Monday, 4 January 2016

Life is a game; Play it with God - a chess champion's journey_Part 2

A special connect with a champion
When I met Rakshitta Ravi for the first time, she hardly spoke anything with me. Yet, she exuded the affection and warmth that one would have for one’s own uncle! I was in awe of her because she had come to Puttaparthi as the World Champion in U-8 Blitz Chess. It is not everyday that you get to meet such young champs! She had come to meet me with her trophy and gold medal that she had won at the Championship at Dubai in late 2013. Was I flattered!

The little champ with a gold podium finish in the U8 Blitz Chess. 
At home, as we settled comfortably, her mother, Sai Meera, told me that Rakshi loved Swami’s stories more than anything else. She would listen to His stories without fail even between her matches. The statement that set my heart pounding with thrill was,
“... And Rakshi always asks for stories written by Aravind uncle...”
It is a wonderful feeling to discover that someone whom you are in awe of is also in awe of you. I brought out my wooden chess set and sought Rakshitta’s autograph on it.
“I would be grateful if you both also sign it...”, I requested the champion parents too.

My special Chessboard at home. 
When anyone asks me to autograph a book, my heart celebrates. While part of it is definitely gratitude to Swami, I cannot deny that my ego too raises its hood, however hard I try to suppress it. It was in this regard that I learned a lesson in humility from Rakshi. She turned to her mother and asked,
“Uncle has Swami with him always. Why does he need my autograph?”

That statement of genuine innocence hit me like a ton of bricks. Isn’t it so true that though we get God, we seem to value His creation more. At times, we even forget God’s value in our actually useless pursuits!

Three Chess masters leave their signatures behind
the board and one of them leaves
 a strong lesson for me... :)
“Don’t say like that Rakshi. Just sign for uncle...”
Her mother ensured that I got a signature but Rakshi ensured that I got a sign from Swami on how He alone is worth valuing. In that instant, I felt that I should remain connected with Rakshi also and learn many more such gems from her. Well, I am happy to say that I learned at least one more profound lesson in FAITH. But for that, we will have to proceed with Rakshi’s story from where we left off.

{This is the second part of an exciting story. For complete joy and satisfaction, it is recommended that you proceed only after you have read the first part at the link below:

A Sai-Student all the way

Rakshitta had qualified for the Asian and World Youth tournaments of 2012. She won the bronze medal in the Asian Youth tournament at Sri Lanka but went medal-less at the World Youth tournament at Slovenia.
“Ravi is so cool about everything that when Rakshi goes for a tournament with him, she somehow feels that she is on a vacation. No surprise that she went without a medal at Slovenia”, Sai Meera adds with a smile.

Rakshi focused on the Nationals again under her mother’s training and guidance. Once again, she came second in the country and won the opportunity to represent India in the 2013 Asian and World Youth championships. It was during that World Youth Championship at Dubai that Rakshi won the gold medal for rapid chess (Blitz), though she went medal-less in the Classic chess tournament. She offered that medal to Swami at the Mahasamadhi because she firmly believed it to be the gift of His grace alone. This also ‘coincidentally’ happened during a historic Bal Vikas meet because of which she also figured in the Radiosai article on the event.

Rakshi also got the Bronze medal in the Asian Youth Championship at Iran which was held before the Dubai tournament. Why she didn’t get the gold medal is an interesting story. Rakshi was playing one of the final games and was in a very good position. In fact, she had the opportunity of performing a ‘king-check’ and mate in a couple of moves using a rook. It was at this time that a situation developed.

Chess has a touch-move rule which specifies that, if a player intentionally touches a piece on the board when it is his/her turn to move, then he/she must move or capture that piece if it is legal to do so. A touch-move dispute arose in the match that was underway beside Rakshi. When the authorities came in to resolve it, the wrong child was being supported. Rakshi had seen what had actually happened and her sense of righteousness did not allow her to keep quiet. Going out of her way, she stood up for the right child and ensured that justice was done. The irony of the situation was such that when Rakshi returned to her game, she distractedly touched the wrong rook to make her move! Though moving this rook was not her original plan, it had to be played because this rook too was in a position to perform a king-check (but the mate could not be made to finish the game).The touch-move rule forced Rakshi to play this ‘wrong’ move. The little slip gave the opponent the breather to come back and choke Rakshi’s offenses. Rakshi finally succumbed and lost.
Rakshitta plays her games without forfeiting Sathya and Dharma.
“Why could you not mind your own business Rakshi?”, asked an exasperated Meera, “you could have been the gold medallist...Now, you ended up as the loser.”
“But Amma, have you not told me the story of Raja Harishchandra and his adherence to Truth? You said that Swami says Truth is most important and when Truth triumphs alone is one truly victorious. How then have I lost? I won today because truth won right?”

