Play By Hand

Raakhi Jagga
Darpan Inani at the event Gurmeet Singh

TILL THE age of three, Darpan Inani had a normal childhood. But soon, he was affected by Stevens Johnson s syndrome, a disorder that claimed his eyesight. It was not easy to cope with the sudden shock, but I realised I had to accept this reality. I continued in a regular school and even represented my state Gujarat in U-13, U-15 and U-17 in National Chess tournaments of sighted players. Life was not easy, but I bounced back and found a life in 64 black and white squares, says Inani, who was in Ludhiana recently for a talk organised by the ladies wing, FLO, of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI).

At the event, Inani says, I had a rare syndrome, which happens to one in a million, due to which I lost my eyesight. By the age of eight, I had had over 50 surgeries, but finally I decided to live the way I was. Sometimes on the canvas of time, every stroke matters, but we need to remember that we are the artists and not the canvas.

The 25-year-old narrated how soon after he lost sight, he would often ask his mother why it happened to him. She would simply burst into tears. The only child of his parents, his father would console him saying it s god testing his courage. He d ask his son if he would pass the test, to which Inani always replied, Yes, I will. His father would encourage him: Jab tak jeet nahi jate, tab tak ladai khatam nahi hoti (till the time you don t win, the fight isn t over) .

Vadodara-based Inani enrolled in many sports including cricket and karate. But it s chess that won his heart at 13. His focus enabled him to compete with sighted players as well. Chess is the only game that allows a blind person to compete with a sighted person on an equal footing, he says. He is the youngest player to have ever won the National blind chess championships. Besides being a yellow belt in Karate, Inani also plays the piano and the tabla. He is the only visually impaired Indian to have ever won an international prize at Creon open chess tournament (a sighted tournament), in France, in his rating category, in August 2018. In 2013, he had a chess rating as high as 2053. It s also the year he won a bronze medal at the World Junior Championship in Belgrade.

You need to have a vision not visibility. We can imagine even with our eyes closed. When we have the will power and the determination, nothing is impossible, says Inani, who is currently pursuing his studies to be a chartered accountant. I have four papers left. For the last year and half, chess is on back foot as I was busy with studies, he adds.

Inani trains online as well from chess coaches in Chennai. To budding chess players, his advise is to practise for at least two hours a day. Chess and maths are a great combination. Both complement each other. Be passionate about what you do to excel, he says.