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October 10, 2007

Playing Marbles - An Insight

Marbles are glass-like balls ranging from ¼ of an inch to 1.5 inches in diameter. If it exceeds this range, you cannot call it a marble. You can categorically call it a paper-weight.
Of all the games/sports I had played, I enjoyed playing marbles the most. I seriously feel that the concept of ‘marbles’ has become almost obsolete after the inception of gaming consoles, video games and simulation contraptions. Besides gaining experience and expertise in the niche domain called 'Marbles', I also have an interesting story to share with you.
It's a hallowed world out there" says the now-ignored-once-adored marble playing fraternity. For me, personally, on any given day, nothing is as evocative and nostalgic as marbles. I would trade my academic certificates to get back to my old marble-playing world. That's the intensity of my nostalgia.

The very sight of marbles is reminiscent of myself (15-20 years ago) wearing a tight sleeveless banian, a double-pocketed chaddi and blue lakhani chappals. I would walk down the playingfield like Sachin Tendulkar. Our playingfield was usually the rear-end of employee quarters or a shady serene area under a tree. I would start from home with a sense of determination and an unconquered resolve to fill my pockets with marbles on return.

For a female, as time taught me, a marble is nothing but an item of aesthetical appeal. But for guys, it could mean a universe. So, while the females were enjoying their gender-specific games (includes, but not limited to, interlocking each others' hands and swinging in circles while giggling at each other singing dal-dhadi-sambaar-podi or a variant thereof, Or hopping across hand-drawn squares on ground ie Chikkudu billa!) boys of my age were mired at will, deep down into the world of marbles. For guys, to say the least, playing Marbles is a source of delight. It represents their elegant taste and their matured outlook. I am sure, 99.998976% of guys have played atleast one 'dye' in their whole life (as per the Official Indian Marbles Handbook, a single gaming session of marbles is called a 'dye')

A few vernacular versions of the term ‘Marble’ are :- Goli Gundu (in tamil), Goli (in malayalam), Goti (in telugu), Goti (in hindi), Goti (in urdu).

More often than not, the key objective behind playing marbles is to win others’ marbles. The winning should be legal, ie only per the specified rules and regulations of the game. After all, it's a game of integrity, unlike cricket. In times of conflict, we never slapped others.

After returning home for the day, post an extensive playing session, winners empty their pockets of marbles into a designated dabba. On the other hand, the losers have nothing to do except washing their hands with soap and analyse their weaknesses in the game. The dabbas used for marble archiving often varies from individual to individual. Here is an indicative list - vanaspathi dalda dabba, farex dabba, palmolive oil dabba, etc. My favourite container, however, was the yellow-coloured vanaspathi dalda.

Days went by, and I was badly addicted to playing marbles. A 'chronic' marble player, you may want to call. After a few months, when my efficiency in the game improved, I migrated my marble storage to a big biscuit dabba (ampro glucose) to archive my marbles everyday. I could fill it up in one year because I turned out to be a Kantipeter in my locality (in layman terms, a Kantipeter is like Sachin Tendulkar in Marbles). As it happens with any successful human being, when success dawned upon me, I started thinking of marbles on commercial lines. I set about selling marbles to my fellow players (usually non-kantipeters). I play with them, win their marbles and sell them again. If players buy from me, a mere 10-paise could fetch them 6 new-shiny marbles or 8 crater-rich old marbles. I enjoyed a competitive edge as the kirana store shankar sold 4 new marbles per 10-paisa. Since there existed an obvious cost arbitrage for the players, I was the most preferred vendor for them. This way, I amassed adequate change for my 2/- ticket for the movies in the theatre nearby. Once, I also sponsored a movie ticket for my best friend Fayaz Pasha. Even my 'masala palli' and 'suppota' during the film interval were sponsored by my marble-selling business. I was a budding marble entrepreneur in those days. Honestly, I remotely contemplated a career in marbles.

As you know, every business has its flipside. So did my growing marble business. Sometimes, it could show up in the form of an external threat. In my case, the external threat showed up in the form of my dad. My entire storage used to be in the backyard without my dad’s knowledge. On a not-so-fine evening, he caught me red-handed when I was unloading my day’s winning into the dabba. My furious dad rolled up his designer lungie, approached me sliently, asked me to handover the dabba to him and gestured me to fuck off from there. I handed over the dabba to him and fucked off from there. After a few minutes, I came back to the backyard to know the whereabouts of my dabba. I did find the dabba, but it was mercilessly crushed and out of shape, like a used toilet paper. No marbles in the vicinity. I searched for my marbles desperately. I looked all around with tears in my eyes. I didn’t know what had he done to them. I felt demoralized and was emotionally paralysed.

During the first few days of my emotional convalescence, I spent the life of a figurative orphan. My mom, too, was rather indifferent to my loss-of-marbles grief; perhaps she had never played marbles, I thought. I expected condolences for my grief at least from her, let alone dad, but failed miserably.

Somehow, after repeated persuasion, one fine day she revealed the whereabouts. I felt so bad to know that dad has dumped my marbles into the sewage system. That's when I realized the magnitude of degrading humanity megastar Chiranjeevi talks about in movies. My Chiru was right.

"How could my own dad be so cruel to me?" This was the only question I wrestled with. I didn't get an answer till date.

That's how my enterprising stint in the marbles world came to an end, thereby breaking my nexus with the sacred world of marbles and the marble playing fraternity. Forever.
I miss them all.

(P.S Yet another favourite game of mine is Gilli Danda - coming soon..:)


Anonymous said...

Excellent yaar, Just wondering whether you wrote about Gilli danda, after this. I enjoyed reading this. Never had an idea about playing Goli Kundu.

Thanks for your insight and the humourous way of explaining it.

Divya said...

Awesome dear..I Loved the way you narrated especially achan's designer lungi...Waiting for Gilli Danda..!!