Chess and literature: a weird parallelism

Author:  Aditi Chandrasekar 

Chess has always been more than simply a game. Since time immemorial, it has been used as a metaphor, an inspiration and a lesson. Consequently, chess and the most prominent art form, literature have been intertwined for centuries. The game has made multiple appearances, and has even been a significant leitmotif in many renowned works throughout history. For example, in ‘The Tempest’, William Shakespeare depicts a chess match between lovers Ferdinand and Miranda. In the classic ‘The Queen’s Gambit’ by Walter Tevis, a chess prodigy struggles to handle the emotional rollercoaster that is the competitive chess circuit. Chess was an important participant in many of 20th century novelist, Vladimir Nabokov’s works, either as an aid underpinning the theme or in explicit scenes featuring the game. 

Arguably, the primary objective of poetry is to evoke emotion out of the reader, comparable with the objective of the game to “checkmate” the opponent’s king (here, the opponent’s king is equivalent to the reader). Chess’ game play consists of two distinct parts-strategy and tactics. Chess strategy involves achieving long-term advantages during the game, while tactics concentrate on immediate movements. These two aspects of the game play cannot be separated, because strategic goals can only be accomplished through tactics, while tactical manoeuvres are based on the strategy of play. Identical to the concepts of strategy and tactics in chess, the aesthetic appeal and the grammatical structuring of poetry are two inextricable components, which when bound together appropriately, produce a lovely work. 

Prose, with its carefully woven story-lines, is very similar to chess. Every move on the checkerboard is analogous to a development in a story’s plot. A game of chess is typically divided into three parts: the opening, the middle-game and the endgame. This can be compared to the structuring of an essay or a novella. Another obvious similarity is that each piece in chess has its own way of moving, much like the characters of a story. Each character in a tale has a set of qualities that the writer appropriately utilities to advance the story. It is not a surprise then, that this evident correspondence was addressed in one of the first works ever published in English- William Caxton’s book ‘The Game and Playe of the Chesse’, uses different chess pieces as metaphors for different classes of people. Chess strategy is similar to literary devices used by writers in their works to assist future happenings in their story, like epigraphs or foreshadowing. 

Much like chess’ ever-evolving metaphorical meanings through the ages, the world of drama has seen drastic advancements as well. Drama is thought to have originated from religious observances during the Middle Ages, while modern playwrights use theater to express opinions about current events, typically cultural or political. Chess, as much as it is a game, is also a performance. The chessboard can be thought of as a miniature stage on which the performance is carried out. Mine, a popular form of drama, bears a resemblance to chess in the sense that observers have to make sense of the internal meanings that the silent performance represents. The expressionist core of chess has been addressed by many, most notably by Fernando 

Arrabal, a Spanish playwright, once said of chess “I know of no spectacle on Earth that can keep thousands of spectators enthralled for five hours.” 

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CINEMA ,THE BIGGEST JOKE OF TODAY?

Author: Anirudh TR  

 

A film is only as good as its plot and the plot is conveyed through action. As appealing as the sentence may sound, it is only partially true. A film with absolutely unrealistic cinematography but exemplary acting doesn’t appeal to the eye nor does one that obeys the converse. With that said, today’s generation seems to have submerged too much into the technological well that it would take yet another generation of plot-oriented simplistic filmography to bring them to the surface. Filmmakers today seem to dwell in a smorgasbord of commercial cliches rendering the path for concept-oriented cinema, a dead end. The influence of technology in today’s film making is so obvious that one thinks it is the computer work that defines the beauty of the film and not what is portrayed on the screen. Nevertheless, it is saddening to see that all the technical mumbo-jumbo is going down the drain for the output is not nearly as pleasing as what is promised in the plot or the production. The sad truth is today’s filmmakers cater to the larger population of commercial film craving fanatics and not to convey substance, something that cinema can and should be used for. The problem I feel is that people today are impatient. Their attention and interest bandwidth has shortened over generations and now has saturated at an absolute minimum that any film beyond 2.5 hours seems a burden and any film, seemingly gloomy or slow paced is a definite no in their minds regardless of how long it runs for. The advent of online downloads; ventures like F movies, etc. have made their job much easier. And this lack of interest has managed to seep down to live theater too. Gone are the days when the whole family gathers at the public hall to relish the weekend screening of an epic. Society today is clouded with a farrago of disoriented fame and with commercialization being the dogmatic aristocracy; we have involuntarily immunized ourselves to its infectious influence. The coveted heroes of today that the people uphold have made a religion out of the mainstream cinema but ironically the films that come out today are sacrilegious. Yet, the light at the end of the tunnel hasn’t been put out. With ambitious directors venturing into less trodden territories, the future bears promise. What is required is riddance from the succumbing clutches of mass appeasing cinema, a renaissance amidst young filmmakers to fall back on the masterpieces of the yesteryear and birth revolutionary scripts. As society emboldens itself, getting self-aware by the day, we need films that bolster the prevailing mentality. It is up to the change makers of today to create an environment where the celebrated religion of cinema is free of blasphemy to ensure pragmatism in tomorrow’s green screens. 

