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Mahjong magic

Women mixing tiles while playing Chinese board game Mahjong at home. Fun and leisure with friends, domestic life in Asia  

The Chinese Lunar New Year of the Ox dawned on February 12. During the New Year holidays in China and the Far East, Mahjong is the favoured traditional game played by young and old and men and women in family get-togethers and social clubs.

The board game originally from China has permutations and combinations added from Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore. It has a big presence in the Army cantonments in India. A prerogative of the British Army wives, Mahjong is now a safe legacy with the wives of the Indian officers. Every Army club hosts a Mahjong table or two; civilian clubs too have them now.

Yours truly was indoctrinated at Deolali in 1967; the fascination simply won me over as I continue to play even to this day!

Played with 144 tiles, originally in ivory, bone or bamboo, Mahjong is a game of four players. The play evolves from 13 tiles that are dealt with in a complicated way. One needs to see this in action to get an idea!

The beauty of the game lies in making “hands” so diverse that one’s grey cells must be on the alert to switch, change, modify and declare completion by “going or calling” Mahjong with the 14th tile! In Hong Kong and Singapore, I taught a number of Indian women this fascinating game, and I am delighted that they play it avidly. One can play with strangers online too. A useful diversion during the lockdown!

A lovely pastime for the retired and not so young, Mahjong vies with Bridge and Sudoku in the usage of the brain and hence is advocated as a deterrent to dementia and cognitive disorders.

Besides mastering the amazing repertoire of hands, patience, attention, focus and equanimity are additional boons. There is social bonding, friendship, a sense of sharing and caring, a measure of give and take. It’s never about winning! It’s more about the best “hands” one can make. The measure of extra doubles makes for great fun! This bonding helps in sharing trivia and problems, and the pressure cooker of daily stress gets released. These are the magical moments of Mahjong!

One looks forward eagerly to the weekly Mahjong play date, never mind that we are all well past 80.

premrajan4@gmail.com

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Printable version | Apr 22, 2021 5:10:52 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/mahjong-magic/article34004579.ece

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