I come from a large family. A family that believes in getting together at the drop of the hat and food, food invariably plays a large part in all our gatherings. But this, is not about eating, it is about that other very important ritual that unfortunately has ceased being as important.
Carrom was not just an indoor game for the Amoors. When we visited our grandparent’s home (which was every other weekend), it used to become a battle ground. Tactics were made, teams were decided and the air burnt blue with curses and victory cries. Pride was taken in polishing and cleaning the ‘Olympic sized board’. Lights were adjusted and fixed so there was adequate lighting but no shadows. Fans were placed at a strategic distance so the players did not get uncomfortable under the hot asbestos roof whilst making sure that the flow of wind did not play havoc with their aim. Food and water was supplied at regular intervals. Coin-boys and girls were chosen (the little ones who would pick any coin that fell on the floor, would help with powdering the board with the ‘finest quality boric powder’ and generally play fetch).
My youngest uncle was a much sought partner, because when he got hold of the striker, the opposition might as well go out for a stroll. He cleaned the board with finesse and cleared shots that looked near impossible. My other uncles, brother and appa were pretty good too. All in all, it is safe to say that we littlies never had a chance in hell in playing a full game when the elders were at it. Though just watching them play was an adrenaline rush. And sometimes, when we got lucky, we were taught tricks of the trade.
My appa had invested in a similarly large Carrom board at home. Every evening, a bunch of my brother’s friends would come in and play the game. It was a riotous affair. Sometimes appa and I would team up against my brother and amma and play for hours. Some of my happiest memories stem from those hours of Carrom.
Then one day, it all stopped. I have no clue why. We still have large noisy family gatherings, we still have my brother’s friends dropping by… but somehow, Carrom is not part of our lives anymore… and it makes me melancholic.
When we went for our annual vacation last month, Ankita got hooked to Carrom again. Sriram and Ankita and I played some games. It all just came back in a rush. The moods, the arguments, the sheer joy of playing a beloved game so long forgotten… and I know I want it for my girl and her cousins and friends. I want her to understand the intense joy of playing together as a family, as part of a team.