We walk down the book-lined aisles at our favourite week-end rendezvous. Ever since the bookstore opened next door to us, it’s been tough to resist the lure. Even now I inhale deeply from the whiff of ink and paper. I tread the usual path – first through the fiction and fantasy rows. Then down the more sombre motivational stuff. I stop at the humour section when my eye catches “World’s Funniest Insults” on a fat spine. I pull it out and flip through it. Truly funny! Like all good things in life, I want to share a guffaw with my other half. I look up from the book and run my eyes up and down the aisles for his silver head. He is not amidst the books. I quickly fit the book back in its position and go searching. I finally find him in the Toy section.
I have never understood why they have toy sections in bookstores! Maybe to keep the young ones engaged while the elders nose through books.
I am amused as I make my way through the stuffed bears and monkeys and past the angry birds. With a 20 year-old son zipping through town in his car, it is many years since we dropped by at any toy store!
I stop short. Sunil is reading from a large box he holds in his hand. My eyes dart to the huge label above the shelves. Board Games. He turns when he hears my footsteps. By the way, matrimony builds this uncanny ability to recognise your spouse’s footsteps.
“Feel like playing some board games,” he says looking up from the box. “Let’s pick up something.”
“Oh!” I exclaim. “Why not?”
And thus starts our nostalgic jaunt into those wonder years of board games. I don’t think there was ever a household that did not own a set of board games. The Ludo and Snakes and Ladders were permanent fixtures. The family would sit around and the dice would roll. The luckiest member would keep climbing up the ladder while the others quietly hoped that a snake would bring him back to the bottom and serve him right for flying so high! And of course, how can we forget the anguish of sliding down the serpent at 98, just two short of a finish!
When good fortune smiled upon the family, Monopoly was proudly added to the collection. The family sharpened its business acumen buying and selling property across the country through fake currency notes! I fondly recall how jubilant I was when I bought Ooty – the queen of the Nilgiris. Not just that. What heightened the pleasure was when my brother would land in Ooty and he had to pay me a hefty rent!
Chinese Checkers with the glazed marbles was a little more demanding than Ludo. You had to strategise. Then Scrabble arrived on the scene! It ushered in the era of Educational Games! “Oh, we don’t play Ludo, we play Scrabble” was a style statement. Scrabble was synonymous with word power, vocabulary, command over the language and of course the fact that the family was well versed in English! The English Vinglish types stayed away. Scrabble was a snob among games. The board itself had stars on it with differing values!
Then came a host of games – Pictionary, Picnic, Taboo, Life…the list can go on.
Come vacations, and the board games would come out of hiding. Drop-in visitors, cousins, friends….just anybody and any occasion was good enough to pull out a board game.
And if nothing else, there was the ubiquitous carom board!
Board games and Indians go a long way…an entire mythological epic revolves around a tactless wager during a board game. I remember an entire movie based on Chess – Shatranj ke khiladi!
Swish to the present. It’s vacation time. Kids lounge around the house or lie curled up on the couch watching TV, while their fingers punch on the cell phone. Then they get bored and take up position in front of the computer, while their fingers punch on the cell phone. Then they get bored and talk on the cell phone nestled between the shoulder and chin, while their fingers punch on the computer. Then they get bored and go back to the couch and the TV…and the punching cycle goes on.
Sigh…C’mon let’s get board!
P.S.: Write in about your favourite board games and the memories associated with each!