August 2, 2011

{Monopoly Then and Monopoly Now}

Raka loved playing Monopoly when she was a kid. I was not sure if she still loved Monopoly till last weekend when she invited me to play it with her. I was excited. Soon we had the board spread out on the floor and the two of us were surrounded with cash, property, and cards flying everywhere.

Within a few minutes of starting the game I was lucky enough to have both Park Place and Boardwalk. It was clear from Raka's expression that she wanted them badly, but being the property dealer, she handed over the property cards to me. Soon after that I built hotels on those properties, and the second time Raka landed on the property, she looked at me and said, "Guess the game is over. You won, Dad." 

As Raka and I cleared the Monopoly board and put all the pieces back in the box, I looked at Raka and realized that she is not a baby any more. Earlier she was not happy to lose, and would try really hard to win. Today she plays to win, but she did not define the game with a win or loss. 

As I was putting the Monopoly box away I remembered a game of Monopoly with Raka when she was seven years old. My parents were visiting from India and my mom, Raka, and I were playing the game as my dad sat next to us reading a book. Raka was not having a good game and between the intensity of my mom and me, the poor girl was having a tough time and I suddenly realized that she was not enjoying the game. She was simply going through the rituals. Even the way she was rolling the dice was halfhearted, but she was still sitting with us and playing. Just looking at her made me feel bad.

I invited Raka to the next room and asked her how she would feel if she was winning instead.  Her eyes lit up, but then she said right away, "But Dad, I have no money and cannot win."  I told her not to worry as I had a plan. Quickly I wrote a handwritten contract, which stated that Raka and I were merging our businesses and she was the new owner.  To make things official, I went to my dad and asked him to sign the contract as the commissioner. Now she was excited. Of course when we got back to the game and revealed our contract, my mom protested strongly against the "un-gamely contract," but Raka could not be stopped. She was fully into the game now. Soon she was collecting rent, increasing her property values, and eventually won the game.  That night, before she went to bed, she gave me a big hug and said "I won Dad. Thank you."

Of course after Raka went to bed, I got lectures from my mom for not playing by the rules and not being a good example to my daughter.  But I just did not care. To me the fun of the game was defined by seeing Raka smile – I just could not stand seeing her sad. I argued with my mom that these contracts are very common in real life and soon Monopoly would incorporate them.

Raka is not that same Raka today.  After I put the game board away, a teenage Raka gave me a hug before she went to bed. I thought about that game ten years back and today's game. Surprisingly, I was not happy to have won today's game. In fact I was sad it was over. I wished it went on longer so that I could enjoy my game with Raka even more.  With her going off to school, these opportunities won’t come often and I want to enjoy each of them. A longer game is better than a short game that I win. Earlier she used to beg me to play with her; now it is going to be my turn to plead with her for a game.

I love you, Raka.
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