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Posted at: Nov 3, 2018, 2:19 AM; last updated: Nov 3, 2018, 2:19 AM (IST)GIRLS@GUPSHUP

House of cards, literally

House of cards, literally
Illustration: Sandeep Joshi

Aradhika Sharma

My cousin, who is usually quite a placid person, turns into a fiendish card shark in the days leading up to Diwali. Her hair sparks electricity, her cheeks get a high, feverish colour and her eyes flash like 100-watt bulbs. She’s constantly muttering to herself. People think she’s chanting mantras to Goddess Laxmi and Lord Ganesh. I, however, have heard her invoke the souls of Archimedes, Pythagoras and Aryabhatta in her incantations, probably to get good cards.

On Sunday, we had a family lunch at our aunt’s house, where she showed up at 2 pm bleary eyed and grumpy, complaining about being dragged out of bed at the ‘unearthly early hour’.

“Two in the afternoon is early?” my aunt exclaimed. “You should be ashamed of yourself, Menaka!”

“Oh really, maasi?” she retorted. “I’d like to see you bright eyed and bushy tailed after staggering home at 5am following a very stressful night. The cards just wouldn’t come! Is there anything decent to drink in this house?”

“Nimbu pani, fresh juice, jaljeera, coffee… take your pick,” maasi offered.

“I’ll have a gin and tonic please!” Menaka rummaged through the drinks cabinet and, quite oblivious to my aunt’s disapproval, fixed herself a stiff one. “Aah! That hits the spot!” she said smacking her lips.

“How do you manage to go to work if you’re out playing cards all night?” I asked.

“Oh! I take leave for 10 days around Diwali!’ she said breezily. “Everyone in the office knows that I’ll be on leave at this time.”

“Jua leave! That’s funny!” I laughed.

“Arre! If I don’t play at Diwali time, I’ll be born a donkey in my next janam. Don’t laugh. It’s an ancient Indian legend! Only those who want to be jackasses in their next birth don’t play on Diwali. It’s tradition to play jua, bhai. Even Yudhisthira did it and he was the only one to be admitted to heaven in the end,” she said smugly.

“Utter nonsense!” maasi humphed. “Invoking celestial announcement to defend your indulgences doesn’t justify gambling in the least.”

“Let me tell you that millions of years ago Goddess Parvati played the game of dice with Lord Shiva. Gambling on Diwali is supposed to beget untold wealth!”

“You’ll just end up losing the salary you worked so hard for the entire year.”

“Ah! I’ve beaten those odds, dear old aunty!”

Maasi raised her eyebrow: “Really? How, pray?”

“I’ve got some unbeatable tashans. I sit on a handkerchief folded it in the shape of a square and I always wear red, which is highly auspicious. Plus, since I’m on a winning streak, I haven’t washed my hands for two full days lest I wash away my streak of good luck,” she said, triumphantly.

“Yuck, Menaka! That’s disgusting!” I said.

“You’re going to ruin yourself, my girl,” maasi prophesied.

“See, maasi. There are three ways to face ruin: women, farming and gambling. Being a heterosexual woman, the first choice is out; farming is too boring, so I guess I’m not really left with a choice, am I?”

Nice comeback! One has to admit, Menaka is getting ‘bettor and bettor’ at her patte-baazi.

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