If you want to be happy, be. ~Leo Tolstoy
White baby powder made the surface slick, so that the discs could glide against the lacquered plywood. On weekend nights, in my childhood home, my family and I made a ritual of playing the Indian game Carrom, a type of table shuffleboard. My Mom and Dad would team up against my sister and me. We would laugh as each of us tried to out maneuver the other. In the background, music would play on the stereo, everything from Michael Jackson songs to the hits of Bollywood India. There would be popcorn, Sour Patch Kids, and Coca-Cola on ice. It wasn’t about playing the game, but spending time in our living room, being together and enjoying how we all slid into the moment.
I didn’t think it would be possible to replicate that slide, until one summer night in 2008. My husband, my daughter, and my sister decided that we would spend the night at my parent’s house. As we were finishing dinner, my sister grabbed the Carrom board out of the garage and announced, “I think it’s time we introduce your husband and daughter to the greatness of Carrom.” I laughed as we all filed into the living room. I felt a tiny burst inside of me, curious as to how they would feel about this game.
We all sat down, crossing our legs on the floor, the smell of the familiar baby powder grazed my nose. At one point, my husband was teasing my mom about how she maneuvered the disk onto the board and snorted a quick laugh as she missed. My daughter would try to distract us by scooping the discs on the board, as we yelled, “Don’t touch that.” My father smiled, coaxing his granddaughter to play, even though she understood no rules of game.
As I reflect on this now, I pause, replaying that moment in my mind. There were smiles on everyone’s faces, as each of us were immersed in the moment. I wasn’t chasing anything. All of the people who loved me and who I have loved were contained in my space at the same time. It was the perfect way of being.
And that is why I recognize this as ultimate happiness.
Is just being enough to fulfill the definition of happiness? Do any particular board games offer feelings of nostalgia and happiness? Why do we struggle to just be?
What a full, visceral memory you have – and so beautifully painted for us, Rudri. I think “being” used to be easier, before the plethora of gadgets we now have that were intended to make our lives easier and thus, give us more time to “be.”
Now the gadgets and their options have become their own entity, the tools taking over the workshop, adding to expectations, expanding our to do lists rather than making them go faster. I wouldn’t kick out our so-called convenience communication tools, but I might try to put them back in their place and remember what they’re intended to accomplish – to give us more time, to bring us together, to allow us moments like you describe. Human connection with those we love, which often requires little for us to feel “happy” in our being.
Such lovely memories. I miss the days of family fun with board games, but at least I have memories of them.
Most of us have been enculturated to perform and succeed. While these are not necessarily negative learnings, they are diametrically opposite to “just being.” When I played games and read to my children – and now my grandchildren – or just went/go for walks or bike rides, I can feel very present to the moment. Frank and I have times like that, too. Unfortunately, being does not come “naturally,” but it is always worth the effort, when I become aware and put myself in that place.
By the way, favorite games were/are: Uno, Monopoly, Fish, Old Maid, Candyland (for very little ones), Shutes and Ladders, with checkers (Chinese and regular) and Quarto as well. Brian and Frank played chess when he was six:>) My grandmother and I always played the game of “War” when I was little – sounds scary, but it was a simple card game of highest card wins the set and winner ends up with the most cards. Thanks for the memories this morning! Trish
Your words take me right to that moment. I love playing games as a family.
Our family played carrom, too, and it usually was the whole family who played together. As we (my brothers and sister) were cleaning out Mother’s house this past January, I found one of the carrom pieces in a drawer. It had made it through multiple moves through the years and I thought it was strange that it had survived. After reading your blog, I’m wondering if she had kept it on purpose to bring back some memories of her own.
During the hot summer vacation from school Monopoly and Carrom were the games my sisters and I played. It was alot of fun and everytime I look at the Carrom I have it in my house, it brings back the happy memories…..
What a lovely memory from your childhood and it is great that you got to bring the experience into your daughter and husband’s life. How cool that you and your daughter will both have memories of playing Carrom with your father.
You always make me *smile.* Now, I’m smelling Johnson’s baby powder! 😉
Rudri, what a lovely memory. It left me longing for my own feeling of home and family. These days when my son comes home from medical school is my favorite time. When all of us are under one roof, I feel at peace.
Rudri, your words were so full and descriptive that I, too, could smell the baby powder, feel the togetherness and experience the pang in your tummy, panging full of wonder.
OMG Rudri – I LOVE carrom!!! I won a women’s doubles game in college (in Malaysia, of course) and have not touched the game since I got here. Now I know what WE’LL be doing when we see each other. But please do forgive me as I will be rusty. Yet how fun will that be?
I think that there’s a restlessness within that interrupts being. I see the good in it. Without that restlessness, there would be no peace/human rights activists, truthseekers, etc.
You must be pretty good to win the double’s championship. That’s certainly impressive. I would love to play many games of carrom with you. It would be so much fun! We can teach Little Miss and my little one how to slide into happiness.
BLW, technology has certainly became a bane. Now people play “games” on their gadgets. That cannot replace the bonding that happens with real games and the laughter and comradarie between human connection.
I think engaging with your children and grandchildren are the best ways to remind you of the moment. It allows you to be, precisely because children require your complete attention. Thanks for sharing your favorite games.
I love this story Pam. I believe that carrom piece endured for a reason. I bet it made all of your brothers and sisters smile a little when they discovered it too.
I know. Every time I hear or see a carrom board I do have fond memories of my father and the time he spent with the entire family.
There is a certain peace when everyone is present in one space. It always makes my heart full.
Thanks Denise. I felt full writing this piece. It made me want to go back. And it made me a little sad knowing that I can’t.