Thursday, July 27, 2006

Playing cards.

I’m in the habit of playing solitaire and other games on my PC. I play them not to kill time but, as I had seen my father do it, to take my mind off the work I’m doing so that my subconscious (or, working mind, to use a Ramesh Balsekar term) has a free hand to spark off the ideas I’m seeking. Come to think of it, playing cards have played quite a role in my childhood. I used to watch my father, a lawyer, working on his next day’s brief in the evening suddenly interrupting his work to play a hand of solitaire before returning to it. And, every Sunday, there would be an afternoon session of my father and his five friends to play bezique non-stop for several hours. They would sit down cross legged on the carpet in the sitting room of our third floor flat in Khetwadi and squabble among themselves like kids. It was all good fun and cups and cups of tea. Again, on a Saturday every couple of months or so, another circle of my father’s friends met to play bridge for tiny stakes. These sessions were held by rotation at every member’s residence, I reckon. My father only hosted a session but never, to the best of my knowledge, attended any meeting held elsewhere. At the Saturday sessions, there used to be light snacks like potato wafers and salted cashew nuts in addition to tea. In retrospect, it is interesting to compare the bezique group with the bridge group. The former was a Pathare Prabhu gang made of people who belonged to our own caste and lived within easy walking distance of our house in areas like Opera House and Thakurdwar. The latter was a motley, cosmopolitan crowd and the ties, I suspect, must have been forged during my father’s working life as a public prosecutor and a presidency magistrate before I was born. The bezique group must have been the outcome of my father’s youth in Navi Wadi and Thakurdwar. The lack of snacks being served to them, I attribute to the huge lunch the reputedly bon vivant Pathare Prabhus would customarily have on Sundays. There, however, used to be a tray of ingredients to make paan, betel leaves, supari, cardamom, cloves and so on. Both the groups continued to meet, if memory serves, till I passed out of high school in 1952. Old age and death spare nobody, not even weekend revellers.

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