• Pallavi Rao

Bjorn Borg

Day14 of #21days21sarees

The softest South cotton saree. With each wash it becomes smoother. I like this saree un-starched. It was a gift from Rahul Narvekar from one of his Coimbatore trips some years ago.

Lockdown Saree Stories.

No morning alarms. No rushing to school. No pressure of (home) work. Eat, play, sleep. Repeat. Something close to the present situation except those were the wonderful carefree school summer vacations.

My childhood memories of our summer holidays include the annual Mumbai trip to meet our maternal uncles, sketching, painting, morning walks and playtime with friends and cousins in the deer, district, or colony park.

This was also the time when our heroine would come out for 2 months. The carrom board.

She was a beauty. Medium brown complexion. With a red vermillion bindi in the center! Ha!

She was pampered by all, especially by Daddy. A muslin cloth was kept aside especially for her. Each sitting, she was delicately dusted and cleaned. All nooks and corners. The boric powder for her was never thrown callously. In fact, a separate mul-mul cloth was used. The square patch would be filled with the powder, to be knotted at the top. This red potli was then used to ‘powder’ the lady. A dab here, a dab there. Ufff....slowly the rough board skin would turn ‘makhmali’. Each coin would slide and slither to the pockets, as if on silk.

Bhaiya and I, spent days and hours playing carroms. We only thought we were getting better at it until we played one game with Daddy.

Oh, lest I forget to mention, Daddy was a carrom champion. He had a shelf full of trophies and cups to certify the same. It was known that with C.S. you never got the second strike. If he had the striker, the board would be his in one go.

Colony carrom enthusiasts tried n number of times to win at least one game with him. Alas, that was not to be. He came. He played. He conquered.

His fingers would kiss his ivory striker that had delicate tiny red-green-blue dots. It would then as if obeying the master glide on the board taking with itself the black or white coin to its destination. He would deliberately unnerve his opposition by saying, “Chalo tum bolo, ye coin kaunse se pocket mein daalun?” And if someone did challenge Daddy, he would be left to only fret.

We played and practiced hard. Waited for him to return from the night shift at 2 am, to play a best-of-three. Of course, we lost. He would give us all the concessions.

Two of us on one team Vs Daddy Two of us getting two strikes each Vs Daddy getting one

Whatever, we did we never won. However, we strived hard. Each day. I guess that was his way of teaching us to not give up. Of not serving things to us on a platter. He indirectly inculcated the spirit of sportsmanship.

He would constantly say: Practice. Concentrate. It is all Geometry. Angles. Practice. Practice. Practice.

That’s what I did then. I wanted to beat Daddy at least once at his game. Just once.

The next week, I was a girl possessed. I only practiced. With bhaiya, amma or all by myself. He noticed. He commented. Asked me to take a break. I did not.

Seven days later, I mustered courage and asked him for a best of 5. He seemed amused as he pulled up the moodha to the board.

Needless to say, I kept losing. But I could not keep that silly grin off my face as I saw him looking a trifle impressed with the improvement in my game. I tried not to let this mini victory distract me.

And then the implausible happened. I won a board. Minus the queen, yet I won a board by 1 point! As the black coin went sliding into the side pocket, I jumped with raised hands in slow motion, as Bjorn Borg would on that deciding Wimbledon shot.

Daddy stood up and shook hands to congratulate me. I felt like a star. A super star. A sports super star.

I proclaimed to the world that I won, not the game but one board by one point from Daddy-the master player. No one really believed me!

He said, keep playing. Keep practicing. That is the only way to master a game, or anything in life.

Life lessons.

Daddy went a few years later. The heroine lost her glory and stood behind the bedroom door gathering dust. She was neglected first. Then forgotten.

The carrom board seemed heavy with childhood memories.

I still have a carrom board. Not the original heroine though. A side artist.

Took her out yesterday. Dusted her. Dabbed some powder. Played a few boards with myself. This morning, managed to coax dad-in-law to join in. Slowly, the teenage kid sat for a few games as I narrated the story, I am writing for you.

Amma peeped twice. I am hopeful she would start playing by evening.

We shall make memories again. Of times when the world was in a frenzy and the (side) heroine bonded us and kept us sane.

35 years since that night. I feel the need to confess.

I won that day. But deep inside I knew all these years- Daddy had actually given the board away. To his daughter.

Till tomorrow. Stay safe. Stay home.

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