Since 1922 in Wildwoods, New Jersey, they have been holding national marble tournaments, a four-day annual affair called Ringer, where boys and girls below 14 play and win prizes.
It must have been for sheer addiction to this game of street, and the perceived resultant waste of time on our part, that our parents forbade us from plying with marbles; or maybe since the street urchins mostly were seen engrossed in this activity, despite their elders calling them to return home, that our parents thought we should be kept away from bad company.
But the thrill that bante-goli-kunche offered was an experience that could only be felt, not from a distance, but being in the thick of it.
You always treasured their actual physical possession, which with the abiding sound of chak-chak, became rather a musical richness to experience. I liked even the broken ones and those that had chips etched due to the hitting and friction. Many designs were there to choose from. Bumblebees to jaspers to onion-skins.
Though native Americans and Egyptians are known to have played the game of marbles, even the remains of the city of Pompeii in Italy indicate the use of marbles. Early marbles were stones and pebbles picked up from riverbeds. The steel ones are also favourites of keen shooters, who prefer a bigger and a stronger striker at the taw line to shoot the ducks and mibs (the target in the marble game).
Like all other games, playing with marbles also has its rules. Sometimes the mibster or person who plays marbles plays to claim mibs and returns them to the loser but when it is a 'keepsie' deal then you keep the trophy. In the West, they play making a ring on the ground but back home in India we generally have a small pit in which the entire bunch is released to make the maximum number of marbles roll into it. Then you hit the target failing which you lose your turn or if you hit another one, you pay a fine generally called baccha in the North.
In the West, they knuckle and with the flick of the thumb shoot the striker-marble. In India, we employ both hands and the finger work does it all, even calculating the force and trajectory to be given to a shot. And God forbid if you happen to speak or distract the mibster when he/she is about to strike, you've had it for the shooter has the right to blame you when he was having a tashan or a go! Some shooters close an eye and bring the mib in the line of sight before triggering the striker.
As I said in the beginning, I was never allowed to play marbles. Probably, it was for this reason that I always eyed them with the intense desire to possess them. I marvelled at the sight of marbles in the glass jars kept at the street-corner stall. They looked no different than my eyeballs, only they were animated and still remind me of my love for marbles.