If the visually handicapped can play a physically demanding sport like cricket and a mentally challenging game like chess, why aren’t they playing carrom, India’s most popular indoor game? This was the question that led Milan Dass to come up with a new board and a new set of rules to enable the blind to play. A senior research officer and designer with the National Institute for the Visually Handicapped in Dehradun, Dass is currently letting students of Hyderabad’s Devnar Blind School test his innovation. “I am observing them closely to finetune the rules. The board will soon be mass-produced,’’ he says.
The many innovations in this carrom board are unsettling to a sighted person. In Dass’ version, aim takes a back seat, so does the colour of the coins or even the number of them netted. The game is played with a C-stopper which is fixed behind one of the 21 holes on the board. Using a crescent-shaped striker, the player has to put a coin into a hole. But with a small difference. “Here, the opponent will dictate which hole the coin has to be deposited in. So the player who nets all the nine coins first (ten if you include the red) is the winner,” says Dass. The player can feel the C-Stopper with one hand and strike with the other to direct the coin. Steel cups fixed into the pocket-holes clink when coins are pocketed, alerting players. Black and white coins are differentiated through dents on them, while the red coin has a cut at its edge. The striker’s reference line, too, is indented to help players with their positioning.
Dass says the board will soon be launched in Delhi. The price, he promises, will be affordable. “The new board game came here four days ago and we are all hooked. I have never played on the regular board, so this is as good as the real one for me,’’ says 14-year-old Parveen Sultana, a student of Devnar Blind School. Nagaraj A, a 17-year-old at the school, says he is happy to get a third alternative sport apart from cricket and chess. “I am going to master it soon,’’ he says.
The Devnar Foundation was chosen to test the game as it is known for its innovative solutions for the visually challenged. It came up with a Braille-aided electronic voting machine that was used in the recent Kadapa bypoll in Andhra Pradesh.