Today – Friday, April 8, 2016
Today as we celebrate Yugadi which marks the beginning of a New Year and also the onset of rains, people across cities and villages in Karnataka indulge in bouts of gambling as part of the festivities. Played in memory of Pandavas losing their kingdom to Kauravas in a deceitful game from the Mahabharata days, traditionally the farmers gambled to determine if the New Year would bring them luck, or not. Huddled in groups under a shady tree, or beneath a pandal – a temporary shelter purposely erected for the deed – on Yugadi people gamble openly. The police mostly overlook these bouts and allow the public to enjoy the wager for a day or two, before raiding and dispersing the spirited past due congregations.
On a day when cops keep low-profile and publicly allow the outlawed games, my memories take me back to a day in my life when I was just a 9 year old youngster, a time when even a fifty paisa pocket money was enough to modestly treat your couple of friends. After all, it was the magical 1980s!
It was a Yugadi day, I was decked in a new pair of shorts and half-shirt, my school was closed and most importantly, Dwarika ChikAppa – my Dad’s youngest brother had offered me a generous one Rupee pocket money to enjoy the festivities. He wanted me to buy something to eat, may be a hard boiled candy and a big portion of coconut burfee, a sweet confectionery. Clutching the coin, as I ran eagerly towards the general store, something grabbed my attention. Sathyanarayana, my relative in his early 30s was in argument with a bunch of teenagers. Out of childish curiosity, I went to check out the hullabaloo and soon realized that it was an argument over a Head or Tail bet gone sour.
The group soon settled their dispute and started over with a bet of 20 paisa for each round. For a 9 year old kid, the game of Head or Tail was an unusual curiosity. Every time a coin was tossed in the air, the hum it created was hypnotizing. The clanking of metal, the cries of winning and the growl of loss were delightful.
Looking up, Sathyanarayana asked if I had any money and I wobbled my head in agreement. Next, he invited me to bet and without thinking twice, I sat down and got ready for my life’s first gambling bout. I was thrilled. The coin was tossed, and before I could call out my first bet, a hand grabbed my shirt collar and hauled me out of the group. With startling eyes, I looked up and realized that it was my Dad who had caught me by the neckline, and in an unforgivable act of gambling.
What unfolded next was witnessed by the entire street in a ghastly hush, and on that day, no one was brave enough to stop my Dad from giving me the beating that I will never forget in my life. That one unfortunate Yugadi day in the 1980s, my Dad was enraged and equally, he was hurt.
By the time he had dragged me back in to the house, I had pledged in my heart never to gamble in my life, ever again. And to this day, I have never bet with money and even today, the only cards game I can understand is the Solitaire on my computer.