November 22, 2017

Queen of Katwe

Posted in Inspiration, Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , , , at 1:39 pm by Venus Viswambharan

Image result for queen of katwe playing chess

Oh yes this movie has moved me sufficiently to include it into my blog. Yes its a plain simple review but Something that needed to be shared.

 An award-winning documentary that Bollywood director Mira Nair weaves with inspiring true life characters and their personal experiences to leave a lasting impression on our souls, infusing us with valuable lessons all along the length of the movie.
It’s about Phiona Mutesi a Ugandan Chess player.  She was born in Katwe, the largest of Kampala’s eight slums.
I have always been intrigued by watching people play chess, it is the brilliant agility of the mind of the players that draws me to the game like a bee to honey,  but no I can’t play strategically well at all…at this point and space of time(no, that statement is not to bind me).
All through the movie… we see Phiona and her family (Her two younger brothers and her single mom) struggling to live and have a roof over their heads (not figuratively!).  You must know what it feels like to get splattered with a few drops of rain – it has joy and mirth en-wrapped in that vision for most of us. Well then picture-  a house caving in, under torrential rain and the house filling up to its brim . How comfortable would it be to be drenched to one’s bone, when all one wants to do is sleep in the warmth of one’s bed?
Mira piercingly portrays the misery through her characters and they in turn very naturally and profoundly depict the galvanizing tale (completely naked of any glamour akin to the movies). The strongest thread of the story is – the idea “that losing is not failure”.
But what is success ?
That is another lesson we glean from this movie…
Success is the ablity to keep your head up… Not give up..
And search for that small lamp or flicker of light which burns up a new strategy…. a new way out of the distinctly desolate times – Here Phiona begins to believe that she is not her circumstances.  She is trained by her coach to figure out a new way out of the challenging maybe even trapping move of her opponent on not just the chess board , but on the board of life!
One of Robert Katende (her coach’s) dialogues :

Sometimes the place you are used to is not the place you belong. You belong where you believe you belong. Where is that for you?

Oh she does give up…
And she almost believes she has no way out of the heart wrenching poverty.
One of Phiona’s dialogues :

Coach, you told us to make a plan but I fear things will never change.

and Robert Katende’s reply :

“What matters is when you reset the pieces and play a game.”

… Which is when she knows that chess is definitely her way out !
So she grits her teeth and decides to find a new way, a new move, every time she plays chess ….
another dialogue of Phiona :

“Losing teaches me to play better.

Oh but her mother  Nakku Harriet, is the first beacon not flicker, nor lamp ,  but a mammoth beacon, who teaches her the biggest lesson- with her spirit of steel just by being who she is – a mother, who does not give up on her children no matter how wretched their circumstances were! Who embodies the principle-  “Never get bitter, But try …just once more in a new way!!” We see the steel melt and bend and provide intelligently for her children. This is very apparent when – she cleverly but discreetly furnishes more paraffin, to facilitate the learning of chess in darkness of the night for the love of her life, her daughter Phiona. A love that is apparent merely by the actions of this simple but resolutely improvising mom.
And her little girl writes history for not just herself but her own brothers and her weary mother!!
Phiona Mutesi has won the Ugandan Women’s Junior Championship of three times, has represented Uganda at four chess olympiads, and is one of the first titled female players in Ugandan chess history.

May 16, 2013

Shaping our Stalwarts

Posted in Generosity tagged , , , , , , , , , , , at 1:15 pm by Venus Viswambharan


strong and free2 I was waiting for my lil daughter just outside her drama class. As I waited I saw a few little men having a grave discussion. One 4-year old sitting inside his van that drops him home, says  to another boy waiting outside “ How old are you ? “ very proudly the fella states “5 years old” . The boy in the van with his chest swelling points to another little friend and replies “well my mate here is 6 years old , right ? aren’t you elder to him? “. At this the 5-year old who couldn’t bear to be any less  grapples for data from his memory and shoots “ my sister is 10 years old!” and the boy in the van retorts with certain indignation “but my sister is 20 “ . The 5-year old pauses for a second, then retorts ” no she can’t be !” And the discussion goes  on…

What does one infer? They are just 4-6 year olds? Why would they want to be better than the other ? Does making another feel inferior make them mighty? Kids of that age were to be full of unbridled energy , fun and joy… when one hurt and healed quickly ,very resilient … Sound of bubbly  laughter and such images are what flood my eyes when I close them….

It bought back a little memory a few weeks old :

One particular girl was ostracized from a whole set of kids who were playing a zippy game of Kho  Kho because she was calling them names. The other girls very emphatically refused to let her play because she was the archetypal “ bad” kid. In fact they stated clear conditions to me saying if they were to continue playing they very clearly did not want the “bad” kid joining in.

some thought lingering in my mind:

What is Bad and good? Was the girl bad or were her actions bad? Do we handle the “bad” by snubbing or cutting off people? What happened to simple wholesome communication? why are we unable to reach out and tell some one they have hurt us without hurting them or giving it back to them in equal or stronger measure?

Still more memories float in …

A few months back I had watched 2 parents sling words at each other because their kids fought :

Each parent tallying the number of times the other parent’s kid humiliated , hurt or misbehaved with her own kid . Each parent boorishly ,contemptuously and very publicly  faced the other . Eventually they began blaming and garnering the hate they held against each other . Each raked their own dark , fetid recesses of  storage devices – their memory , for all the past blunders and faults the other committed and conclusively cut off relations with each other and barred their kids to continue any semblance of acquaintanceship with each other

Questions I ask myself:

Aren’t we as adults supposed to support, strengthen and build stalwarts? We glorify and applaud the” brave”. But is being brave being overbearing , being a bully, being mighty?

Aren’t we supposed to nurture tenacious adults , With the strength of tolerating each others’ difference, with the patience and courage to look into the eyes of the friend and seek where they are coming from , what is it that their dear friend is carrying, why their friend is behaving way they do?

Aren’t we supposed to instill humility in these kids to be able to hold back the importance of “me” for a few moments so as to enable reaching out to hold up this other friend – who is also an integral part of this “me”?

When did running off , exiling someone or cutting off relations emerge as a solution? Are these the characteristics of a dauntless sturdy individual?

And since when did we see “our kid” as our sole responsibility? We have always endorsed and adulated  “charity” but are unable to hold our child’s friend and give him /her strength to face a situation , to explain . We are incapable of a little benevolence to be able to ourselves reach out, to tolerate and in the process pour these qualities into their little hearts?

When our child is hurting , hurting with them is understandable , but turning that to hate , when did that become a solution? What does that heal?

What is it our children are learning? Don’t they emulate sharply just what we portray?

How can we  contribute towards shaping young, robust Stalwarts?

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