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...
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?