a means of advertising products while being a part of the charity.

What is the history of Tombola?

Bingo originated from the Italian lottery, Il Gioco del Lotto d’Italia. The game spread to France from Italy and was known as Le Lotto, played by the French aristocracy. The game is believed to have migrated from there to Great Britain and other parts of Europe in the 18th century.

The objective of the game is to reach the end successfully and win prizes, which every participant eagerly looked forward to. In Hyderabad and Secunderabad, it is played in clubs and at fundraisers to collect funds for a good cause. Running the game requires a license in advance from the Telangana State government.

How is it played?

The game’s host or announcer keeps calling out one number at a time. Participants need to mark off the number using a pen on a paper ticket. The game runs for multiple rounds and concludes when a player successfully completes one or more milestones in the game:

- Jaldi Five where the player marks off the first five numbers of the card.

- Top Line where the player clears all five numbers on the top row.

- Middle Line where the player completes all numbers in the middle row of the card.

- Bottom Line is where the player completes every number in the bottom row of the card.

- Full-House is where a player marks off all fifteen numbers on the card.

There are more relatively uncommon winning combinations in the Indian version, such as Four Corners and Pyramid.

Hyderabadi describe the rush from winning Tambola

In Italy, Tambola is a designated Christmas activity for families and other communities. In India, it is a leisure game played at community clubs and events, often for prizes or money.

Some tombola players from our city such as Usha Mulay said, “I love the game for it keeps you on your toes especially when you have one or two numbers left on your ticket as well as the jackpot. I would like to share an incident where in Secunderabad Club I almost won a Nissan car but unfortunately, it had to be shared by two others because somebody else also ended up striking all the numbers and it became a tie. Then it was decided to give us a blank ticket and whoever cuts the number first was to be the winner of the Nissan car. To cut a long story short, I’m still driving my old car. That was the first and the last time I had such an adrenaline rush during a game of tambola.”

Another player, Sarita Bhalla said, “All Army kids know how to play Tambola as it was a usual family activity on weekends at the Army clubs. So many memories of sitting on club lawns having drinks and snacks and cancelling numbers. The annual bumper draw was everyone’s dream!”

Sangeeta Dhawan said, “Tambola is a lottery-style board game originated in Southern Italy. A variation of the game is a popular form of raffle in the UK and elsewhere in the world. I was introduced to the game as an Army kid. When my mother had her kitty parties she asked me to call. This used to be our weekend game at our Army clubs. We played variations of the game like first half, second half, rapid tambola, madhouse and so on. It is a fun game and over the years I have played and now I also enjoy calling out the tambola numbers at club parties and merchant navy get-togethers.”

Asha Kaushik fondly recollected the time when her late husband Colonel Kaushik used to organise family Tambola get-togethers at home with his daughters and grandchildren and sponsor all the prizes.

Rekha Bayanker, secretary of Armed Forces Officers Co-Op Housing Society Sainikpuri which holds Tambola once a month said, “I enjoy conducting, attending and also calling out numbers in a different manner for instance ‘Clickety Click’ for number 66, ‘Dinky doo’ for number 22, ‘Rishi’s Den’ for number 10. I have done so in Sainikpuri and Vayupuri Clubs from 7 to 9 pm. I enjoy interacting and catching up with friends. Delicious snacks are also served at these venues.”

Vijaya Naidu said, “Tambola has been a game of excitement when you are waiting for just one number to cut for any small or big prize. I started playing with just a single ticket and now after many years have graduated to three and occasionally even a full sheet of tickets. The confusion arises when queen’s/king’s corner, lovers lane, red cross or Jaldi Five is announced. My heart beats fast when I wait for the last number to strike off to claim a measly Rs 100 or 200. Friends then demand a party when I win, so I end up spending four times the amount on drinks and dinner. But then that’s the fun of it all.”

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