Carroms, anyone?

Chitra is mean.

It all started with that stupid carrom board*. One fine evening Chitra and I had the urge to go and eat at Gerrard St. [Indian street downtown]. So, with Parvathiammal [our Tamilian friend who has a strong opinion about everything and everyone] in tow, we eased into our 1996 Ford Taurus and navigated through the heavy 404 [highway] evening traffic, over the streetcar tracks and onto [almost] the curb spattered with paan-red color. It was biting cold.

Our first stop was, of course, the eating hole. The long journey downtown, although I drove, proved to be a tiring one for Chitra. So off we went to Madras Dosa Hut and had rolled-up giant dosas hanging out of the table.

Before long, we hopped in and out of each shop, lingered long enough in the heated environment preparing for the dash out into the cold, and to the next shop. This went on till we reached the shop that had the carrom board. Like seasoned buyers of carrom boards, we took off the plastic cover, inspected it from all angles, and shook it by the neck. We had remembered to buy the Diamond brand of carrom board as it was said to be the best. We finally settled on one. By then Parvathiammal had weighed all the steel utensils in the shop and decided it to be not too good. The deal was this. CDN$50 without tax and no bill or with bill and tax. Being Indians, we took the first option.

As soon as we reached home we played our first game. I won of course. And I kept on winning. Before long, it was generally accepted that I was the best player in the household. My fame spread far and wide, and across the border to the US.

Then disaster struck. I LOST. Not once or twice. But three days in a row! First I blamed the bad seating arrangement. Then the low height of the table. Then my poor back. Then my cramped fingers. Then I thought it was just a passing phase. But, like Canadian winter, it hung on. I almost gave up the game. Now I never initiate a game.

Carrom board with coins in a tight formation.

The 10th of Dec 2003 will go down in carrom board history as Black Tuesday. Chitra told me that she was not feeling too well. Her arms were aching. She asked if I wanted to play a game of carrom board. She even told me that I “will definitely win”. So hung the bright carrot ripe and juicy in front of my unsuspecting mouth. I bit, hard.

The game started. She played even better than before. She pocketed, on an average, three to four coins, at each turn. Before I could say “duh!” the game was over. When she looked at my face, it must have looked like a shrivelled up sunflower. She burst out laughing. That broke the last straw.

Now I am resigned to my fate. I dare not play my son for fear of losing to him as well.

* The game of Carrom is an interesting combination of pool and ice hockey, but highly accessible as an indoor family game due to its compaction and portability. The game is played on a square, wooden board with four corner pockets and is played by flicking a striker [ceramic disc] with one’s fingers at the target pieces. There are two sets of coins, nine black and white coins with one red coin. The goal is to collect points by sinking all nine pieces of one colour, plus the red queen piece, in the pockets before your opponent. Whoever racks up 29 points wins. The queen has five points and the others one point each. The queen should be immediately followed by a coin. After 24 points the queen has no value.

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