Board Games

photomirror_20161023232655433_20161027141610771.jpgOld toyshops always smell like dust. I am so doubtful of myself most days, that I even question my ability to smell this dust. Can dust actually smell like something? These toyshops have more dust than hardware stores. Almost like a time lapse of a thousand memories, these dust particles behaved like small, coiled purrs of lost calls and last chances. That day, when I entered, I felt strange. Not the hesitant – being judged – kind of strange I feel when I walk into someplace new, but a very nostalgic strange. This was not my place to be in anymore. A large pile of notebooks sat near the entrance. They’re new, untouched and smell of fresh ink and dry dye. I’ve always dreaded the 7 am ringing of the alarm on the first day of school. But that’s perhaps the only thing I’ve dreaded. From stepping into the fresh, tepid school smell everything was so delicate again. Words and numbers filled up these notebooks, the heaviness of the bag reduced as the days numbered by. An ease of familiarity always revolved like a cocoon around me. I looked towards my right. The toyshop has a huge image of a deity. A garland hangs from the portrait. I had forgotten how our God’s looked. I tilt my head, reflecting upon how now I pray with my eyes shut with only a singular voice singing itself out of my heart. I now, always am praying to all-knowing big man up there. Yet doubt sometimes fleets through me whether not adorning Him with garlands will angry him. After all, now, I don’t have any image, it’s just a voice, it’s is just a feeling. How do I even honor those?
I wait till my mother decides which gift to choose. A family friend has delivered a baby girl. I watch in anticipation as we decided between orange, pink and blue baby sets. I measure the size of her t-shirt. It just fell an inch short of my palm; the size of her body equivalent to the lifelines on my palm. I watch as he gift wraps with sticky tape and shiny paper. Everything is ordinary, everything so mundane. Yet I feel myself hypnotized by those thin boxes tightly wrapped in transparent plastic towards my far right. I shuffle and pick one board game. It promises 50 fun games of delusional fun. I had something like this once. 25 boards filled with two-sided fun found in the attic of my old rustic home lying unscathed deep within those huge drums we used as storage. The drums hoisted high on pedestals, almost like they didn’t wish to be found. Games, I remember my father telling me had travelled all the way from America. He always remarked how the games were like the backgammon. Just like dominoes they passed from one house to the next. When the gift wrapper opened itself in Mumbai, the game tugged itself between its suburb and city and finally making way to town, our home. Town where the townies live, town where the townies find 15 boards instead of 25, and one dice instead of two. Town – a safekeeping remote junction of used property and endorsed history. ‘Town’ where luck shines only once; where heavier the rent the higher is the gamble. Where legacies withdraw like lose foils and where all houses eventually became homes. Yet that toyshop reminded me of something indescribable. Something which I realized while staring at that open box of board games: it is a love that has remained.
Slowly, I shut the box. I pay. I walk out of that dust and into the open odorless prism. The dice, the pieces, the rules, everything is still so strong in my mind. I try to walk on the white line at the side of the board. I am a triangular disdain. I walk straight, missing the turn for my street. I come back, more vigilant now, making sure that I don’t miss it again. And then, I see it. I see something which had been there all my life, something which is full and complete in all its totality. I see ‘Saudade.’ I scribble over the dust with my bare fingers. The bi-lingual persona in me thanks for those extra lessons as the Portuguese somehow translates itself to English. A bike passes by and honks at me to move. I begin walking home and look back as I whisper those words out loud, “Rua Des Saudades.”
The road of the love that remains . . .


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