It’s dark outside and I’m sitting in a random street somewhere near Hyderabad in the southern coastal region of Andhra Pradesh, India.
The humidity is beyond my comfort level.
Beads of sweat roll down and drip off my face.
The streetlight behind me flickers bright then goes dim.
I am surrounded.
A palm tree sways nearby. The coconuts hold on as if for dear life.
An auto rickshaw horn honks in the distance.
Overhead the nightly Muslim call to prayer begins beckoning the faithful. “Allahhhhu Akbar!” the garbled and deafening tone makes. I eye my opponents. They don’t even flinch.
A small group of local women look on but keep their distance. The children stare with keen eyes.
Will the foreigner get beat? Again?
Someone is holding a flashlight. It keeps shining into my eyes almost blinding me.
I sit there with my right hand flexed.
The tension in the air is rises then a moment of silence.
Suddenly, my finger flicks! A small puff of white powder shoots into the air! The shot is made!
And the crowd goes into an uproar! We all laugh and clap and smile! Congratulations in Telugu and Indian English all around.
The foreigner finally did it! The little striker disk hit the carrom man perfectly propelling it into the corner pocket scoring a point for his team!
After 5 games my team finally wins and I decided to end on a win! I say goodbye to all the Indians – young and old – mount my bike and ride off into the night. Maybe I will come back tomorrow night and play again!
Carrom (or Carrom Board) is a popular and fun game played and finds it’s origin in the East. It is especially common in South Asia. It is a favorite game to be played by everyone and can be found in many cafes and homes and even on the street!
It is similar to billiards in that you have four corner pockets, a striker, and, in this instance it is called, a queen. It is also similar to the American “Air Hockey” game. The Carrom board is made of lacquered plywood with the edges being a raised wood bumper to keep the pieces on the board. A fine white powder is sprinkled over it to help the disks slide easily across the surface.
The object of the game is to flick the striker disk (which is slightly larger and heaver) against one of the 19 smaller carrom men to propel them into one of the four corner pockets. There are two shades of carrom men: light and dark – 9 pieces each color.The first team to get all 9 of their carrom men plus the neutral queen (which is the red disk) into one of the pockets first becomes the winner. The guy on the opposite end of the board is your teammate. Turns are taken in a counter-clockwise fashion.