The Traditional Game of Carrom

Carrom Rules

The elbow is bent at a nearly 90-degree angle, and the fingers are formed into a powerful hand catapult. An acrylic striker is released and shot forth with a flick toward a pre-assembled pool of brightly coloured hardwood seeds, demonstrating great aim and accuracy. Instead of swinging back into a pocket, the shot is caught and dropped into one of the pockets. This is the world of carrom.

Carrom is a tabletop game of control that requires both the mind and hand to operate. It is unclear where the game came from, although most sources agree that it originated in India. However, there are many different variants of carrom being played across the world. There are official standards that have been established, but to put it simply, carrom is played on a wooden square board with holes in each corner and the primary goal of the game is to pot the seeds into the holes using an external striker. It is commonly played by two to four people, with each player taking a side of the table and either playing alone or in teams.

A Casual Game of Carrom. Source (The Chronicles of Chennai – WordPress.com)
Players show keen interest during a carrom match. Source (Daily Excelsior)

Tabletop games were a popular plaything among prior generations of kids, who had desktops and laptops to play with. Carrom was a favourite game in my secondary school days. The Prefects’ Room and the main co-curricular activity groups, to name a few, all had a carrom board. We had a good idea who the hotshots were. We played by two rules: one was to complete the assigned colour before the other, and the other was to compete for points in a free-for-all slugfest. The knowledgeable ones would be aware of the significance of white powder and other carrom lingoes such as “double” and “sitter.” Many people may have laid a foundation for billiards and pool by learning about carrom table physics.

Carrom is still played on the recreational corner at Lembu Road in Little India. There is a makeshift area at the rear of the alley with numerous carrom tables set up. Foreign employees congregate to play or watch. The Bangladeshi corner, informally known as Lembu Road, is located here.

Documentary Editorial Image. Children Playing Carrom at the Table. Source (Dreamstime)
Streets Carrom players. Source (Pentax Forums)

Carrom may also be found in certain backpacker hostels that still prefer to use a tabletop game to create interpersonal contact. Of course, the majority of travellers would choose free Wi-Fi and computer corners over carrom boards.

Carrom is also known as bocce in some Southeast Asian countries, including Malaysia. The game is similar to bocce, but cue sticks are used instead of fingers. A carrom table is on display at the entrance of a nostalgia-themed cafe in Kandahar Street, which has been customised to resemble the automobile.

Dong Po Colonial Cafe, Customize Carrom table. Source (Entree Kibbles – Blogger)

Carrom may not be a dying pastime, but it is still a traditional game that has been enjoyed by many children throughout the world. In today’s age of smartphone and tablet games, it’s unusual to spot a group of people engaged in carrom. Indeed, just seeing a carrom board these days evokes memories for me.

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