Sai Meera embraced her daughter warmly. Rakshi had embraced the Truth, even when it was inconvenient! While Meera's mind shed tears of sorrow at the price paid by Rakshi, her heart shed tears of joy at the value gained by Rakshi. Though she had not studied directly in Swami’s educational institutions, Meera felt that Rakshi was indeed becoming a Sai Student as per Swami’s definition - not a student of the University but a student of Sai’s teachings!

The ‘dream’ run

During the Nationals in 2013, Rakshi, yet again, missed the Gold and was declared joint-second. That qualified her for the next year’s Asian and World Youth Championships. A couple of months before the Asian Youth Championships at Uzbekistan, as she played an All-India FIDE rated tournament at Bhubhaneswar, Rakshi had a dream. Swami came to her lovingly and told her that she would improve in Chess.

Sai Meera was beside herself with joy when Rakshi shared the dream with her. She was excited at the prospects in Uzbekistan. Her excitement did not transform into joy because Rakshi went medal-less in the Asian Championships! A disappointed Sai Meera decided to teach her daughter a lesson or two in work ethics.
“See Rakshi, you should spend more time and efforts preparing for your Chess matches. I seem to prepare more than you! Why don’t you prepare for Chess in the same way as you prepare for a Maths exam? See, though God is the one who rewards, He always sees your efforts. No work - no reward.”
Rakshi silently heard her out. She definitely absorbed the lesson on efforts. But then, in her innocence, she also taught a lesson to her mother - a lesson in faith.
“Amma, you should have faith in Swami. He told that I will improve right? Are you doubting His word? Irrespective of what I do, His word will prevail. So, don’t worry. I will work also. But I will improve because Swami said so - not from my effort!”

In the months that followed, Rakshi had an amazing run. She went from strength to strength and increased her rankings by about 350 rating points. She played exceedingly well in the World Youth Championships at South Africa and missed the gold medal by a whisker. She ended up as the #2 player in the world in her category. Her parents rejoiced at her success. But, the fact that she never actually had struck gold anywhere rankled the mother. Rakshi seemed to sense this and, when the Nationals began at Pondicherry, she gave her best.

When Grandmaster Magnus Carlsen was in India to play Grandmaster Anand, Rakshi got an opportunity of a match
against him! (He played multiple kids at a time.)
It was a dream run and Rakshi blitzed through the first five games without even the slightest hitch. Just when Meera began to build dreams of a gold medal, Rakshi lost to the top seed of the tournament in the 6th round. That almost certainly put an end to her gold-medal dream because now she would have to win all the remaining games to have a chance at the top spot. At night, Rakshi closed her eyes and told Swami,
“Swami, please come in my dream. If you come in my dream I will win the tournament.”
She opened her eyes, wished her mother a good night and closed her eyes again.

The next day, as the mother-daughter duo headed towards the venue, Rakshi confessed,
“Amma! I had a nightmare last night. I saw myself losing in the tournament... I don’t think I will get any medal...”
Sai Meera was disappointed. She wondered why Rakshi had become so negative because she was still in a very good position to get a medal. She did not know of Rakshi’s prayer to Swami. She tried her best to boost Rakshi’s spirits but did not succeed.

In the middle of the lunch, Rakshi’s eyes suddenly lit up.
“Amma! I will win this tournament...”
A bewildered Meera just looked at her daughter seeking further clarification.
“Amma... Swami came in my dream. I remember now. I was playing a match and He came from a distance. He stood on the staircase of the tournament hall, smiled at me and blessed me. I am winning this now!”

Meera was thrilled to see this transformation - the girl who said that she would not be winning any medal at all was now absolutely convinced of winning the gold! It took a few more days and a few more rounds and, precisely as she had said, Rakshi stood on the highest podium as India’s National Youth Chess Champ! The 28th National U-9 Chess Championship at Pondicherry turned out to be the brightest spot for little Rakshi and her mother.

Sai Meera, Rakshitta and Ravi - the Chess trio. 

The dream of dreams!

Both of Rakshi’s ‘dream-runs’, in Chess and with Swami, continued. She had another dream in which Swami asked her what she wanted. She told him that she wanted to ‘do Seva’. Swami smiled at her, patted her cheeks and walked away. Rakshi enjoyed these special darshans. Her conviction that ‘Swami did not die’ just got further reinforced as she enjoyed His presence in her life. It helped her not only in Chess but in the game of life too. She realized that, unlike Chess, the game of Life had only one rule - have faith in Swami! It was easier to play than Chess.

It was adherence to this rule that helped Rakshi keep a calm and composed mind when her dear granny, Meera’s mother, became dangerously sick. Months of medical help and dedicated care from Meera (and her sisters) helped her recover. It was only Swami’s grace that Rakshi reigned as the National Champ in the middle of all this. There was joy on one side and sorrow on the other. Rakshi seemed to be on neither side for she was in the middle, seated comfortably on the firm wall of faith.

