Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Snakes and Ladders

It was my neice's 2nd year of life,So we brought it in with a grand bash.Being the only grandkid in the family (curent),she gets what i won't if i grovel at my dad's feet.After the day was done,I dropped off at my cousin's house to stay.As we were unpacking and taking out the trash,there emerged from the bag one,shiny wrapped up gift that somebody had obviously not taken home.We looked at it like little kids at a christmas present ( though we knew what was in it)

We opened it impatiently.Out came a board,painted in bright new primary colours of red,yellow,green and blue.Snakes crawled all over the bold numerals.A few misplaced ladders here and there,and a passage to a new dimension opened to us.We slit the side to let gush out a barrage of little coins.And of course,the most important piece of the game.......THE DICE...

We grinned like stupid school children at each other.The game began,at 12.When the world prepared to go into the recesses of slumber,we awoke to a pathway that led us deep into hallways that we had lost our way to.We ran up those ladders that revealed to us the joys of a forgotten childhood.We fell , bitten by the snakes of reality that would not allow us to forget responsibility.But we began again, fearless like little children.... laughing boisterously,shamelessly,like we never would.I thought i had forgotten the ways of this world.How we used to try and keep the dice with us for the maximum time so that it would favor us, and how we chanted the names of gods and uttered stupid incantations when in trouble.How every missed turn and stolen move warranted a fight...and how we always forgave the past to broker peace over a board game..

Snake and Ladder,Ludo,Businessmove,Monopoly......games that define summer vacations for every kid my age.Playstations were alien to us.Summer mornings were for cricket and afternoons for a board game on staircase of the host's building.HOw school was the scariest place to be in the night...excuses made up on the spur of the moment to skip school,the homeworks that could never be completed,they just had to be done on the last bench during some other teacher's period(lectures).The first time of detention,the first caning,days of white uniforms and canvas shoes......Had i forgotten all this??

We exchanged anecdotes from our lives,like grandfathers sitting on a park bench in the evening.When did we ever grow old?? How i remember those days clearly now,like the clear horizon after the parting of the mist....MY school, those little compositions that laid foundation,those brown book covers,my first geometry box.Memories that burst through like the vomit after a bad booze.They just wouldn't stay in.MY first day at school,the forgotten book - destined to be forgotten,a strict teacher,a punishment meted..........a wet pant and an embarassment for the rest of my life.I laugh now,but i remember not going to school for the next 3 days.We rolled on the bed laughing,tears flowing out,unwiped and unchecked;carrying with them a tinge of sorrow for the lost days mixed irretreivably within the happiness that caused them.I remembered Kamala Das' lines
" The real tragedy of life
Is not Death.
But growing up "

My uncle,who past sixty,prefers a little peace at night came out grumbling.He stood at the doorway for a while,then himself smiled at the sight of 3 full grown men grappling for the dice with each other over a game of ludo. " BOys...." he said

Really what keeps us apart
At the end of years is unshared childhood
R Parthasarthy

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