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Chasing the elusive stroke of luck

Chasing the elusive stroke of luck
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Buying lottery tickets can be as neurologically addictive as substance abuse.

Buying lottery tickets can be as neurologically addictive as substance abuse. Crores of rupees are squandered away each year by people who fantasize that dame fortune would one day smile on them. A lottery salesman is not only vending raffle tickets but selling hope.

The dream of drawing a lucky number still has an allure that most find hard to resist, ultimately leading to misery and ruin. Lotteries have been with us for much of recorded human history, dating back to at least the Han dynasty in China, around 200 years before the birth of Christ when proceeds helped finance a part of the Great Wall. Lottery comes from the Dutch 'lot', meaning fate, and interestingly portrays how it works.

It is no surprise that the oldest lottery still active today is the Dutch National Lottery, which has been going strong since the first draw, back in 1726, in The Hague.

A granduncle who passed away more than a decade back was a big fan of the lottery. On payday, the first thing he ever did was to trot off to the nearest lottery outlet with his earnings and indulge in procuring a wad of raffle tickets of different denominations, colour and sizes.

Though luck seldom favoured him - he managed to win the odd Rs.100 prize on a few occasions-, he persevered with his pastime spending a small fortune on raffle tickets each month. Aptly nicknamed "lottery mama", he would spread-eagle the newspaper and go over the results with a fine-tooth comb.

Sometimes on not being satisfied, he would even proceed to double-check with the lottery vendor. A firm believer in numerology, he adopted the strategy of referring his horoscope and picking up chits which bore his lucky number. This method never paid rich dividends!

Though not a firm believer in the lottery system, I did have a brief fling at gambling during my teens. I would buy scratch cards and try my luck by wagering a few paise. The top prize for the same was an Rs.100 note that stared at you from a board hung prominently in the neighbourhood mom and pop store.

As a teen, a hundred rupees appeared lofty then, but luck was never on my side.

The only other time that I gambled away was at a carnival in Goa where I tried my luck at 'Spin the Wheel' game. There is something enjoyable about playing these games. As you spin, there is a sense of anticipation and a little flutter in your stomach as you wonder what would be the outcome.

My first attempt doubled my winnings, but subsequently, as I played and faltered, it ended up burning a hole in my pocket. I have never craved for the 'jackpot' ever since.

Though lotteries are hugely popular and provide useful revenue to the state governments, the social cost was a high price to pay, and it is only in the fitness of things that many states in the country have completely banned the practice.

But despite the ban, gullible people continue to risk their last penny on one or the other forms of betting with the ardent hope that they might one day see the elusive pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

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