Accepting Perspectives

 Author: Nikita Suryawanshi

 

Wayne Dyer quoted- “If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” 

Perspective, as described by the Oxford dictionary, is a particular attitude towards something; a way of looking at things or situations. For me, perspective is but a simple truth of life which we sometimes willingly choose to ignore. For a long time, humans have divided judgement on actions and reactions into only two categories: right and wrong. But how can we decide whether something is right or wrong if everyone is looking at it from a different angle? Every individual has his/her own unique personality which makes them stand out in the crowd. Everyone’s “way of looking at things” is different. 

Most of the arguments that we normally get engaged in occur due to different point of views. When conferring about, say, a recent crime, one might be sympathizing with the victim while someone else may have put themselves in the shoes of the accused. The reason of the argument is that the other person has a different perspective on things. He is looking through his pair of glasses at the world, as well as we all do. This means that we filter everything by our personal history, our beliefs, motivations and concepts that we hold true. But what is correct for us may not necessarily be so for another.

Our choice of not understanding and accepting another outlook is what turns discussions into debates. Somewhere, it causes unrest in our own minds. Often we are afraid that seeing the other perspective could lead to us losing the argument … or worse, to get a disadvantage. But the true value of another perspective lies within seeing more of a situation and therefore being able to make a better judgment for ourselves as well as the other person. I personally feel frustrated when the person I am conversing with doesn’t try to look at things the way I do. So here’s my main question: why inflict so much torture on our minds?

I recently finished reading To Kill A Mockingbird. Reading reviews of the book, I noticed people talking about the upsetting discrimination based on the caste and colour of an independent underlined by the author. For me, however, the highlight of the book is the way the narrator grows mature when she starts accepting her neighbor for who he is. From being curious and apprehensive about his way of living life, she transforms to a person who looks at the world from his eyes, accepts his choices and in the process learns that he cares for her in his own special way.

My point, simply put, is that things seem to get complicated when we keep on opposing. Instead, life becomes plain sailing when we start accepting. Someone is acting in a particular way depending on how they perceive that situation. To acknowledge and respect another person’s perspective can only lead to a more positive outcome. The self growth accompanied by acceptance is incomparable. Not only does it broaden our horizons, it brings us peace of mind too. If you get a bigger picture, you get a perspective that is able to solve a situation that seemed unsolvable first.

The greater good is to recognize others and their viewpoints. After all, they say open-minded people do not impose their beliefs on others. They accept all of life’s perspectives and realities, doing their own thing in peace.

FIFA World Cup

A dramatic retelling of a FIFA World Cup match

Author: Aditi Chandrasekar

The day was the 16th of June in the year 2018. The time was 11:00 PM. The deep-voiced reporter on my tiny television was talking to an Icelander. “So, do you think Iceland is going to win today?” he asked in a jubilant voice. The reply came almost immediately-a flat voice saying, “No way. Argentina has Messi.” 

Indeed, it was going to be a David and Goliath contest. The hours preceding the match saw a lot of buzz about the possibility of Messi equalizing Ronaldo’s hat-trick in the previous day’s match. Some were ambitious enough to hope for a 4, or 5 goal streak in the match. The teams were now walking onto the field. All I felt, as the camera swept towards Lionel Messi, was a weak anxiety. The world was watching him expectantly. 

