“Gambling in Sikkim- a cultural phenomenon”
‘Eyes up, pens down’- and so it begins. The tension is palpable, as a man rhymes pithy sayings and one-liners to numbers. It is a gathering of people at the terrace of Kanchendzonga Shopping Complex, for Tambola (a variant of Bingo). The man on the mic could get away with the vilest of sexist remarks, if my uber-feminist friend gets that one coveted number that would complete her “Top Line”. But it’s not all misogynistic wordplay, in fact, a lot of historically significant dates are also recounted during the course of the game. For instance: “Netaji Budday” is number 26, “Kachera bhayeko saal” is the Agitation of ‘73. The anticipation, the giddiness of screaming “Yes!”, and the sheer thrill of crossing…show more content… A part of being a Sikkimese, is accepting the fact that gambling is knitted into the very fabric of our identity. It’s something that is not frowned upon. Not a stigma, rather a harmless activity that is integrated to almost all the major festivals and holidays. So much so, that in my family, you’re not a good host, if you don’t shoehorn a teen paati session or Flash, in Dasain. Whenever, we have guests in our house, it eventually leads to a session of Marriage or Rummy, and sometimes, we have people over on holidays, just for playing cards. In Dasain, we pray to the Goddess Durga, adorn colorful rice on our forehead after being blessed by our grandparents and then we sit down with a plate of khasi ko maasu (mutton) and the poison of our choice, to bet money. The irony lost amidst the clamor that ensues in finding out who shorted the required “boat”…show more content… There is “boat” which is equivalent to vote that is collected before a hand of flash is dealt. There is a glossary of bastardized terms like “tunela” for tunnel in the game of Marriage, “pet” for pair, “thirel” for trial in the game of flash which is Teen Patti. The gambling culture here has spawned its own glossary, take that, Mr. Chomsky!
So you see, how integral recreational gambling, is to our culture. It is not dysfunctional, although the introduction of casinos, saw a fraction of people spiral into a gambling problem. But that’s a story for some other day. We Sikkimese love gambling. From the ancient Tibetan turn-based dice game of ‘Sho (cowrie)’ to the 21-cards game of Marriage, we have always found our pick-me-up for an afternoon of socializing with friends and family,