Everyone had gone for the evening round of Ganesh aartis, but after one of many aartis, I separated yself from the enthusiastic crowd of children with dholaks and adults with sales pitches for the Elephant God. I retraced my steps back to the house where I could be left alone to my own devices. The incessant rainfall had paused for just a breath. Usually, I was one of the people who lip-synced “Jai Dev, Jai Dev” in the back, today I just wasn’t in the mood.
I drifted into the _maazghar_ – living room – and spied with my little eye 52 somethings that could help cure me of boredom. So I picked up the pack of cards and sat down to play Solitaire. I had only ever played it on a screen, but I figured it stemmed from a real pack of cards. Although I must admit, I had to use papa’s laptop to confirm the rules and layout of the game. Somewhere in the middle of my second game, I was interrupted by a fleeting comment. Papa, who had been to a _Satyanarayan pooja_ had entered through the back door and was passing through the house to join the aarti. stooping over my shoulder long enough to guess the game I was playing, he said, “That was your ajoba’s favourite card game”. “What’s that?” called Ajoba’s voice. Blind though he may be, there was nothing wrong with his hearing. Papa resumed his stride, answering him as he went, “that game you used to play where you arranged aces, twos, threes, fours and so on in alternate colours”, and with that he vanished into the dark of the night and the pitter patter of the raindrops.
I resumed playing, and ajoba made his slow way towards the cot where I sat. As he settled on the cot, there was a silence between us. Not a sullen, awkward silence but that of a shared camaraderie. Or so it was until the burning question on the tip of my tongue, but reined in by my teeth and good sense, leaped out of it’s own accord – “Dad said this was your favourite game?” The answer I expected would’ve gladdened my heart but the one that I got was the one that made sense. “It wasn’t my favourite game, per se. But what was a man to do to spend time? Four sons and an adopted daughter, all studying in the same room. I couldn’t have talked to your mother for it would’ve disturbed them. So I kept my silence, and to occupy myself, I played Solitaire.
I instantly pictured an eight year old Papa watching his father play cards every time he looked up from his books. Of course it was his father’s favourite game. Why else would an adult, who could choose to only indulge in activities he enjoyed, play a game of Solitaire? But I had gotten the bandwagon moving, and another story was revealed to be my by a lonely old man who had found an ear that would listen.