The referee’s whistle sounded and the first “thwack” on the ball reverberated through the stadium. As the match progressed, I felt my heart slowly sinking into my stomach. Iceland was dominating. Within the first 9 minutes, they had already made two very close shots. On the white and blue side, Messi missed two shots within the first 7 minutes.

Just as all hope seemed to be lost, Sergio Aguero scored his very first world cup goal quite brilliantly. The only thought that crossed my mind though, as the camera panned across everyone’s elated faces, was that Jorge Sampaoli, the Argentinian manager, looked like an ecstatic glazed donut. Instantly, I felt the need to jot this down in a notebook, and I did. My mind was already cultivating an idea for a comic based on all the football veterans as foods. Icelander Finnbogason’s nutmeg goal snapped me back to reality. My mind reeled with questions as the blond haired beauty broke into a celebratory run-Was this really happening? Could Iceland actually beat 3-time world cup champions Argentina? Should I make Maradona a burnt macaroon in my comic?

Soon, my mild opposition towards Iceland started getting tainted with real hatred. 

The ball rolled towards Messi, as though in dramatic slow motion. It fell onto the side of his stud and I let out a long sigh. A loose first touch was the last thing their team needed. Iceland seemed to be more and more determined to park the bus, as the Argentinian forwards openly struggled. In the struggle however, a hand ball by Iceland offered a glint of hope. But just as quickly as the happiness arrived, it escaped. The referee disregarded the hand ball.

I wondered with vain, if this was the ref’s way of apologizing for raking his heels against Icelander Gunnarson’s studs earlier in the match.

As the minutes passed, the nightmares rolled by, one after another. Messi’s penalty kick missed. Messi’s free kick missed. 

The match ended with a saddening free kick miss by Argentina. I sat through the panel discussion that now played on the TV, weighed down by sorrow- “Iceland will feel like the victors in the match even though it was a draw”, “Credit must be given to Halldorsson for being a good goalkeeper.” and other sentences that bounced off my unfeeling self. 

I retired to sleep, telling myself that Argentina would be back on their feet soon enough, unaware of the sad future that lay ahead for them in the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

 

Safety: A Birthright of All

Our constitution grants us the Right to Life under the many civil rights that it has provided for its citizens. This privilege promises that the state has to make provisions for the well-being and the safety of its citizens, something that it has failed to do in recent times. An individual’s safety includes protection from abuse, harassment, and predators.

How is it that no number of rules or laws can stop these sexual carnivores from inflicting a lifetime of pain and trauma on unsuspecting individuals? Cases of such hideous crimes are often brought up by the media and left to become breaking news. However, what surprises me the most is how gender-specific safety has become. There are laws and laws that are being passed to ensure that every Cinderella reaches home unscathed, without having to call upon a Fairy Godmother. Women now are in possession of a prerogative which exempts them from any legal action, if found guilty of the murder of their assailant while defending themselves. But in this “We-stand-for-equality” era, aren’t the males of the society equally prone to being targets for these demons in human forms?

Last week, the news highlighted the story of a 36-year-old woman who sexually attacked a nine-year-old boy several times for more than a year, all over a family dispute. The devil dwells in a female figurine as well and is capable of causing the same amount of anguish. There is a greater need to focus on the safety of the males in this country and not leave them to defend themselves with the weapon of masculinity. The perils of avoiding sex education and making it a taboo are faced equally by both the genders. When the judiciary decided to support the rights of the LGBT community, it was unaware of the dangers that could follow. Last month, the nation heard of a case in which a woman was guilty of abusing another woman. It is not just a man with cheap sexual fantasies that a woman needs to be aware of. Her own kind is capable of wounding her in a way she never thought possible. Well, for the feminists with the singular motto of “What men can do, women can do better”, this point is definitely in your bag.

A 14-year-old boy in Mumbai reported sexual assault by a man, soon after which he died of rat poison consumption. In India, the minimum punishment for raping a boy is 10 years in jail, compared with 20 years for assaults on girls under 16. Why this discrimination? While there still is limited awareness, focus and advocacy on women’s rights in sexually violent circumstances, it is even less so when men are the victims of these crimes. A man’s culprit deserves a severe punishment like a lady’s. Every person, be it a male, a female or a transgender, has the right to feel safe and secure walking down a deserted street at any time of the day. It is the need of the hour that we start addressing the issue of male security in the country and around the globe. After all, feminism is not about one gender being better than the other; it is about all of them being equal.

