A very close of friend and classmate of mine used to live about 50 steps away from my house (well, I guess now it has reduced to about 45). Anyway, we used to frequent each other’s houses and his family owned a computer which had ONE game in it (the year is 2004 and owning a PC was a big bloody deal back then and that too with the game FIFA 2002). I visited one afternoon after school and the idiot that he was, he hadn’t had the milk his mother had kept out for him. So his mother called him out of his room to drink his milk and in the process assigned him a few chores as well (because Indian mothers certainly know how to milk the most out of our mistakes, don’t they?). The grateful guest that I was, I waited till he came back before switching on FIFA but thought that since the PC was on, I might as well play solitaire. Solitaire, for those who don’t know, is a card game which one plays alone i.e in solitude (and hence the name) and is one of the various card games which comes already installed in a PC. I was about halfway through the game, neatly stacking up my spades, when my friend entered the room and basically pounced at the keyboard to close the game. My 8-year-old self was obviously surprised at this and I asked him what the matter was to which he said that his mother did not like any card games to be played in the house; apparently the house of the person reduces to ruin. The whole ordeal seemed quite ambiguous then but I shrugged it off (FIFA, right?) but it became apparent years later. The case was that a distant relative had gambled away a fortune in card games and obviously, the psychological scar on the family was deep. At that point, I would have loved to explain to my friend that the only way to lose money in solitaire was if I were schizophrenic with an alternate ego but well, sentiment trumps all.
The main issue here is not the vice; that is gambling, but the stereotype concerning a deck of cards because of it. My own uncle taught me teen patti (which is an Indianised version of Texas hold ’em poker, also called Flush). I used to play at his house and of course, we used playing chips, not real cash. The same uncle also taught me chess. My uncle used to say that poker (when played recreationally) sharpens the mind. It enhances our decison making abilities and teaches us how to use our good luck to our favour. It enhances our social skills and the poker face, it is the ultimate tool of deception; a mask which is very useful in life to conceal emotions. We need to get real here, there are even books on how to play poker.
(surely it can’t be that bad?)
Poker is fun. I’ve taught teen patti to a number of my friends – in school and in college. I would take a deck of cards to school and there were about 4 of us who used to huddle and play and keep score on paper. We never played with real money. It was highly ironic that our Statistics teacher caught me shuffling cards and I told him that I was practising probability theory (I’m sure he wouldn’t have bothered if it were a chess board in front of me).
In college, and I mean in hostel, we did the same. We kept score on paper, and the ultimate loser(s) per se would sponsor soft drinks for the others (and themselves). It is a good way to pass time; and a good outlet for red blooded hostel dwelling idiots to let out some steam. After all the adrenaline surges subside, a bond does remain after playing. Yet, gambling being a vice has rendered playing cards taboo and for good reason.
What is recreation amongst friends may easily yield destruction in bad company. After this long rant of mine, you would think that the typical Indian would burn playing cards at sight. Now speaking of burning, lets talk about Diwali.
The glorious festival of lights, the celebration of the return of the rightoeus Lord Rama to his kingdom and basically, the best oppurtunity for budding photographers to practice photography at slower shutter speeds and low light conditions.
(Am I right photography nuts?)
Now let us delve into the dark side of Diwali shall we? According to Hindu mythology, Goddess Parvati, the wife of Lord Shiva, played dice on this day and won (It is also said that Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati invented the game itself) and hence delcared that whosover plays dice on the day of Diwali shall prosper.
Well, there is a catch. For someone to win prosper in a game of gambling, some sucker must lose badly. Yet, people flock in hoards to local bars and clubs with bucketloads of cash; all under the pretense of tradition. While one section of people celebrating Diwali looks like this,
there may be a section celebrating like this as well -.
(the alcohol gets ineveitably included. After all, what good is a vice if it doesn’t induce another?)
I am not accusing all card players to be vicious gamblers, of course people play for merriment as well with low stakes or no money. But I am sure that such normal occurances are permitted by the watchful eyes of our elders only on the asucpicious ocassion of Diwali and on no other day. It is but a hypocrisy; showing that we can go to any lengths to distort any festival to satisfy our perverse desires instead of channeling them at the start.
This is but one example of how our mythology and tradition has been twisted by man and I am thankful that I learned my poker under the tutelage of my uncle and not sitting at a table like the one above. One must remember how the great and virtuos Yuddhistra, the upholder of Dharma, lost his wealth, his kingdom and even his wife and brothers because he pledged them in a game of dice. It was his one weakness, and my what a mighty blow it dealt him!
” Show me a gambler and I’ll show you a loser ” – Mario Puzo