Pallankuzhi: An inheritance of love

I had been in my first school for just about 10 days or so, when my teacher sent a note home for my mother to meet her. My mother was so worried about the note that she was at my school the next day at the crack of dawn much before the appointed time.

She needn’t have worried. My teacher had only called to rave about my excellent motor skills, my excellent hand-to-eye coordination, and the fact that I could do some simple addition as well as some mental maths. All this at the age of 5 years, 6 months, and some days ! I was apparently way ahead of the rest of my class. Was I some budding genius, she asked my mother hopefully? My mother, after the first reaction of relief, immediately squashed my teacher’s hopes. No, her daughter was no budding genius. She was just a little girl with an inordinate amount of interest in playing Pallankuzhi with her grandmother, which had led to the development of these skills. What is Pallankuzhi, my puzzled teacher asked?

Pallankuzhi game all laid out and ready to play. I inherited this set from my maternal grandmother

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132 steps to Vaikuntha

I was introduced to board games as a child by my maternal paati (grandmother in Tamil), Meenakshi R. She loved them and could spend the whole day playing different games with her grandchildren or whoever was free and willing. I wasn’t always free, but I was always willing 🙂

We played games like pallankuzhi (a traditional game played with shells and cowries), ludo, snakes and ladders, etc. If I ever got bored playing the same games, she would quickly improvise games on the floor with some pieces of chalk, some string, and other odds and ends that would magically appear from her cupboard. The games were never just games—they were also stories, anecdotes, strategies, wins and losses, all delivered while playing.

Paati died when I was 8, and after her death, playing board games was never the same again—none of my family members or friends could match her enthusiasm and delight for the games. Besides, with school and other growing up activities, playing board games took a back seat.

I resumed my love affair with board games some years back after a chance visit to The Design Store in Bangalore. Tucked away amongst all their furniture and furnishings and knickknacks, was a shelf displaying traditional games from Kreeda. One of the games was Parama Pada Sopanam. Intrigued by the name, I opened the display pack.

Top: The "boxed" game. Bottom: The box opens to reveal a little cloth pouch containing little wooden counters, two elongated metal dies, and an information booklet (not in picture)
Top: The “boxed” game. Bottom: The box opens to reveal a little cloth pouch containing little wooden counters, two elongated metal dies, and an information booklet (not in picture)

Continue reading “132 steps to Vaikuntha”