In the beginning, God’s dice spun and rolled across the void…. And Creation came to be, in a wanton game of chance. How’s that for an account of the universe? Maybe sport—our playful tango with unpredictability—is not just an indulgence of leisure, but the very soul of our existence. The ‘ludic’ ethos, as they call it—from the Latin ludere, to play, the very word which also gives us Ludo. Now, a virus may defeat the best traps laid by humankind, but does it stand a chance against something ordained by the Creator? The roll of God’s dice—and man’s dice—saw dynasties vanquished, epochal battles fought and kingdoms lost. The pastoral world of the Rig Veda was no stranger to it. And the centrepiece of the Mahabharata—as rich a lighthouse view as you want of social realities in the centuries before—was the virtuous Yudhishthira’s fatal attraction for chausar, an ancient board game. Our human-like gods themselves loved it: witness Ellora’s eighth century painting depicting Shiva playing a game of dice with his consort, Parvati. Cut to the 21st century….
Things have changed a bit; humans can now recreate themselves in a test tube. But the thrill of dice rolling in the air has grabbed us all over again. The players could now sit continents apart, but the humble charms of a board or card game bind them irresistibly. Old games refitted onto mobile screens—rummy, poker…and Ludo. The last is the runaway winner in the bustling world of online gaming: millions have downloaded apps for a game that goes all the way back to the one on which epics turned. Now, Hastinapur is in lockdown…so is Houston, and everything in between. But the pulse quickens in countless homes as that cube spins hypnotically.