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Fool's Mate - Bringing Chess Back Home to India

Episode 2 of 5

Author Anuradha Roy explores the power and poignancy of chess as a metaphor in Indian culture, where it has so often been used in stories and films.

A photograph of two men playing chess in a flood by Raghubir Singh is the starting point of Anuradha Roy's essay on how Indians have escaped reality into chess.

She writes
"Banaras, 1967. Two men in shorts and singlets are sitting on what looks like a raft. One man's toes are dipping into the water that is all around them. He appears unaware of this. The city seems empty but for these two people. Their raft could be a doorstep, or maybe a tabletop. The water lapping at its edges is floodwater. The rest of the city has probably taken shelter in higher, drier places. But these two men are oblivious to flood and exodus alike. They are absorbed in a chess game that is halfway through, on a chess board almost floating on their half-drowned step.
This photograph by Raghubir Singh captures many things, but mainly the addictiveness of chess and the difficulty of finding a quiet place for a game in a country as crowded as India. If you set up a board for two to play, there will soon be another ten commenting, interrupting, animated."

Indian author Anuradha Roy has written An Atlas of Impossible Longing.

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