Game of Carroms

Annapurna Saripella

Jun 30 2022

<div style=' background:#FFFFFF;color:#000000;font-size:15px;font-family:Verdana;width:auto;padding:5px;max-height:100%;'><span><p>Carrom- the simple square board with horizontal, circle, and diagonal markings in black and red often<br>adorned in a circular formation by 9 black coins and 9 white (cream) coins and a majestic red coin- the<br>queen; one heavy, decorative striker. This game has many monikers like ‘finger pool’, ‘poor man’s<br>billiards’, and ‘strike and pocket’. Nicknames aside, to me, carrom is not just a game; it’s a complete<br>tutorial about working with a team, building vital personality traits, strategizing, and to go beyond winning!<br>Summer holidays were a nightmare for our mothers; much like how it was for us, when we became<br>parents and will continue to be for the future parents. Summer time was about eating mangoes, making<br>our own version of lemonade, pouring water on the ground at the peak of the afternoon and watch it<br>sizzle and then evaporate; and if we were lucky, someone would lend us a new Amar Chitra Katha book,<br>or Chandamama, which was devoured in a day. Fights and bickering were a given and it was added<br>torture for our poor mothers, who would have just laid down for a nap fanning themselves with a book or a<br>hand fan (power cuts, remember?) There was no holiday homework enough to keep us occupied for a<br>month. School and school activities were best forgotten until a day before reopening.<br>One heavenly day, my father brought home a big, heavy and square object all wrapped in newspapers.<br>He quietly pushed it under the bed and waited for us to finish our dinner before unwrapping it. Back in<br>those days neighbors didn’t need an invitation to check out the ‘new thing’. In fact, they would have<br>already gathered in the house even as my father was getting it out of the rickshaw (our only means of<br>affordable, private transport).<br>My father loved a grand audience and enjoyed making us wait, like a magician holding off the magic trick<br>until the kids displayed the right amount of eagerness on their faces. After all the newspapers were<br>neatly removed (my father was at times painfully disciplined), we were staring at this thick edged, black<br>bordered, square board with four netted pockets, a sunken plank with red-black lines and circles, and a<br>neatly packed box with coins: 9 black, 9 white (cream) and one red(queen) prominently placed, and 2<br>strikers.<br>Without further delay, we pounced on the coins, rolled them over on the board, fought for the striker while<br>some took turns to see what was in the pockets sagging them in the process. Aghast at our unruly<br>behavior, my father shooed us away and the object was duly taken away from us. We had to wait a<br>couple of days before we got another chance to see it.<br>After promising to behave ourselves and a lot of pleading, we were educated about the game. First, we<br>learnt it was called a ‘carrom board’. Second, a basic decorum had to be maintained: No sitting on the<br>board, no scratching or writing on it with chalk, no using talcum powder, no making our own markings.<br>Finally, we were taught the game- the basic one: rupees and coins. Black and white coins were towered<br>up in two columns and the red was balanced on top of these columns. All coins that you could pocket,<br>using the striker, were yours. At the end you counted the black and white coins and whoever made the<br>most was the winner. Red had the highest value.<br>This game could be played with two, three or four players. In the beginning, we just kept striking in a<br>random fashion at any coin in sight, with red being the most coveted. “Get the red!” was our sole focus<br>and a chant. Our aim was to get the red and pocket as many coins as possible. Soon we learnt how to<br>stray the other person’s coins away from the pocket. Our philosophy was-if I don’t get the coin, neither<br>should you. There was a small satisfaction in that foxy thought. As the game got intense towards the end,<br>sometimes we would cast ‘spells’ into the pocket by chanting some gibberish…put a sort of kibosh. God<br>forbid, if it actually worked!! Fist fights and walk outs ensued.<br>That was adolescents in action; we were go-getters, competitive, and winning was in numbers. There was<br>a frenzied enthusiasm to get the most valuable and attractive object (or whatever makes us look good).<br>We had no idea why or what we were chasing, but the momentary joy of the win was all that mattered.<br>Rules didn’t exist and if they did, it kept changing with every game by the more dominant person. For<br>some, if the game wasn’t going their way, they just left the game midway asking someone else to finish it<br></p><span></div><div style=' background:#FFFFFF;color:#000000;font-size:15px;font-family:Verdana;width:auto;padding:5px;max-height:100%;'><span><p>for them. To them, losing was a shameful thing. Some were more accepting of their situation and even<br>though they were losing, they completed the game. They returned the next day determined to win.<br>In the years that followed, when we played the game, it was a more matured scene. The game also<br>evolved to one where we had to pocket only our coins (either white or black). There were penalties for<br>striking the opponents coins. Both black and white had the same value. We worked with our team-mate to<br>discuss ‘legal’ ways to block the opponents’ coins. Tempers flew between team-mates when an<br>opportunity was missed, but soon we learnt to cool things off.<br>When the game got intense, every rule was observed closely, body movements were restricted to our<br>allotted space. Even elbows were carefully observed, lest it should protrude into the neighboring air<br>space. Capturing the queen was still an important part of the win, but now the queen had to have a follow<br>coin-an attendant. Planning the follow coin was more important than capturing the queen.<br>This was the post adolescence age: the of age of maturity. It began with expectations and managing<br>expectations- you try to win, but it was okay to lose. Rules had to be respected and violations came with<br>consequences. There was some clarity in what we were trying to achieve and the attractiveness of high<br>value items was still there. Focus was on achieving what was designated as ours and since winning was<br>still important, we could use the rules to get an edge in the competition.<br>Understanding and communicating with the team member and working with his/her strengths and<br>weakness came as part of the lessons. We were taught to lose gracefully and that there will be more<br>opportunities for us to succeed. Sometimes we were told that it was ‘just a game.’ And that friendships<br>were more important than winning. It was a time when we learnt about planning ahead. ‘Why’ and ‘what<br>for’ were important questions to be considered, if you wanted to stay ahead of the game.<br>Playing with an adult, usually my father, my uncle or other male member, added a new dimension to our<br>learning experiences. They took time to assess the board, the position of the coins, used new techniques<br>like ‘rebound’ (hitting the striker to the head of the board and calculating its trajectory to pocket a coin).<br>There was poise in their body movements with no awkward twisting or turning. They had immense<br>patience and focus on their strikes. It was not just about winning; it was also about being a worthy<br>opponent. It was about maintaining a quality in the game.<br>That was an important lesson in life. Do what you must and do it well by assessing your strengths and<br>weaknesses. It’s okay to miss the target, but getting back up was more important. Focus on the goal,<br>patience and clarity were more important than getting into action. Understand your team-mate and be<br>encouraging of his/her skill; no one wins a blame game.<br>We spent many such days mastering the game and the strikes. We thought that was all there was to it.<br>Then one day, I saw my uncle at the board, by himself. He had coins positioned in several places and<br>was pocketing them one at a time- carefully maneuvering it without touching the other coins. We watched<br>with excitement as he waltzed the coins into the pocket. It was a fresh challenge.<br>That’s the big lesson of life: as you grow older in the game of life its ‘you vs you’. There is no better<br>opponent than you and no better winner than you. The more you understand yourself, the more<br>successful and happier you are.<br>It’s been a while since I played carroms, but writing this article brought back all those wonderful memories<br>of the game and what it taught me.<br>This summer bring home a carrom board and sit with your family members, especially the young ones<br>and get going on a fun filled game of carroms! A perfect way to teach the kids valuable traits like<br>patience, focus, team spirit, and motor skills. You will not only bond with them, but also build memories of<br>a lifetime.<br></p><span></div>

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