You may have a different view on the Subject, so your Comments will help me think differently.

You may have a different view on the Subject, so your Comments will help me think differently.
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Thursday, April 21, 2011

Snakes & ladders

It’s sweltering outside, the summer of 1964. Final exams done, we were all over the beach from dawn to dusk. The colony we lived in was a nation like India -- with its vast space, varied people and a little history. Evenings were spent in a group prayer followed by grams and games in clusters. Each group had its own set of games that went into the night. Different games with different names. The moment I was old enough to play board games, I fell in love with Snake and Ladders. A perfect balance of rewards and penalties! Of seemingly random choices made by tumbling dice!  Clambering up ladders, slithering down snakes, It was here that I learnt to play the game. A game most of us have played. Yet, as I navigated my path across the snake-and-ladder strewn board, rejoicing with every boost the ladder gave me, and groaning each time I landed on the snake to slither down many hard earned points. In my hope to arrive home, I would get to the 90’s in all splendour and the next throw of the dice would have me back to 8. The game has an unwritten message — that life is full of ups (ladders) and downs (snakes). And that every human being has to go through success and failure. Have you ever played the game ‘Snakes & Ladders’? It’s a bit like life. Snakes take you down or backwards, and ladders take you up or forwards. In life, after you have experienced the exhilaration of a ladder, it is quite possible that you could bump into a snake. But on the flip-side, after experiencing the humbling encounter with a snake, your next move could land you at the foot of a ladder. However, at the end of the day, it’s not the number of ladders or snakes that you face in your life that will determine your fate. Your future in the game of life is determined by one thing, and one thing only – movement. Just keep moving. Don’t stop at the foot of a snake and throw away the dice. Just keep moving. Get up again, and keep moving. Oh sure, you might like to pause for a moment to recharge the batteries, or even have a little cry, but then persist, and on the way learn, learn from your mistakes or misfortunes – until you reach the finishing line. What makes Snakes and Ladders an attractive game is that there are no written directions, in that the pieces either move along a path or go up the ladders and down the snakes. The outcome is based on pure luck. In this way anyone, who can follow the rules, can beat anyone else. Each player can roll the dice and the player will move the number of steps according to the dice number. When the neighborhood girls challenged me to a game of Chess, I infuriated them by preferring to invite them to the ladders and snakes. This simple child’s game helped me explore multiple questions concerning life tied to fate. Is it the product of chance or of predestination. In other words, affects on my own life, or the life of others through rational will?  Or was my influence merely incidental to my choices?  And regardless of the fact, powerless to consciously control the tides, does this undeniable influence bear the mark of chance, or is there sufficient evidence to make us suspect the existence of inescapable fate?  Does the resulting history of these choices or non-choices, random or pre-destined acts and events reveal a pattern of cyclic repetition on a cosmic scale, or is this neat form merely an illusion. This is apparent where Snakes and Ladders seen as a game of seemingly random choices, where each move is a product of a choice, made by “tumbling dice” rather than the player, and secondly in a manner that is only seemingly random. This introduces underlying childhood belief in fate and predestination as something both real and non-random, and also as an element outside of human control. The idea of fate being both non-random and only bearing the appearance of chance is echoed in the promise of childhood lullabies. By offering a multitude of different conclusions to well-worn but half-forgotten bedtime stories, if I began again, maybe I would end in a different place?”  All games have morals; and the game of Snakes and Ladders captures, as no other activity can hope to do, the eternal truth that for every ladder you climb, a snake is waiting just around the corner; and for every snake, a ladder will compensate.  But it’s more than that because implicit in the game is the unchanging twoness of things, the duality of up and down, good and evil; the solid rationality of ladders balances the occult sinuosity of the serpent; I found very early in life, it is also possible to slither down a ladder and climb to triumph on the venom of a snake…I am all geared to roll the dice the 21st time. Will it now be the triumphant homecoming ……….or ??

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