The Carrom Board

Anurupa Pal, 4th Semester

Noor was standing in the garage with her hands on her hips, her eyes wandering around the room. She was trying to figure out what her mother was instructing to the furniture man. They were in the middle of the conversation when Noor entered.
“How long will it take ?”
“It won’t take more than 2 days, Boudi. I will have it delivered to you by Saturday.”
“I am going to pay half of the price right now . Here, take it. Please make sure you deliver it on Saturday.”
“ Chinta korben na, Boudi. I won’t delay.”
Before leaving, he smiled at Noor and asked how she was doing. She politely replied that she was fine. Her mother went to close the front door.

Noor was lost in thought. She remembered that she was also born on a Saturday. Her eyes scanned the bunk – all her childhood toys were packed in boxes and kept there. A smile crossed her lips when she saw her favourite elephant peeping out of one of the boxes, as if saying “ Hello! Do you remember me? I am still alive!” Beside these were the boxes in which all her primary level school books were kept. They made her remember those days when , each morning before going to school, she would pray that God might save her from “bad points” and “ diary remarks” from her teachers! And maybe her prayers were granted because she passed out of the school without a single remark. These thoughts made her giggle.
“ I want those days back” , she thought while trying to suppress her laughter. But after a moment, she tilted her head to her right and thought, “ Or maybe not”.
Now you may be wondering why on earth would a human being not wish to re- live his childhood days, but let me tell you this one thing, every being under the Sun has its own story.
Noor didn’t remember when and where she was born- nobody does. Noor was told that she was born on a Saturday in Kolkata. She couldn’t clearly remember the days of her early childhood but she had some vague impressions of playing with her parents with a red ball. She was the only child of her parents.
When she was a baby girl, her parents played with her. When she became a little bigger than a baby she had her own toys and played by herself. When she got into school, her study time and play time were divided and gradually, with higher grades, her playtime decreased and finally came to an end.
Noor’s eyes wandered from the bunk and fell upon a tool. A black striker, some coins, the queen and a torn pocket of a carrom board lay on top of the tool. She noticed that the space between the tool and the almirah beside it was empty. She could now guess what the furniture man was talking about.
In her mind’s eye she could vividly see a little girl laughing excitedly as her father had bought her a carrom board. She could see the little girl trying to sit on the board and examine each coin with wonder.
Little Noor learnt the basic rules of playing the carrom from her father and a cousin brother. The first few months were so exciting. Her father and her cousin would play with her each day. As the days passed, father became quite busy and couldn’t play. The cousin has his own world. He is married now.
Little Noor was left with a big carrom board , the coveted rani, the striker, the coins and empty pockets. No one on the other side. She had cried herself to sleep that night but couldn’t tell why. Her heart seemed to be so heavy all of a sudden.
As she grew older, the evenings were devoted to her studies. She knew she had to become a doctor almost right from the time she was born. What she wanted to be? No one cared. It wasn’t important.
She wanted to hold the striker and win the rani. She wanted to make her own strategy to win all the coins in her life board. But her desires were not to be taken into account. It was not for her to strike.
She excelled in her studies. Her teachers loved her. Her parents loved her. Some of her classmates admired her, some were jealous, some labelled her “boring” and ignored her.
The carrom board was dumped in the garage and has been ignored till now.
“Hey, don’t just sit there daydreaming”, her mother’s rebuke jolted her back to the present. “ You have to study hard in order to crack the upcoming entrance exam, you know that, don’t you ? Go back to your studies.”
“Yes, Mummy. I was just about to leave. But what are you going to do with my carrom board ?”
“ Oh, I just sent it to the shop to be mended. I am planning to give it to Dipali.’
“ But, Mummy , she is just 8 years old.” Dipali was Noor’s cousin sister.
“You, too, were about the same age when you got it. Dipali’s mother is worried about her. She always wants to go to the park instead of studying at home. This might help to keep her busy at home.”
“ But..”, Noor opened her mouth to speak but couldn’t. Dipali , like her was the only child in the house. She again felt the urge to cry. Tears began welling up in her eyes. And again her heart felt so heavy. But she knew she couldn’t cry infront of her mother. She took one last look at the striker, the rani, the coins and the torn pocket. She rushed out of the garage, straight into her own room and burst into tears.
As she lay curled up in her bed, sobbing noiselessly, she realized that she now knew why she had felt the urge to cry back then. ‘ But what’s the use’, she thought,’ nobody is going to notice and I am not telling anybody.’ A sad smile crossed her lips.
Her heart, burdened with the expectations of the people she loved, felt heavy. She looked at the pile of solved testpapers all around her bed. Would Dipali, too, face this ordeal one day ? Are some of her friends also sobbing noiselessly in their beds ? Her questions had no answers.
How many more kids are yet to face this, she sighed. She looked longingly at the floating white clouds in the blue sky, out of her window and then closed her eyes and smiled.
“Are you studying ? “, her mother yelled from the other room. She opened her eyes.
“Yes, Mummy”, she said, staring into the unknown.

And my dear readers , ‘How many more ?’