“Tir” also known as archery gambling is the most popular word in Shillong. Almost every next shop is a Tir counter. It is typically like a small paan shop with a license number and some numbers written on a black board with chalks, hanging upfront. The interior is big enough only to accommodate a table and a chair. On the table there are some paper and a pen. You have arrived at a Tir counter.
It was more of a mythical story that drew me into the game. Back in my college days I followed it just for fun. But some people lived on it. Their whole livelihood depends on it. Some people can't let a day go by without playing that intriguing number game.
I was told that the game must be played with dreams. You've to dream and interpret the dream into digits. Everyone has their own interpretation. That in itself is a long story. So an avid Tir player must at least dream once in a day, otherwise it will be nothing more than a blind draw which is not what Tir is.
According to the local myth a Tir player's dreams can be screwed and distorted with dark powers. I was told that people who keep snakes and worship it have greater chances of being accurate. In today's digital world, many people will have no hesitation dismissing that. But this mythical story surrounding the game makes it even more appealing.
The great number of Tir counter all over Shillong suggested that there are many keen Tir players. For some people it could be the only thing to look forward to from their laborious daily chores. For some just a habit they can't kick away.
At the Tir counter one can buy any ticket of any digits ranging from 0-100. For a Rs.1 ticket the lucky winner will draw a sum of Rs. 80 in the first round and Rs.60 in second round. It can be a lucrative source of income but it is easier said than done.
There's so much professionalism in the way the game is being run. There are more people involved than one would imagine. To peek into the system that works like a well oiled machine I had to go to the sanctuary of Tir at Polo ground. When I arrived there at 4:5pm they had just drawn the first round. The first number is drawn at 4pm and the second number at 4:30pm. It is a small place with Tir counters and small wooden offices surrounding a small opening. As I entered there were a bunch of men folks drinking tea with ease. Some men folks were also playing dart to let time pass without having to wait too long. A bet of Rs.10 was placed and each player threw 10 darts at a small target. If they manage to hit they took all the bet. If they missed it the owner will collect the bet.
The way the lucky numbers are being drawn is another intriguing and weird thing just like any other part of this game. As the time drew closer archers readied themselves and sat in semi circle. There are 5 Tir clubs in Shillong. In the first round each club represented by 10 archers shot 30 arrows each within 4 minutes. It sums up to 1500 arrows. As soon as the time was expired a curtain was drawn in front of the target to stop the arrows from hitting the target. The lucky number is decided from these arrows. If for instance 629 arrows hit the target the number will be 29, taking only the last two digits. The complexity involved in drawing the lucky numbers makes it almost impossible to manipulate the outcome.
In the second round all the 50 archers from 5 clubs shot 20 arrows each within 3 minutes. The officials involved counted the arrows in front of everyone and declare the number there itself. The result is soon spread through phones by agents within the first 5 minutes. In the second round out of 1000 arrows 430 hit the target. In this case the lucky number declared was 30.
As I walked out of the Tir station all the Tir shops have already changed the number according to the draw. I was looking at 29 and 30 on the board. This betting system is way more organized and bigger than I had ever imagined. All the Tir counters in Shillong would have flaunted those digits at that instant.
Tir is legal in Shillong. It is one of the most organized gambling systems in India. But you need a dream and a bit of luck to play this game!