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ramblings of an unknown psychiatrist

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A Game of Marbles: a story

Posted by Dheeraj Kattula on July 26, 2010


Yeaaaaaah! It was a long bell. It meant we were free to go home 40 minutes before the usual time. The Sanskrit period got cut. Wow! That was good. I had an extra 40 minutes to play marbles with my buddies, till my dad came to pick me up from school. We rushed out of the classes shouting with joy, as if released from a prison. In few moments we were in the playground.

Sundar dug up small hole in the ground. That was the ‘home’ for the game of marbles. I drew a line 10 feet away. We threw our marbles towards the home and landed at different points. We all knew each other’s marbles. The marbles had a lot of similarities but had many differences as well. They were all of different colours and there were different designs inside the marbles, giving each one a distinctive appearance. The marbles had minor differences in size and mass, making them functionally different from each other too. Few marbles suffered scratches and cracks from long term use, but had sentimental values attached to them as being lucky etc.

Sundar had a beautiful blue marble. It was a delight to see the brilliantly transparent sphere which was perfect in every way. It was heavier and therefore difficult for other marbles to knock it off. We all knew it had a magical touch of luck because of which Sundar was always at command in the game.

My marble on the other hand was a simple light green marble which had bubbles of various sizes in it. It had a twisted yellowish leaf embedded in glass. It was not a heavy marble, not very attractive one because of its dull colours and scratches; it was prone to be knocked off to far distances from the home by other marbles, but it was mine for the previous one year. I liked it and endured it, though I knew that all other marbles were better than mine.

Sangram had a marble as brilliant as Sundar’s but of a different colour. Sangram’s marble was dark green, as green as a thick forest. He too did well at the game but he never liked to lose to anyone. He hated Sundar for his lucky marble. He always complained that Sundar’s victories were because of his marble and not his skill.

Darshan loved the game of marbles but never bought a marble. He watched us everyday as we played. He wished that he played. He went to the shopkeeper everyday and asked for a blue marble that was like that of Sundar. He prayed to God for the blue marble daily. He desperately wanted to play. He wanted to be in command if he played. He felt there was no point in being on losing side, even if the game were to be enjoyable. So, he waited for the blue marble.

Tejas was our class topper. He was our friend too. He was never interested in the game of marbles. He said, “What is the point in a game of marbles? You guys play trying to get to home and also keep knocking each other off from the home once you get there. The cycle goes on and on. So, playing marbles is just a waste of time. I can as well have a short nap till my mom comes to pick me up.”

I was usually a loser, as I always was trying to get back to home to get normal status rather than being in a commanding situation by knocking someone away. I never gave up, though. I always tried to get back to the home. It was difficult for me to say that I have lost or that I quit. May be that is the reason my daddy says that I would make a good scientist. It seems scientists fail many, many times before they succeed.

My friends teased me for I was a loser every day. As far as the game goes, it is true as most of the time I am in a sub-normal status. But, I am still a happy boy. Winning is fun. It is great, but playing is fun too. Trying to win is fun too. Status of being in command feels good for some time, but that status is lost as soon as someone knocks you far from home. So, it is a threatening situation. By being in losing side, I had nothing to lose. I defined success as ‘trying to get to home’ and not ‘getting to home’. In that way I was always succeeding. My friends defined success as ‘being in command’ near the home. On and off they were bound to fail, so felt irritated. To me the game was either fun or more fun, it could not be otherwise.

I was about to get to the ‘home’, I heard the horn of my daddy’s bike. One cannot miss that sound. It was time for me to say bye to my friends. I offered my marble to Darshan, if he wanted to play. He refused. On my way back, daddy asked me about what was going on. I told him everything I have told you.

He listened intently and paused for a few moments. Then he said, “Son, the game of marbles that you were playing is like living a life on this earth. We are all like marbles, different from each other in quite a number of ways, endowed with different innate abilities. When you threw the marbles, you all fell at different places from the ‘home’. The home in this world signifies – success. You were born to me and mummy. We are both educated. We can afford your English medium education in this Convent. The abilities that you were born with and the environment that you landed up in, puts you in an advantageous position to get higher education and ensure success. There are many who did not get this privilege. At the same time, we do not have resources to send you to an international school for education, which could have given you even greater exposure.”

I asked, “Isn’t that inequality in opportunities and abilities injustice?”

He replied, “We are not here to find why that difference exists. What we do with the privilege that is given to us is more important. You did the right thing, by not complaining about having a great marble like that of Sundar. You played with what you had. Though it looked as if you were losing, you did wonderful by enjoying every moment that you were playing. That is the point.”

“They were better in a way. Isn’t it, daddy?” I asked.

“Sure! Many were better. But were they enjoying it. I guess Sundar is feeling a false guilt because of attributing his successes to his marble rather than his skills. Many people want to do something great by themselves without the support of what the world has already offered to them. Noble as it may seem, it is an unending road in quest to prove oneself. It leads only to frustration. Enjoy what you have. Share it. Why bother about ‘why’ you have it?”

“Hmmm. I see it. What about Sangram?” I asked.

“Sangram was jealous and so he spoilt his own peace. Even if he won, he did not have Sundar’s marble. So, he would not be happy even on winning! On the other hand Darshan waited for the right marble, as if there is a ‘right’ marble that exists. Marbles are what you appropriate as yours and that is all. There is no ‘appropriate’ match or a ‘perfect’ marble. He should have taken a good marble from the shop and been content with it. Isn’t he missing all the fun, in anticipation of a ‘great fun’ in future?”

I enquired, “What about the brilliant boy Tejas, daddy?

“Tejas did not realize that when we played marbles, it is not to prove a point but to enjoy the game. That is it. We are out here in this world. We are free. We can as well live happily. Why worry over unanswerable questions?”

“I get you, daddy. I get you.” I said.

“Son, remember that the game can go on forever, but we might not be there till the very end. When daddy called you, you had to leave your game and come over. Isn’t it?”

“Yes, I did, Daddy.”

“Just like that we do not know when our Heavenly Daddy will call us home. We must be ready to leave our game of life at any time. We can enjoy our life. But we should play the game according to the rules. Do not forget that you should not let fellow players define the success in the game of life. Son, define it yourself, in a way you will be happy playing. Remember that after the game there is a banquet. Today mummy has made Payasam* for you. You deserve it after your success at the game of marbles. Don’t you?”

“Thank you, Daddy. I love you.”

Soon they reached home and enjoyed the Payasam. Payasam had a little less sugar than required. But they were all happy, for it was not the taste which made the dish successful, it was attitude of love with which it was made and served.

*Payasam- a south India sweet dish made with milk


4 Responses to “A Game of Marbles: a story”

  1. RR said

    Delicious Paal-Payasam! “Be content with what we have” (Hebrews 13:5).. Muito bom !! 🙂

    and also somebody said..“Be Content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.”

  2. Ruth said

    Hmmm…colorful story! Nice moral..n sure life can be as much fun as a roller coaster ride as long as you define the rules of the game!!

    • Dheeraj Kattula said

      Thanks for your comment, Ruth. Welcome to my blog. I hope you continue to visit and enrich discussions with you expertise 🙂

      You are right, Ruth. The problem is when you have players playing by their own rules. How do we deal with it then? I am sure it is not easy to be cool in such a situation. It might be tempting to break your rules to show who is in command to your opponent just to prove a point.
      Though it is difficult I think it is possible to play the game according to the rules and also enjoy it as the one who defines the ‘enjoyable’ outcome is YOU. I must add that rules of the game are already defined. We do not define them. What do you think?

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