Night sets in our household when we switch off our kitchen lights. What cuckoo’s call is to the dawn, these lights are to our night.As I step out of the kitchen, switching off the lights, my mother calls me by my name and asked me “Shall we play ludo?”. I look at her, perplexed at this request but delightfully say yes! I silently thank the lockdown under my breath for being instrumental in this special request of my mom.We sit down on the floor and suddenly change our minds to playing snakes and ladders because it was the first board when we opened the box. I know, we’re lazy like that. As we assemble the board, an enthusiastic participant joins. Yes, my sister joins the game and now it’s a crowd! We sit down around the board, taking out the dice and checkers. Choosing the colour of my checker has always been an amusing task for me as far as I remember. It seems very fancy. Most of the time, my checker has been a random pulse from the kitchen or an eraser. If I was lucky, it would be a proper coin but that was very rare owing to the number of people I played with. Procuring checkers with eight colors is a feat. So, getting a red checker in this game of three was a cheap thrill for me.We begin to roll the dice and my mom easily gets one. She’s already beginning to show her prowess in the game. Three rounds have gone by, my mom’s climbing up and up. My sister joins the bandwagon and starts ascending. I sit there waiting for the dhayam (one) and wishing lady luck smiles upon me. Finally, she shows some pity and lets me into the arena. Meanwhile, my sister’s misplacing of the checkers raised my mom’s suspicion. We carefully watch her moves from then onwards and silently agree at her antics.I’m suddenly reminded of my childhood summers when me and my  cousins sit on the thinnai (porch) after a sumptuous lunch, with the metal dayakattai (dice) playing snakes and ladders with the game filled with gaiety and clamour.Amidst the clinking of the dice,my grandmother’s words echo in my ears “those who cheat in this game will be swallowed by the snakes and go down while the honest players will climb up many ladders”. This is just a belief but years of playing this game has made me believe in it somehow. As my sister carelessly moves her checker, me and my mother team up to tease her with this dialogue.The game progresses and I rise up quick, climbing ladders in succession of 5’s and 6’s.I suddenly break into a melody “உலகென்னும் பரமபதம்,விழுந்தபின் உயர்வு வரும்” (The world is a game of snakes and ladders, victory follows failure) out of the blue. It’s so significant to this situation but so random. I often wonder if there’s perennial music always playing in the back of my mind and situations like these stand as a testimony to my thoughts. 

I’m two squares away from a huge snake and my sister says “You’ll roll a two and get down” and smirks. I roll the dice fully knowing that two is impossible for me. Lo and Behold! Two appears on the dice grinning at me. Gasp! My hands are on my mouth now. 

My sister stands at 97, her dice rolls into a three and there! She’s done. Me and Mommy continue but we seem to be stuck in a loop. We share laughs about our plights but continue the spirit of the game. It’s an ascending and descending of the same pattern. Finally, I finished too and we decided to play ludo now. I pounce on the red checkers wanting them and my sister wants blue. My mother takes green and I ask her isn’t green your favourite color?

“My favourite color is brown”,she replies. I feel so embarrassed now for not knowing even this trivial thing. At times like these, I squirm like a worm inside my heart. I make a mental note of asking people I love much more about them, as simple as their favourite color. We’re so busy focussing on the big things that we absolutely forget the little details of life. All these thoughts ran in my mind in a span of two seconds. I wish I was as quick as my brain. Sigh. 

As usual, I turn out to be the odd one out of the lot with two of them already starting their game. That’s when we see a monster in my sister. Her dice is either loaded with 6’s or 5’s or she’s letting out new checkers with unending 1’s. We stare in disbelief as she rummages through the board. I have my sweet moments too. The dice shunned me of 1’s for a fair part of the game. I turn around to see the angel of luck only to find none. When I let out all my checkers on the board after a series of dismissals ,I blurt out ”  நான் வீழ்வேனென்று நினைத்தாயோ?” (Did you think I’ll fail?) rather triumphantly and have my own little superstar moment. We stare in disbelief as my sister proves to be the master of the dice. She could’ve saved Draupadi, I think.” 6..5..1..5..5..6..” counts my sister and we’re sitting losing our wit. I already reached home with two of my checkers but here’s my sister destroying me like there’s no tomorrow.

In an unexpected twist, my mother who has been helping me out throughout the game, kills my checker. I look at her and sing the vintage vintage melancholic song. At times, I’m amazed by how much I remember of the past. This is one such moment. Of course, growing up with grandparents means a high dosage of black and white songs. Triumph smiles at me and hurray!! All my pawns have reached home which means only one thing. I win! 

A grin laces my mom’s face while my sister is clearly aghast. All’s that that ends well. What surprises me is that we had two hours of play without disagreeing on anything. It’s indeed a win-win for the rebel in me. I get to the comfort of my pillows, oddly content. I can still hear my sister’s excited screams.

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