I learnt chess from a girl on a train.
this is about the chess and not the girl.
Though back then, it might have been the converse.
I was eleven, and my memory is faint,
from what I can glean,
I had a magnetic chess box,
worked out well on a train meandering around Maharashtra.
And this girl with her long-fingered hands – that much I vividly remember –
set the pieces on alternate squares – the black ones,
and told me they could move only along the diagonals.
Which meant some of the pawns didn’t get on to the board.
That should have been my first clue,
but then my logic switch was not turned on,
or was suppressed, I can’t say which was true.
I took her word as gospel,
and moved along those slant lines,
until one tall lean black piece of mine
was blocked by a white guy.
White guy jumped over said black one,
and Ms Chess Teacher knocked it off the board,
and jumped over another
who had not moved at all.
That was how I learnt to play draughts.
This I realized a day later from my cousin in Goa
from whom I learnt chess.
Now you know why this story is not about the girl.
In moments when I might lose faith in humanity,
I will remember this,
I learnt a fun game from a stranger
when I didn’t even look for it.