While the Nirbhaya rape case of 2012 succeeded in raising awareness regarding the safety of women in the country, male victims failed to gain much attention. The masculine gender happens to be the most neglected sufferer of sexual assault. A victim cannot get over the psychological trauma easily. It is essential that we try to understand their perspective and ensure that their voices are heard. One can spend a lifetime trying to forget a few moments that lie in the past. Martin Luther King Jr. aptly said our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. From infancy, males are told that they should strive to be masculine, i.e. resilient, self-sufficient, dominant in sexual interactions and able to defend both themselves and those relying on them for protection. This has to change. We, as a society, need to understand that these assumptions, very often, become barriers for them to open up and share their experiences. They believe that encounters of such abuse may contravene with these expectations. The right to equal safety provisions has to change
as an under-discussed phenomenon. It’s work that we all have to start right now.

The Game of Life

“Was the moon landing fake?”, “Was Avril Lavigne replaced by a clone?” , “Was time travel possible?” These were the questions that consumed me once I introduced myself to conspiracy theories. They overtook the mundane thoughts I generally had: food, the unpredictability of the future and several replays of witty conversations. Even though some of them sounded far-fetched, like the flat Earth theory, there was something fascinating about them. I couldn’t help myself from sleuthing around; I needed answers. The ones with substantial proof made me question everything; Nothing seemed real anymore. Among the several evidence bearing theories, one particular theory intrigued me the most, the theory that stated the possibility of the earth being a simulation. Every other theory had enough shortcomings for me to accept that it might be a coincidence, but this one had more “What ifs” than “That’s absurd”. Of course, saying “We are a bunch of characters in a computer game” sounded insane, but something within me couldn’t discredit all the coincidences that had happened in the past and how they seemed connected to a computer game.

I used to watch Sims playthroughs for fun, but after hearing about this theory, every second of every video became an opportunity for comparison. In the game, the player was allowed to control several people at once. Their likes, dislikes, actions and lifestyle, everything was in the player’s hands but in the latest versions, the people were allowed to have a say of their own. For example, in the earlier versions if the person wasn’t given an action, they’d stay idle till an order was given, however now it was possible that the person would begin to do whatever they pleased if no orders were given and they also had the ability to deny the order and do something else. This got me thinking, what if the orders were analogous to our inner voices. Sometimes we pay heed to them, sometimes we don’t, just like the Sims characters. There were so many tiny factors like this that boggled my mind. In the game, the player had an option to cancel the character’s actions from a lineup. This seemed very similar to something that kept happening to me- I’d go into a room for some reason, then I’d forget why I was there. Another thing about the lineup was that the order of the actions could be changed, just like our order of priority. This was relevant to the fact that sometimes procrastinate homework to do something less important. We could blame that on poor willpower, but what about the times I decided to put nature on hold just to continue scrolling aimlessly on my phone. The game also allowed time to pass by faster at the click of a button. Nothing of that sort ever happened in our world, right? What about the times when time would drag on till the point where we thought our watches were broken? The times when every minute was definitely lesser than 60 seconds? It made sense.

The next 2 epiphanies I had regarding this topic were not as concrete as the previous ones, they were sillier. First, a computer simulation would explain every paranormal experience anyone had ever had, especially strange occurrences involving movement of furniture and other objects, from their original positions. The game had a feature where we could change from “game mode” to “build mode”. Game mode was the mode in which the game was played and build mode was the mode in which we could rearrange furniture, buy and sell objects etc. Second, the character’s wants would show up at the bottom of the screen and you’d have the choice of whether or not to fulfil them. This was a lot like the law of attraction, which states that “if you believe you will obtain something, it will manifest into reality”. Obviously, an object dropping from the sky would be outrageous, but the coincidences involving people getting what they really wanted were too many to ignore.

But if the world was indeed a simulation, that would mean that there would be glitches in the system? It would mean resurrection and immortality weren’t impossible. I was left with so many questions, more than when I began sleuthing around. What if the simulation crashed? Would life continue from a checkpoint, like in the games? Was that why Mandela effects existed? What was the purpose of this simulation? Who created it? And why? Who controlled us? I couldn’t believe anything as it was, everything had something hidden behind it.