A roll of the dice

Like a hawk that keeps a keen eye on every move of his offspring, I carefully watched him. It was a mild curiosity at first, but the crescendo slowly built up with every action of his.

He cupped his palms over each other. It was a tight grasp - you could almost see the colour draining from his hands, as he applied some force. It was as if he was about to strangle whatever was unfortunate enough to have entered the dark cavern between his hands.  For an instant, I was tempted to reach across; tell him that the key to success lay not in the force he applied, but in the rhythm to the sequence. But I refrained. It had to be something that he figured out on his own. 

It took him a few seconds, but eventually, he got there. Alternating between gentle circular motions and haphazard shakes every few seconds, his body rocked back and forth as if swaying to the beat of a rhythm that only he could hear. His eyes narrowed as he focussed on what lay in front; his teeth softly biting down on his lower lip. 

He knew we were watching. Like a showman, he waited - doing a mental countdown right down to the moment he would release it. And then, without warning, his palms unclasped, opening wide as two small objects flew out. 

Six pairs of eyes followed these two dotted cubes as they rocketed off like a missile, firmly bouncing on the wooden surface a few times before coming to rest. A whiff of breath escaped our mouths as the eyes passed the message to our brains. Some of us were relieved - the others, a bit more on edge. 

Out of the corner of our eyes, we all saw the smile. A tiny move of the lips, one that gradually widened into a mischievous grin, before erupting into a full blown laugh. The kind that first starts off as a low gurgle in your gut slowly pushing up your body, and finally exploding into an ear-shattering-eye-watering guffaw. 

As the rest of them continued to stare at the little body this sound had erupted from, I stole a quick glance at the little cubes that lay unflinching on the floor. Two pairs of six equidistant dots stared back at me - like sets of jet black eyes devoid of any expression whatsoever. Little did they know that they had just sealed our fate.

I silently mouthed a little cuss word, as I heard my son yell out ‘Monopoly!’ in the background. 

Damn, family game night is tough.

Most of you reading this post may well know this fact, but just incase you did not, I am an only child. I also grew up as you’d naturally expect, mostly left to my own defences. My parents of course, did everything they could to ensure that I didn’t grow up to be a loner, but as comedian, Trevor Noah says in his book - " Leave me alone for 5 or 6 hours, and I’ll be just fine.”

Growing up largely alone meant one major thing - I really learnt to appreciate my time spent with friends and extended family, particularly cousins. I only saw most of them a couple of times in the year, but there was always one element that I looked forward to more than anything else. Family game time.  Suffice to say, playing Monopoly, Ludo, UNO or any of those other games was never going to be a one-person affair. Clearly, not all of us are meant to be Sheldon Cooper who is totally capable of playing chess by/with himself, and then lose to a superior version of himself too. 

When I became a parent, it’s a tradition that I wanted to incorporate into our newly formed family. However, I’ll also be the first to put my hand up and say, I sort of screwed up. Mostly because of, well you guessed it, this glorious Internet. And social media. And for the times I really wanted to play, thanks to technology, I didn’t even have to get up from my present location in order to play any game I wanted. Even some of the classic board and card ones. 

The wonderful world of apps, smartphones and tablets let me play a game of SCRABBLE with a completely random bunch of strangers who were, going by their Thesaurus-style lexicon, using the Internet to find words. Just like me.

Three-dimensional Monopoly had my Toto-styled silver dog woof-ing, jumping and panting all over Metropolitan capitals of the world, while I not-so-secretly spent more money to buy portions of the app that were otherwise restricted.

And of course, the colourful Aces of the online Rummy world had me investing real money with websites that often appealed to the inner-gambler in all of us. One more round, as I kept saying, every time I was dealt a hand that would get most people zipping up their wallets.

Oh, yes! The Internet (and quite clearly - my lack of any kind of will-power or self-determination) ensured that I continued that tradition of cards and board games. Except that it was all virtual now. And it all felt amazing and right. Until it didn’t.

This is perhaps the wisdom that I’ve acquired over time (and probably loss of money!) talking, but at some point you realise that you are absolutely kidding yourself. That this, whatever *this* is, isn’t the equivalent of the card and board games that constituted family or extended family time growing up.

This was merely a facade - an intricate marketing gimmick to help trigger memories of good old days for the millennials of this generation. And trigger it did - but it the memory part was short-lived. Eventually, the convenience of it all sucked you right in -and there was absolutely no loss of suction. Much like a Dyson vacuum cleaner. (This post is NOT sponsored by Dyson, but I won’t mind a Dyson product - just in case someone from there is reading!)

The harsh reality is, and trust me for it has been a rather bitter pill to swallow for someone who is as pro-technology and Internet as me - that no matter how much technology tries, there are aspects of the real-life version of these games that it cannot replicate.

Have you ever observed someone when they’re about to roll a pair of dice?

If you’ve ever played a physical board game, chances are that you have. Some just throw the dice. A few rattle it around in their hands before the big catapult. A handful even silently pray before they give those cubes the all-important hurl. And with every one of those moves, you learn a little something more about that person.

Stranger, family, sibling, best friend - there’s a side to them that you perhaps have not discovered yet Perhaps a competitive streak. Or a superstitious move. We all have those little quirks - the ones that make us human. That makes us real. Ones that are as much a part of our individuality as we are. How about the conversations? The ones that are perhaps some of the greatest icebreakers in the history of all humankind.

Even as an introvert, I love those little tidbits. Because they help me understand a bit more about the person or people I’m with. It sure as heck doesn’t feel the same way when you type LOL into a small text box in one corner of the screen. And that annoyance we sometimes experience when there’s a disagreement about a certain rule. That intense passion that we have to find out who was right. The sportive camaraderie that reigns once we figure out the quietest person was winning all along. 

Technology cannot replace that. At least, I hope it doesn’t.

So, no, Alexa! You may not roll the dice. Yet.

Note: Some of you may notice that the website looks a bit different. That's because I've given it an overhaul as part of my mission to breathe some life into this little haven of mine. Take a look around, especially on the HOME page - and feel free to let me know what you think. Oh, and the site may be a tad slow. There's still some work to be done 'under the hood'.

Featured Photo by Mike Szczepanski on Unsplash