Thursday, June 1, 2017

Life in 64 squares

You find kings and queens ‘ruling’ this village. They wage fierce battles every day, to the accompaniment of cries of ‘checkmate’. Welcome to Gendegowdara Colony in HD Kote Taluk where people live in 64 squares! Once upon a time, these villagers were addicted to playing cards. But once they were taught the game of chess, their lives were transformed for the better.

Over a decade ago, these villagers didn’t know how to play chess. But today, they have become masters of the game, winning state-level and national competitions. All credit goes to the initiative taken by two government school teachers who introduced the game to the village in 2005.
There was no Physical Education teacher in the GG Colony Government Primary School. That’s when Kannada teacher C S Kantharaju and Maths teacher H B Nithyananda thought of teaching chess to students to engage them in some recreational activities. They approached the then School Head Master to get them chessmen and boards. They bought chess boards with donations.

Teachers CS Kantharaju and HB Nithyananda.
The initiative that started with a couple of chess boards, slowly spread to the entire classroom with passing years when every student started carrying chess boards and earnestly practised after school hours. The magic spread to outside the school walls and in due course other villagers too started playing chess. It did not take long for the village to grasp the nuances of the game. Slowly children from neighbouring villages like Pudukote, HD Kote and Sarvemala also started learning chess.

But girls did face discrimination. Nithyananda said girls were not sent to learn the game. Though some girls were interested, they could not pursue it out of shyness and lack of support. It was then that Nithyananda visited every household and convinced the villagers to send the girls to learn chess and held separate classes for girls. Due to his efforts, today a good number of girls like Meghana and Anjali have become State-level players, bringing laurels to the village.

Why chess? “Chess is a game of wits. The game builds self-confidence, improves concentration and the ability to think before taking decisions. Kantharaju and I were involved in sports  from our college days. It was our first job (2005). We wanted to produce a national-level player from our school,” said Nithyananda.
Later, the teachers nominated volunteers to teach more people. Volunteers Ravi Sutha and M Sanjeev started holding chess tourneys once a year motivating villagers to play chess. Today more than 350 villagers take part in the tournaments. 

‘There was no Physical Education teacher in our school. These teachers taught us to play chess by staying back till 7.30 pm. Several students represented State and national-level events and some of them could even land a job under the sports quota. We can’t explain in words how much the game has transformed our lives. Most of the villagers have stopped watching serials and have also stopped playing cards, and are practising chess,” said volunteer Ravi Sutha, an agriculturist by profession.

Another volunteer, Sanjeev, who is pursuing MSc and has got a job in the Police Department, is a national-level chess player. He said, “Representing the state at the national level helped me get a job. Chess has helped me deal with ups and downs in life courageously. Even today the school doesn’t boast of a PT teacher. During weekends when I visit the village, I teach budding players and share my experience of playing with national-level players, which helps the learners.”

The villagers are happy. “No one plays cards in our village now. We had only heard of the name Chaduranga (Kannada for chess). Now, more than 90 per cent of our villagers are familiar with the game. When we sit in the ‘verandas’ and play, passersby halt and watch our game,” said Mallikanna, a resident.

Said Kenganna, Thammayya, Srinivas and others said:, “We were wasting time playing cards and gambling. Now we are spending quality time with our children and grandchildren.” 

‘The number of children getting educated has increased after the chess mania caught on. Government job opportunities are coming on their way and most importantly villagers who were earlier spending lot of time playing cards are now seen playing chess. Improved concentration has helped students to score good marks. We taught our friends and relatives to play chess,’ added Village head Ramanna.   

HD Kote Town Police Constable speaking in anonymity said that earlier villagers were engaged in playing cards, now they come across the villagers playing chess and motivating neighbouring villagers to learn chess.

Teachers Nithyananda adds: ‘In initial days it was challenging to draw attention towards playing chess. Later chess became a trend and without chess board children were not coming to schools. Our aim was to produce a national level players and we are happy quite a good numbers of promising players have raised from the village.  Girls Meghana, Anjali have represented states. Rendered service for nine years at GG Colony was an life time experiment, since my appointment in 2005. Now I am serving at government school in Periyapatna, said Nithyananda. While, teacher CS Kantharaju is rendering service at Belur (Hassan).

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