This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Bhushita Ahuja. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

This Girl Is Teaching Chess To Hundreds Of Underprivileged Kids Across India Despite COVID!

This post is a part of YKA’s dedicated coverage of the novel coronavirus outbreak and aims to present factual, reliable information. Read more.

My brother and I were 5 and 7 years old, respectively, and it was a Friday night. We were in the mood for board games. My mother had read in a parenting book that teaching kids chess helped improve their memory and focus. So she thought she would introduce us to the world of the 64 squares. Little did we know how the game would change our lives and mould our personalities.

As young children, we enjoyed challenging ourselves with complex puzzles, which hooked us onto chess. We had each others’ company to play along with and would often challenge family members for a match and even the guests who would arrive at our home. We treated chess as a board game, unaware that it was actually practised as an internationally recognised sport.

playing chess
Representative Image. Source: flickr

Those who knew us saw our deep interest in chess and suggested that we join a chess academy to become professional players. This was the start of our journey.

When I look back at myself as a 7-year-old player, I used to feel bad when I lost games and such losses would often demotivate me. I also didn’t realise the true meaning of hard work at the time and wasn’t aware of the sacrifices and level of dedication involved in the life of a sports person.

In these 9 years of playing chess, I’ve realised the importance of focussing on efforts rather than the outcomes because that’s what really is in your control. So, gradually, I stopped crying after l lost a game and instead used my losses as an opportunity to learn from my mistakes and improve my game.

While I used to prepare for Nationals or Commonwealth, months before the tournament, we spent almost 8–10 hours in front of the chessboard. So while I would see my peers throwing parties over the weekends, I would be staring at the black and whiteboard in complete silence.

Today I feel proud of how I used my time differently and stayed committed to the goal because if I had given up back then, I would not be sharing my journey today.

As you may have realised, chess had become a part of our system and we were deeply passionate about the game. We had travelled our country, the world due to tournaments, created such beautiful memories along the way and imbibed a plethora of life skills.

However, when I entered 10th grade, I had to make a very difficult decision. It was either chess or studies because both required a lot of dedication and it wasn’t possible to give both fields equal justice together. As I was only 15, leaving behind academics was not that encouraged by those around me. So, with a heavy heart, I decided to pursue chess as just a hobby.

But it was like we had stepped in too far to be able to back out so easily and that’s where the idea of Samvedna came into our mind. A feeling, a desire to give back to society through chess.

As a background, my mom is a full-time social worker and I still remember when she took me with her to a slum when I was 10 and made me play chess with a few kids there. As I recall, I was playing against a boy who was 3–4 years older than me and around 20–30 people had gathered around to watch the game.

Playing Chess
Image provided by the author.

That moment stayed with me and it is what inspired me to target the underprivileged kids and teach them chess. Not only would chess help them develop essential life skills and have a positive effect on their academics, but it’s also not a bad career path.

So our cause was decided and step one was to gain the necessary funds to execute this initiative. Then, we decided to organise a tournament to launch Samvedna, so preparations for the same began. We got ONGC to sponsor us, spread the message in all our chess contacts and invited Gautam Gambhir and the Sports Minister, Kiren Rijiju, as chief guests to our event.

On 14 and 15 December 2019, the tournament took place at The Banyan Tree School, New Delhi, with the participation of over 250 players. Well, making this event a success was not exactly a piece of cake. There were several challenges we faced in our path. For example, in the first week of marketing, we had zero registrations and we were utterly shocked, on the brink of cancelling the event.

However, we took our own chess learnings into consideration and just like the pawn doesn’t turn back, we decided we would not give up and instead change our strategies. So we started personally calling up parents and convincing them to make their children take part, and gladly, this worked very well for us.

The end all be all lesson was: where there’s a will, there’s always a way.

Chess
Representative Image. Source: pxfuel

After the tournament, we started two physical centres in the slums of Delhi, but then we were hit with Covid. The classes had to be shut and we were unsure of what to do. But then we thought, “So what if things have shifted online? On the brighter side, if we start our classes digitally, we don’t have to limit ourselves to a specific geographical region, opportunities will be limitless.”

That’s what we did. We got 20+ coaches from across the country to teach students in various regional languages. We collaborated with several NGOs and educated 350+ underprivileged kids from across seven states in India and the journey goes on.

Now I’ve spoken quite a bit about my chess and Samvedna’s journey, now let me share my journey as an Author. I published my book, Open Your Wardrobe for Answers, in September 2020 and it is based on clothing psychology. I was fascinated by this subject and as a fashion enthusiast, I was quite interested in interpreting my personality based on my dressing style.

Therefore, I researched this topic and got some really invigorating insights that I felt were worth sharing with everyone. So here are some important takeaways from my book. Firstly, the most imperative is to dress for yourself. We often tend to dress up to impress others, wear branded wear to create our regard among society and draw our attention to appearance than reality.

Successful people have one thing in common: they are confident under their skins and don’t wear clothes as a shield of protection from societal perceptions. The point is that there’s a stark difference between fashion and style. While fashion is subject to change, style is your personal take on fashion and it is what makes you different from others. So what we really need to do is to develop our own style rather than copy others.

Last but not least, I’d like to say age is just a number and you can achieve whatever you desire if you have the right intent. It’s sometimes okay to go against the waves and go in the opposite direction of the crowd. What you really need is to believe in yourself, your capabilities and stay optimistic. Life is not about finding yourself; life is about creating yourself.

Chess positions seem impossible to solve at times, but the answers are always present. You just need to immerse yourself further to reach the solution. Life is also that complicated puzzle, but you need to know that you have the potential to unravel it.

You must be to comment.

More from Bhushita Ahuja

Similar Posts

By Anushka Khatua

By Mir Tajamul Islam

By India Development Review (IDR)

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below