Poet, Author, Editor, Creative Writing Consultant

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The bey blade : encounter with a high tech toy

On the way up to my flat in the lift I met a young boy. He held in his hand a green coloured plastic object which I could identify as a bey blade, since I was still somehow in the loop and was not so alienated from what moves the ages between 8 to 12. Bey blades have many names and types, but only those who play with them, or their mothers who are forced to purchase them, would know the variegated names of these.
I am wont to make conversation with young things, who may or may not be sweet. So I opened my conversation with what would be of interest to him, and to me as well. Bey blades are strange and unfamiliar objects in my eyes and I could get to know them better.
“What do you have in your hand? Some kind of new fangled gun?”
It could be, it could be.
Amazed, he looked at me. I did not know? ‘This… is a bey blade.” Then his face put on once again a dead pan expression. He just wanted to get on with his life.
I did know. but I wanted more.
“So what is this one called?” I knew they had names.
He mumbled something, I could not catch the name.
“I have many ,” he said. He rattled off the names now, and I caught a few. Not so sure I heard these right…Dragoon? Pegasus?
“This one has ‘stamina’,” he said. He was referring to the one he held.
It seems the bey blades have characteristics like stamina.
He had begun to talk. The lift had gone all the way up to the 7th floor.  Impatiently, he pressed the button for his floor again.
“Yes,” he said, “stamina. It can go on a lot longer than others.”
“There are other characteristics too?”
“Oh, yes.”
This was a whole new ball game, no, lattoo game.
“So this is a  lattoo,” I said, knowingly.
He was shocked. “No. this is not a lattoo. I told you, this is a beyblade.”
Lattoo. In the streets of Karolbagh many years ago, was played this game. Young boys played it and me, the tomboy for a while, often tried my hand at it. Though I never got interested enough to master the craft, I did love the way the lattoo spun on the mud or the tarmac or the grass, its pointed  end sharp and cutting, a one- legged ballerina spinning on her own.  One spinning wooden top would be joined by several others, and I would watch to see whose lasted it out the most, who won, which lattoo fell first. The guy whose lattoo lasted it all was the hero of course. He would most probably be taken to the corner shop and fed a samosa to acknowledge his victory for the day. If he was lucky and his friends had some money in the pockets of their cotton shorts or pale blue school pants.
The spinning top of those days was a red and yellow toy with a fat centre, a little cap on top and a tapered iron pointed leg. You would wind a thin twine round and round from its top to its fat stomach and right down below, catch the end of the twine in your hand, balanced the lattoo between your index finger and thumb, and then release it by pulling hard the twine.  So much balance and art, premeditation and control required for the lattoo to spin and not fall flat on its face. Much like today’s bey blade but here, the control and preparation is of a different type. And the feel is all plastic, no wood, no twine, no bright red and green painted colours. I am nostalgic. I do not care much for bey blades, I did care for lattoos then. Not too much, but enough, enough to write about it now.
His sister stood next to him with a  ‘scooter’, those one- legged things you trundle along.
I asked him whether he had one.
“No, I have my bey blades,” he said.
I know he spoke in the plural, because kids don’t have one, they have many. They are expensive, the price range is from 150 to 400 rupees. And then they have spare parts, the more fun add-ons to the basics, which again cost some more, say another rupees 50/- for each spare. Welcome to the world of money makes the top spin more. The old wooden top is a cheap, forgotten hero of another era.
“Do you ride this sometime?” I asked him as I looked at his sister’s scooter.
“No, it’s hers, it’s a girl thing, a girl model, I would never ride it.” He gave me a look from under his eyes as if he was talking to a strange creature.
I was strange to his world, a world of bey blades, a world where stuff was not shared. These are the times of specializations, and what does for one will never do for the other.
The lift doors opened, he walked out. His sister walked out. He looked back. We, of two different worlds, were travelling in the same lift, the lift a time machine.
A  bey blade which would never be a lattoo again, in any avatar. In the future, it may be something else, a ‘funky-toss’, a ‘snake-slide’, or a gutter-snipe’, who knows?
Is my nostalgia tinged with regret? A trifle, yes, for who does not want to be that kid again, the one who ran down stairs and watched the tops spin in the galli late into the evening? But otherwise, no, for it is pure nostalgia of my childhood time, just like this young one will have of his. The bey blade is a product of this time, where games have to be specialized and high-tech, the spin instantaneous. What is not lost is the spirit of competition, game play and the human endeavour to make sure that kids have toys.