“Can I ask you a question?” I asked Karama. We were in his quarters having third round of kotra
“Of course.” He moved zalek
to rot position.
“It’s about your armours; their shape specifically.” I moved one of my figures, hoping it wouldn’t be taken immediately. My hope was hopeless—he moved his lelek
and replaced my dolok. “Why are they so protruding in front of your chests? It’s not that you have anything over there.” Their shoulders and top of chest were athletic and strong built, but they didn’t have any spikes in their chests to explain that diamond angle.
He pointed to the spoon on his chest, visible above the edge of his singlet. “We have this.” He made another move and then continued. “Both chanth
s are very sensitive organs. When you are in battle, you want to protect a spot that is so fragile.”
He only smiled. “I can’t tell you all secrets, can I?”
“You will tell me when I win a game.”
He laughed. “Then you’ll never know.” He took another of my pieces.
“Wrong! I just have an additional incentive to beat you!” I made my move, glanced at him and at once knew the move had been a mistake—a smile of victory appeared on his face and he took that piece, too. I looked back at the board and understood that the victory in his smile was justified. He had just won. Again. “One more?”
“You want to lose again?”
“I want to play again. Some day I will
beat you. But I have to learn all your strategies first.”
He was just about to answer, but a chime at the door interrupted. “Enter,” he said instead. The door parted and Glinn Zamarran entered, carrying a bottle of something.
It was the first time I saw him wearing something else than an armour. He stopped, clearly as surprised to see me as I was to see him. But after a few seconds he joined us at the table; he looked at the board and smiled.
“I should be going...” I muttered and started to raise.
“Do you want to see him losing for once?” Zamarran asked.
I froze with my butt mid-air. It could be awkward to spend my free time with my superior, who was so strict and serious, but the view of Karama finally being beaten—even if not by me—was tempting. And since it was Zamarran who had suggested me to stay, I decided to do just that. I put my butt back on my chair.
“All my money is on you, sir.”
“I thought the Federation doesn’t believe in money,” Karama growled, but one glance at his face was enough to see he was not really angry. He got up and went to the cupboard next to his replicator to get three glasses.
“The Federation doesn’t but this is Cardassia and I get my monies,” I said.
Karama returned with the glasses and Zamarran poured brown liquid into each. One of the glasses was almost empty—he handed me that one motioning for me to try first. I sipped on the content and smiled, so he took the glass back and filled it to the same level as the other two. Then they set up the board and started to play.
“A language question,” I said, startling Zamarran.
“Yes, she does that.” Karama smiled, seeing his reaction. “She attacks
The lines on Zamarran cheeks deepened—his unique smile without smiling.
“Why do you say ‘full basket’ to greet someone?” I asked.
“It’s short for ‘may your basket be full of fruit’,” Karama explained. “That’s a kind of wish of good luck.”
“Eyyyy,” Zamarran sighed loudly. “Don’t listen to him, Kapoor. He’s got his facts wrong.” Zamarran paused to take one of Karama’s pieces and then continued, “This greeting is very old and very traditional. It comes from the times when Cardassia was a rich and fertile world. People grew their own food and it was polite to wish your neighbours good crops. The phrase was too long, so with time it got shortened to ‘full basket’, but the meaning was still the same. Now it doesn’t mean anything really, it’s just a civilian way of welcoming someone.”
“That’s interesting. We say ‘namaste
,’ which means ‘bow to you.’”
Zamarran looked at me quite surprised. “Isn’t your greeting something about good days or good nights?”
“Ah, you mean Federation Standard. Yes, in that language you say ‘good’ followed by time of a day. But this is not my native language.”
“What do you mean?”
“There are hundreds of languages on Earth.”
“You don’t have one language?” He didn’t look at me, as he was just making another move, but his voice was full of astonishment.
“No. Everyone learns Federation Standard, but at home we speak our own languages.”
“And in your language you say ‘bow to you’?”
“Yes. It’s a traditional greeting that shows reverence to another person.” I didn’t want to dig into the fact that ‘namaste
’ wasn’t in my
native language, but in Hindi. I didn’t think any Cardassian would be interested in complex language situation of India. And surely not in family history of this particular Indian present in the room, who spoke Bengali to her parents, but Hindi to her grandfather and at school.
“And what if the other person is of lower status?”
“Doesn’t matter. You should be nice to everyone. The greeting’s and its gesture’s—” I presented it by bringing my palms together on the level of my heart, “—history is connected with a deity and its creations. Be humble. Have no ego. But if two people of different statuses meet, the lower one should greet the higher one first. Or the younger one should greet the older one first.”
“I thought the Federation is about equality and such,” Zamarran said.
“It is. But the history of Earth is another matter. We treasure our national traditions.”
Zamarran nodded his approval. And then took another piece from the board. Karama was losing—and losing badly. If Karama was good at kotra
, how good was Zamarran?!
“How is the full greeting—” I silenced, seeing that I startled Zamarran again. Karama giggled at his reaction.
“Bei asara aji bi kadariaji
,” Zamarran said.
“Okay,” I thought for a moment. “’Aji
’ is ‘you,’ I know that. ‘Full basket you bi
haveyou’,” I spoke my thoughts out loud. Another example of the ‘lovely’ double use of pronouns. Zamarran observed me with a smile—a real, visible smile—from the corner of his eye. “What is ‘bi
“It is an imperative particle,” Zamarran replied.
“Perfect,” I muttered. What did that mean?
“In this case it has a wishing meaning,” he continued, taking another piece from the board. Karama growled. “You can’t order baskets to be full, but you wish—you hope—they are going to be.”
I nodded; it was a bit clearer. Maybe Zamarran too should teach me Cardassian?
I sipped on the beverage—it vaguely reminded me of beer—thinking about languages, spending an evening with my super-strict superior, watching Karama being beaten at kotra
and...I had to admit I had a good time.