Freakonomics: Orthodox Hindu, Salsa, Bridge and Mafia(Game)

Being in India, you are never more than just couple of hundred meters away from a tradition that is followed simply because it has always been followed. Mythology is used to explain most of the weird superstition. A good work (shuba kaarya) is never started the day after a new moon day as the Mahabharata war started on that day; onion, garlic, tomatoes etc are seldom used in cooking (in highly orthodox places) because they were no created by God but by Vishwamitra among others. The educated ones assume that there is a scientific basis for all of this and carry on the tradition.

One such tradition in followed in Karnataka is preparation of Vada during death Ceremony. Vada is prepared in many families only during the annual death ceremony. If prepared during other times, it is not donut shaped but saucer shaped. This issue came up when my room mate, from Andra Pradesh, wanted to prepare Vada for Diwali or Dasara. It was apparently a tradition at his place. The plan was later ditched as my other room-mate from Karnataka told him about this. Around same time, abcd room-mate was talking his mom getting mad when he had shaved his head once. It is a common knowledge that head is shaved usually in case of death in the family (Thirupathi Apart). If such tradition are broken, it is seen as a utmost contempt and blasphemy.

It should be hard to see that such tradition mostly serve as a form of mass communication to inform the community about whats happening at your place. There are certain kind of dishes that are prepared during a Birthday, and others during the death ceremony. You really don’t want people to come into your place and ask, “is it a birthday or did someone die?” To avoid any such conflict, certain tradition do make sense. It is for this reason that I am a believer in saying, “While in Rome, do as Romans do” Suppose a family moves from their own place to a new one, they shouldn’t refrain from changing their tradition. It is nice to stand up to what you think is right, but at the same time you should be bothered about inviting wrong questions such as the one above, when you are adamant about following the tradition you have always followed.

Many of the card games usually depends on the hand that you get. Bridge is an exception. Played in teams of two, even with the worst possible hand, a game can be won. The game is all about establishing a protocol with your teammate about the hand you have and making right judgment about how many tricks you are going to win. An informed judgment about winning only three tricks and eventually doing so can get bring your team up. I don’t play Bridge, from what I know, there are several tried and tested methods to communicate to the partner over the table. Needless to say that a sound knowledge of them is necessary to win a game.

Salsa in competitions and bigger occasions are rehearsed and performed several times before presenting them on the stage. However, many are dance are performed impromptu when there are experienced dancers. Built on certain basic steps, all the swirls and the turns are established on the spot through dance gesture by the leader and the follower should be responsive enough to reciprocate the moves. Though it takes a lot of practice to look elegant in front of an audience the crux of the whole matter lies in interpreting the leaders’ moves. There are several such standards in salsa too based on the place where they are practiced.

I dont know how many of you would played this wonderful game called Mafia (aka Ware wolf) (not the video game, check the wiki link http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mafia_(game) ). It is a game with the good guys (villages) and the bad guys (wolfs). The wolfs know who else is wolf. Villages are uninformed. Villages, fortunately, have policeman and doctor amongst them. Policeman can find an identity (villager, doctor or wolf) during the game. Doctor can choose to heal a person whom he think the wolf are going to kill. The game proceeds with night time (after all the players are assigned their roles secretly). A moderator asks wolves to open their eyes and point to thei possible victim. After the wolves have come to an agreement they convey it to the moderator (not aloud … no one is suppose to know anything). Then doctor can choose to save a person whom he thinks is going to get killed. And then policeman can get to know the identity of one person from the set of players.

Based on who was chosen to kill, based on policeman’s knowledge, the good guys have to kill all the wolves. Wolves, on the other hand, should try to defend themselves or be sly enough to blame an another person and make the majority vote him out of the game. Remember that policeman simple cannot reveal himself initially as wolves will go for the policeman next night. Same argument goes for the doctor. The game in uninteresting during the begining when there is nothing to go by. As the game moves on based on knowledge of policeman(if he is not killed) game get really interesting and at times emotions and rage runs high.

Having played this game many time in our hostels and also in the Himalayas :), it is a game where communication is the key. Its all about policeman trying to convince others about who the wolves are and wolves trying to implicate others though good arguments. Certain signs of being a wolf is being too attentive or under attentive in the game, or to fumble an argument. Wolf, sometimes, kill deceptively to implicate someone else and thus communicate wrong idea while the opposite works for the good guys.

If you are still wondering what common to Tradition, Salsa, Bridge and Mafia, it the idea of effective communication that makes them a great, for lack of a better word, entity. Nature too has quite an effective communication skill. There is a lull before the strom, tremors before an earth quake, low tide before tsunami and, of course, melting of ice caps before ….

PS: Freakonomics … well i know the article is not about ecomomics .. but couldn’t find a better title

PPS: Pics will come later when I get my own laptop in 2-3-4 weeks.