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Monday, June 25, 2007

Bambara pai Sundaram..

A goody bag was brought home by the 4 year old. In it, among the many other useless plastic trinkets that find their way to the trash can, a small top! Clear transparent top piece, pink bottom piece, a small sticker in the middle which said "pull me".

Went ahead and pulled and a small blinking LED inside the top showed me that the little button cell inside still had some juice. You spin the top and the light comes on. The nerd in me promptly investigated it and found that there was a small spring inside which made electrical contact everytime the top hit critical angular velocity.

All those Balu class fundas from ages ago came back to me in a rush. Those diagrams with nicely labeled circles, tangential arrows, radial arrows, the greek symbols. Seems like yesterday, that the obsessive student in me was just practising drawing perfect arrowmarks before physics class started on top of the Oxford English school terrace in Madras.

There are no arrows to draw today, but I did do a thorough inspection of the top. There wasnt much to it and it stopped lighting up after a few spins. Recently heard a news piece on the deteriorating quality of products made in China. This top, and almost all the stuff you find in goody bags (purchased in bulk by parents from party stores) are unsafe for children! I do not think they are held to any standard! Sad thing is that almost all parents buy these in bulk and put two or three in a goody bag and distribute it to other kids in the daycare as gifts. Isn't there some regulatory body that looks into these plastic trinkets and pulls them off the market ? Probably not. The Chinese Association for Goody Bag Trinkets probably has a lobby in Washington that ensures their mass production and distribution.

This thought, was thoroughly depressing and to take my mind off it, I started reminescing about the good old days, of my own childhood. What did I do in all those summer vacations? What did I play with in the absence of remote controlled Hummers and toy dogs that eat pellets and poop them out? I played with kites, tops, marbles, etc..

Yes, I had tops too. A whole bunch of them. I used to haul them around in a yellow cloth bag which had a picture of Thirupathi Balaji on one side and the name of a Sari store on the other. Needless to say, there were a few top strings (Jaati's) in black and red, with one end tied in knots and the other end frayed to varying degrees to get a good grip on the nail!

In a nutshell,

Canon EOS : Tamron Lens :: Wooden nail top : Jaati

Tamrac was not around in those days to come up with a fancy bag for my tops and a separate accessory pouch for those strings, or they would have had their first paying customer!

The added bonus was that yours truly was a top expert. The game of tops, when played appropriately, (I always made the rules in my street) would earn the winner the tops of the losers. Needless to say, the bag was always increasing in weight, albeit slowly! I would lose an occasional top or two to some of my friends or my trusted lieutenant aka my brother. My brother started his own bag, but carrying his bag and mine was getting on his nerves and eventually we just pooled in our collection and the title of "Bambara pai Sundaram" was conferred on me by all the local uncles who between sipping their weekend morning coffee and their Hindu newspapers, watched our game with amusement.

"That boy sure knows how to hustle a top or two!" or "Ramanukku eththa Lakshmanan paaru!", they would exclaim after watching our game. Me and my brother were one perfect team and we were pros, all at the young age of 10 and 8! Tiger Woods Viger Woods, Bah! If only there was a world Bambara championship, two child proteges would have come to the limelight twenty something odd years ago! But lets not dwell on past injustices and focus on the future!

I went to India recently to buy a top, just to show my little darlings how Daddy and Chitappa used to while away their summer vacations and was surprised to find that these wooden tops with the nail driven from their head were nowhere to be found. Grandpa came to the rescue and we finally found some in the old Mandaveli market! I bought a few, wondering all the time if the Department of Homeland Security would confiscate them because they look like grenades on the X-ray scan! Luckily, the tops made it back to the US of A and are now used to amuse the little ones on an occasional basis! Granted, today's kid is probably watching "Hits of Sachin" re-runs on the sports channel or staring wide eyed at skimpily clad youth on MTV and the streets are not exactly condusive to playing tops either, what with the frequent interruptions of the Kinetic Honda's and TVS mopeds, but the question still begs to be asked!

Where have all the bambarams gone ?


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I am not responsible for comments posted by others... At 12:28 AM, Blogger visithra wrote...

;) in malay we call it gasing n in the villages they have this circular one that looks like a plate ;) thicker though - havent seen ayone play it for a long time - we never played it - we were more into marbles n bottle caps ;p

I am not responsible for comments posted by others... At 8:14 AM, Anonymous Anonymous wrote...

This post brought back so many memories. Being the only girl in our street boys gang, I played all games with them. I was pretty good with bambarams and made quite a few holes on the boys bambarams. Still remember the time when I did an 'apeeto' and the bambaram's nail landed on my head and I started bleeding. Still held to my bambaram to complete the apeeto. :-)


I am not responsible for comments posted by others... At 12:27 PM, Blogger Kavi wrote...

Oh..! what memories ! they just came rushing in, reading your post.

How i wish there were live telecasts of those times. We certianly have missed the brothers in action !

Appeetu and repeatu !

I am not responsible for comments posted by others... At 12:40 AM, Blogger Kavi wrote...

Today, while driving to work, i recalled Vijaykanths antics with the Bambaram..! And then thought of you !

Ok..now..as possible world champions...

I am not responsible for comments posted by others... At 2:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous wrote...

have you seen the japanese version of these bambarams which are called beyblades? They sell for Rs 399 a piece. This is what the kids of today use instead of bambarams.

I am not responsible for comments posted by others... At 10:05 PM, Blogger Kowsalya Subramanian wrote...

oh yes, when i saw the beyblades, i too thought it is a modernised top but it is no fun as opposed to playing the bambaram. as i miss the tieing of jaati properly and pulling it with mastered angle and force in the new bey blades.

I am not responsible for comments posted by others... At 1:29 AM, Anonymous Anonymous wrote...


Nice post about how simple inexpensive things still kept us busy and occupied. It is bringing back memories.

I forget how the game was played with the Bambarams inside the ring. I remember that it's a bad thing to have "too many kuthus" on your bambaram.

Other games like Gilli Dhaandu, Goli (marbles), Kaaththaadi (kites) etc. were also good summer games. We used to play those games hoping my parents weren't watching us since some were considered "porikki" games. But we played any way.



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