When a game of carrom made me feel like a queen
Carroms is associated with happiness and togetherness for me. And it taught us that the woman is a queen.
Carrom is a board game, a popular one in the Indian sub-continent. For us kids, growing up in the outskirts of Mumbai, it was an integral part of our childhood games itinerary.
Though there are many variants in the kinds of games we can play on the carrom board, the basic game essentially involves hitting the small disc-shaped white and black objects called coins or 'men' into the pockets of the board with a larger colourful disc called 'striker'. Just one of those coins is coloured pink or red and is called the 'Queen'.
To pocket the queen is a matter of pride as you get more points. But it's a difficult proposition as one more of the 'men' has to be pocketed after her as a 'follow'. Or else she goes back on to the board.
Respect for women was thus ingrained in us early on in life. There are lines, circles and arrows drawn on the board and there are specific places where we need to place the striker. How you release the striker is up to you, using any combination of fingers, provided you do not push or slide the striker. You have to just nudge it forcefully.
Some of us have fallen in love with this game and we play it till date with the same enjoyment and passion.
Yes, we were pretty bad at it when we started out; we hit out randomly with no particular aim and we hardly ever pocketed even the men.
We fought over trivia, yet enjoyed every moment. As we grew up, the game too grew with us, too. We played with more focus, with more desire to win and followed most of the rules.
There was one particular game called money-money in which you could pocket any carrom man irrespective of the colour. It worked on elimination of those who couldn't get any coins. We even introduced a loan scheme. We also learnt about the 'haves' and the 'have nots'. Many defining moments shaped boys into strong men and little girls into mighty queens.
Carroms was also a family pastime. We loved it when the adults joined in; it was all the more fun if they were novices and we had to guide them through.
I have fond memories of playing the game at night during the long summer breaks from school, seated outdoors with an electric bulb hanging from a tree.
The streaks of light would filter through the leaves, giving it a halo with the surroundings relatively dark. The ambience was just magical. We would even smuggle out foodstuff for a midnight snack.
This game has been highlighted in Bollywood movies, with the camera zooming in to the centre of the board and zooming out once the striker hits the neatly arranged coins. And sound effects add to the feel.
Carroms is associated with happiness and togetherness for me. And it taught us that the woman is a queen. Yes, I lose more games than I win, but I gain more by just playing!
Annie Mathew is an educator and writer based in Dubai