Virtual Battles in the times of Lockdown ~ Aneet Randhawa

Lockdown has meant different things to different people. Beyond doubt the inconvenience caused to a significant chunk of society is very much acknowledgeable. And yet, there are others who are utilizing this imposed leisure in their own ways. There are those who are showcasing their culinary skills with élan. Some are taking a soul connect with yoga. Some have taken recourse to reading and cleared their backlog of their collection. Personally, having gone overboard in my one passion of reading, I decided to rediscover my long lost childhood passion of Chess. 

I had learnt to play the game at quite a young age, courtesy my father who was quite adept at it. He had learnt from his grandfather in his childhood and owed much of his adeptness to the skills he learnt from the late patriarch. His reference would inadvertently trickle down in my father’s chess bouts with me.  The patriarch had been a master at swaying the game with the knights. Having not been privy to these chess bouts that were held much before my birth in my native village, it was not a handicap for me to visualize them. A motley crew of villagers witnessing some truly strained moments on sixty four black and white squares could surely match the enthusiasm of a spirited cricket match if not surpass it.

So the lockdown has probably given me and my father a much needed opportunity to indulge in our erstwhile passion after decades. After the lunch has been done in the household and the other family members slip into their post lunch siesta, an old man and his not so young son set up their sixty four black and white squares board and station their respective representative infantry, artillery and cavalry on it to indulge in successive bouts till late into the evening. The son’s misgivings about the father’s fading abilities due to age are repeatedly and gleefully shattered.

My restored passion reminded me of the iconic Satyajit Ray’s Bollywood cult classic Shatranj ke khiladi. The film aesthetically depicts two Awadh nobles given up to their passion of Chess completely unmindful of the British on the verge of usurping the state of Awadh. In a similar sense, to say that in the sway of our afternoon bouts, we tend be unmindful of the deadly microorganism that has left the world startled would be an overstatement. But I confess that we are in a deadly spell in these afternoons and have a temporary disconnect with the surrounding.

The game has reminded me of so many analogies that it has with life. A player struck with hubris owing to his strength in the game often falls prey to the opponent’s intrigues and loses. It may not always be worthwhile to take a risk and yet sometimes it does fetch dividends. Even a pawn should not be underestimated for it possesses an intrinsic potential to transform into a queen provided it is able to persevere to make a way through the odds. Howsoever safe one is sheltered in one’s own citadel; there must always be a provision for an escapade. Quite often the strongest of citadels fall prey to a strategically laid siege.

Indulging in these virtual bouts, the realist in me prays for an early exit from the ‘civil strife in heaven’ and learn to not to be ‘saucy with the gods’ in future. We are hardwired to learn our lessons the hard way.  The sane amongst us realize that our existence is merely akin to a bubble and the humdrum of the world merely a child’s play board. Hadn’t the grand bard Ghalib eloquently remarked: ‘Bazeecha-e-atfaal hai duniya mere aage’ (A mere child’s play is how I perceive the world before me.)