Random Musings #44: The Great Gambler!
I cup the token in my left palm. My palm is sweaty and I close my fist tight not wanting to chance the token slipping out and rolling away. The token feels heavy — after all, it was the very last of the little plastic discs that I had exchanged for all of the dollars that I had with me.
I carefully take the token out of my left palm with the thumb, fore and middle fingers of my right hand, carefully position and push it into the slot, say a silent but long prayer, and pull the handle with all my might!
The images blur as the three dials whirr at some speed. And then they slow down gradually till they come to a complete stop. The images line up. Actually, they don’t. I guess a tomato, an apple and a bunch of cherries don’t line up as anything more than colorful fruit!
I draw a blank, yet again. There goes all of my money.
All of six dollars. The only cash that I had left with me after the two nights and three days with a few colleagues/friends that I had spent at Las Vegas. Sleepless days and nights. Walking the length and breadth of Las Vegas, in and out of the grand hotels, their glitzy casinos and pausing to enjoy the MGM Grand’s fountain — déjà vu ever since whenever at the Dubai Mall fountain. And a day trip in a small 8-seater plane to the Grand Canyon and back, having to pinch myself to make sure that I was living out a childhood fantasy for real. We even caught a Cirque de Soleil show, a slightly risqué one at that — sorry Pramila! We did also make it to a strip…no, not club…a strip mall!
So, as they say, what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. As did my six dollars. Yes, the six dollars that went into the slot machine at the departure lounge of the airport on our way out. The only gambling that I did, all of six dollars, when I was in ‘the holy place’of gambling — Las Vegas!
So, I am not quite the Great Gambler! The Crown Casino on the South Bank of the Yarra River in Melbourne or the Casino Singapore at the Marina Bay Sands or the hotel casino at Dar Es Salaam, to which Dilip would happily slip away to after being challenged to a boxing bout by the local taxman to settle a tax dispute, or even the casino at Sun City Resort, near Jo’burg never appealed to me. To even walk in, except for the Sun City casino where I did to watch the London City analysts, who we were hosting for the Football World Cup, play blackjack and roulette and win some and lose some! Same as with their FTSE bets!
A big part of the reason that I don’t gamble was a realization very early on in life that I was not ‘lucky’. Yes, I am ‘fortunate, very fortunate’ for sure in many ways but, almost never, ‘lucky by chance’.
Case in point, when I was heading home from Abu Dhabi to Madras to get married, back in January 1994, I was feeling quite ‘lucky’ and so splurged 500 dirhams ($136) on an airport Duty Free raffle ticket. And sincerely and seriously expected to win, only to not. Nevertheless, I was and continue to be ‘very fortunate’ in what really mattered!
The Middle East is indeed the land of raffles and has been so for a very long time. Where, whether after weekly grocery shopping or after making an ‘investment’ in the yellow metal and/or glittering stones, one needs to allow for a few minutes and loads of patience to fill out many raffle tickets writing out your address, phone number and, on an equal number of tickets as possible, family members’ names.
The family and I did it too, enthusiastically at first, then reluctantly and rarely later. For all the many, many times we have filled out raffle tickets, the prizes on offer have ranged from fancy or huge cars, to jewelry and precious stones, to holiday packages, to TVs and music systems and even cash.
And yes, we have had our share of winnings. A box of tissues, once. I kid not! A packet of cheese slices, on another occasion! And the biggest prize ever, hold your breath, a vacuum cleaner!!
Why am I on about gambling and lottery/raffle tickets, you are surely wondering.
This was prompted by news that I have been reading in the local Dubai newspapers about the winners of a national lotto called the Mahzooz!
Now Mahzooz is Arabic for ‘lucky’ — simple. And no nonsense, the same way it has been awarding winners of the game of choosing winning numbers, for the past year or so.
Junaid Rana, a fellow South Asian, born, living and working in the UAE walked away with a cool 50 million dirhams ($13.6m) a few months ago. And since then, there have been many who have won anything from tens or hundreds of thousands and a few who have won 10 million dirhams ($2.7m) each. Not insignificant at all especially considering that, in this part of the world, the entire amount is credited to one’s bank account without a single fil/cent deducted for tax!
Which made me pause and think about my history, or rather lack, of gambling or lottery wins! And, to be totally honest, even if I should fill out a string of numbers and try my Mahzooz!
Those of you who know me and/or have read “Random Musings #18: What is Your Number”, will know that, if I were to do that at all, I would just fill out a string of 7s, 9s and 10s! And leave the rest to my ‘good fortune’!
The Great Gambler, that I am!!