Saturday, July 02, 2005

A magnificent obsession

There are many reasons not to have a child. Selfish reasons. But here's one completely selfish reason to go ahead and reproduce: You have the perfect excuse to shed your adulthood once in a while and relive the simple joys of being a kid again.

One such simple joy: playing carrom. My daughter is currently crazed by this game and has reignited the spark in me as well.

I'm not sure if carrom is a 'game' or a 'sport'. Apparently there is some kind of world carrom championship but I've never seen it telecast - or even covered in the papers.

A google search confirms there are entities such as the 'international carrom federation' but it's more a case of 'world famous' in India. Most of the international players are also - it appears - of Indian origin.

Other nations with 'strong' carrom teams include the likes of Sri Lanka and Maldives :)

Carrom, incidentally, is the ONLY 'sport' on planet Earth I can claim to have some mastery over. Because God, when he was handing out genes, forgot to add the khel-kood one in me...

Kya shot hai!
Whoever invented the game of carrom had a great sense of elegance and beauty. A properly put together set of 9 white coins, 9 black coins and one queen in the centre is a most satisfying visual arrangement. And managing to get one or more coins in with the first strike is an amazing feeling.

There are the 'simple' coins one can try and put into the pocket in an ordinary manner. By taking careful aim with the striker. But even here, hitting with the right force makes all the difference. (Liberal sprinklings of boric powder help too!)

The more awkwardly placed coins must be conquered with flamboyant 'cuts' and 'rebounds'. Which, to the layman, appear to be flukes!

It's all about practice: chhote chhote shehron mein, khaali bore dupaharon mein... aur bade shehron mein bhi!

Carrom, in fact, was our colony's rainy season ritual. And every August 15 we'd have a carrom tournament - singles and doubles. A few rusting little 'cups' which came my way for winning those frenetic competitions still peep out of the back of a showcase somewhere...

Something classic
One of these days we might have video and mobile gaming versions of carrom - but there's something special about the physical aspect of the game.

The impact of the striker on the coins. Of a pocket come unsewn in one corner, so you have to keep your hand underneath and catch falling coins. Of waiting - with baited breath - to see if the cover will be taken after the queen.

Excitements captured just right in Munnabhai MBBS.

Pool tables were a brief craze which came and went. Snooker remains an expensive and inaccessible shauk. But I think carrom will definitely be handed down from one generation to the next in our country.

Like a bridge between the physical past and the digital present.

So the next time you have to give a bratty little nephew or niece a birthday present, skip the Barbies and the racing cars. Pick up a wooden carrom board - and enjoy it together!

And yeah, if 'sudoku' can become a worldwide hit, who knows what a clever toy company can do with apna carrom?


  1. I quite agree. Carrom is fun.

  2. ahhh... those good old days... i was nostalgic while seeing munnabhai especially.... i used to play with my grandad, and he used to pocket the queen always... well... awesome times...

  3. I have seen The Hindu covering the so-called world carrom championships. This was during the time when Maria Irudayam (India) was crowned the world champion.

  4. Anonymous4:15 PM

    great article!

    ...yeah, many companies have carrom for their employees. what strikes me the most is that every region has its own set of rules. like some ppl say that you cant directly hit the coins in your home. while some are busy playing with both hands! he he.
    also negative game(pakistan) is allowed in some versions.

    besides lots of games can be played on that board like chor police , where without toching the police the chor has to escape!

    looks like i am getting too old... and too nostalgic!

  5. Shilpi Sharma4:58 PM

    Hey Rashmi
    did u get my article?

  6. Hi Rashmi,Really hats off for you. How come you can think so creative about simple (wooden) things. Keep itup. For a lazy pesonlike me you find it difficult to read books, novels, newspapesyour blog are best form of knowledge. Best Regards, Lalit Lohia

  7. Anonymous7:18 PM

    Hey Rashmi,
    I think that for a writer of your caliber it's beneath your dignity to write about trash like carrom & corn flakes. What happened to your articles about IIMA & the good times you had there? I am dyeing(in red) to read your insightful updates. Please don't disappoint. A whole generation awaits.

    Your biggest fan,
    William "what's in a name" Shakespeare.

  8. Anonymous9:52 PM

    Abbe - ispe kya comment kare yaar? I'll go down the share good carrom stories way. We always used to spend the afternoons of the summer vacations playing carrom in our housing society. I was partnering this girl from our building, and the thing was winners stay, and everyone else used to wait in turn. We lost - not miserably or anything - but still, we lost, and this girl ave me a HUGE scratch on my hand with her nails.
    I will never get over the trauma.

    Almost everyone here got nostalgic right? I guess I will have to go down that road too.
    Yeah, we used to play things like chor police, paisa-paisa, business, which was, believe it or not, a carrom version of monopoly. You get a certain number of coins in, and buy the lines for 700 bucks, and those circles with arrows for a thousand bucks, and AFTER this, pockets for 500 bucks. Whenever coins land up in the stuff you have bought (I was temporarily engaged in figuring out the spelling of bied or buy-ied - ok, not so temporarily) you get to pocket the coins.

    And yeah - forget every region, every housing society has it's own unique rules - like your elbows are not supposed to overhang the pockets while striking - I mean WTF???

    One of your best blogs. Really.

  9. Anonymous12:34 AM

    err... I came here expecting a comment on the NAC recomendations. I guess I should just give you more time eh?

  10. First of all thanks for reminding me of carrom, i was almost half buried under boredom thinking of what to do!, now i can get 2gether with friends for some relaxed sport..

    Secondly, i thot u had stopped anonymous comments, but i guess not.......u really should.

    Also how bout an article on college boys and girls , adding more to the one u wrote earlier

  11. Anonymous2:22 AM

    love ur common sense posts on this blog!

  12. akhilesh11:02 AM

    (There are many reasons not to have a child. Selfish reasons.)

    are you sure? whats selfish to you may not me for me :) i dont agree at all!

    but otherwise, a lovely post!

  13. People actually like this boring game? I played it for a while and got bored of it-fast.

  14. Actually, pool tables have both proliferated and got quite cheap. A non-AC pool joint charges as little as Rs. 50 for a hour on the table, which is 25 bucks a head for two people playing, and a lot less if you're going with friends.

  15. Hey Rashmi, That article brought back tons of childhood memories.
    Carrom was a favourite pastime with dad and cousins.

    Tons of practice with dad helped me get better and I would get tremendous satisfaction from beating my bros at the board:-)What joy!

    Nice one, feel like getting back to the board once again!

  16. you have written

    There are many reasons not to have a child. Selfish reasons.

    I liked this selfish reasons thing, good to know that Rashmi Bansal thinks so.

    With all those last few males about girl boy relationships and the one thing posts I find this quite surprising?

    Rashmi don't you feel bad about the fact that a mother has to keep the baby for 9 months and has to go through all the pain, don't you find your feminism rebelling here? Like all those things about god must have been a male and what not. ?

    Am I bitter? No I don't wish to be . .

    We have all become so judgemental u see. . we judge human beings from the sex they are and we talk about feminism. . we have contradictions in everything that we do. . and thats what we are passing on. . and on. . and on

  17. Anonymous5:30 PM

    Carrom is a wonderful game. Simple yet very competative.
    I was an addict of the game in some point of my life when I enjoyed the game from morning 8 to evening 8, when others joined me in batches depending on their schedule.
    And in college, some of us went straight to the sports room and returned home from there, bunking all the sessions.
    If played well, it is very artistic !

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