In the November of 2014, she had another dream. Swami came to the balcony and asked her again,
“What do you want?”
“Swami, I want to win the World Championships in Greece.”
Swami smiled and blessed her. That was the end of the dream.

Sai Meera was amazed to see Rakshi the next day morning. She was dancing in joy as if she had already won the World crown! When asked for the reason, she simply narrated the dream.
“Are you sure Swami said that?”
“Yes Amma! I am going to win the World Championship next year...”
Rakshi continued to exude joy and triumph. The father was a relatively new entrant to the Sai circles. He had not experienced a personal miracle yet. But he never came in the way of his wife’s and daughter’s devotion. If this dream came true, he was sure that it would be a Sai miracle. Sai Meera was very anxious. She did not want to count the chickens before they hatched. She also feared that if Rakshi had misread the dream, her husband’s fledgeling interest in Swami may also get shattered. She ensured that the dream did not spread beyond the three of them - barring one exception.

In the early part of 2015, Sai Meera messaged me about Rakshi’s dream and complained that she wasn’t preparing at all because she was convinced that she is the world champion already! I found it amusing at that time and told her that Rakshi was getting all the guidance she needed and there was nothing that I needed to tell her. I did not realize the extent of her faith then. I did not know that I was the fourth person and the only one outside the family to get the details of her dream. That was true till the day before Rakshitta left for Greece.
As is her practice, she sought the blessings of a Sai-devotee “aunty” in the third floor of her building. When the blessing,
“May you play well” was conferred on her, Ravi remarked,
“Why don’t you bless that she wins the tournament? Do you know, Swami already told her in the dream that she would be winning!”

Meera was so upset hearing this. She felt this was Ravi’s way of challenging her God and making the information public in case Swami did not fulfill what He had said. She had no doubts in Swami but she hoped that Rakshitta had remembered her dream correctly.

Faith is absolute

The World Youth Championships 2015 were held in Porto Carras, Halkidikki in Greece, from the 25th of October to 6th of November 2015. The 1596 participants came from 91 countries to take part in this unique event, where twelve age category  tournaments, ranging from U8 to U18, in the open and girls section took place.

In the U10 category, Rakshi began well by winning the first couple of games. But then, she lost two out of the next three matches. 3/5 was not a healthy score halfway through the tournament; definitely not a championship winning one. A break was provided for all the young players before the next six games. Meera was all tensed up - would her daughter’s faith in Swami be shaken because what He had said was possibly about some future championship?
“Amma, Swami told me about this Championship. Have a little faith. I am the champion.”

Late that night, as Rakshi slept, Meera was chatting with Ravi.
“Ravi, she is 2 down already...I don’t think she will win this Championship...”
“See, it is you people who say Swami’s dreams are true. When that is the case, wait till the end and then decide. Hold on.”
Ravi somehow had begun to take some interest in bhajans and Swami. Meera did not want the fledgeling faith to get a death blow. Our attachments in life make us want to ‘protect’ others faith in our Lord. What we don’t realize is that our job is to only protect and nurture our own faith. Each person is connected directly to the Lord and his/her faith is the Lord’s responsibility.
“No. What I mean is Rakshi might have misread her dream and led us all to build on a false dream...”
“Let us hold on till the end and see how it pans out.”

A bird's eye view of the World Youth Chess Championships in progress in Greece, across various age categories. 
As the parents were having this conversation, Rakshi was busy seeing her Lord in her dreams yet again. She saw Swami in the wheelchair with brother Satyajit helping Him to stand up. Swami turned, looked at Rakshi and smiled. Rakshi also reciprocated the smile. She possibly smiled in her sleep as well.

The next morning Rakshi absolutely refused to practice or even think about Chess. She just wanted to relax and play with the other children from the Indian contingent.
“Amma, this is the most boring tournament. There is no suspense left and I know what will happen.”
“Rakshi stop speaking like this. You have to win all your matches to even have a theoretical chance of winning the tournament...”
“Then, that is what will happen. Swami has blessed it so Amma. I have no suspense left now. I know that am going to win all the matches from here and the tournament too.”
Rakshi really had a bored expression!

Meera felt that probably her faith was shaky - not the faith in Swami but the faith in Rakshi’s interpretation of her dream. There is no thing as “shaky faith”.
“If it is shaky, it ain’t faith”, as a teacher put it.

Either faith exists or faith does not exist. There is no midway. You can’t have either 20% or 90% faith. It is only absolute, 100% - anything less than that amounts to 0%.

On the 6th of November, as Rakshi completed her final match and the final standing at the end of the tournament was announced, it was clear for Meera to see that Swami’s word had indeed come true. Rakshitta Ravi had done the unimaginable by winning six games in a row and tied at the top spot. Based on the fact that she had beaten the other topper during the course of the tournament, she was declared the champion!

The trophy and medal which every under 10 girl in professional
Chess aspires for!
The mother celebrated and hugged her daughter.
“Surprisingly, Rakshi did not celebrate with me. For her, it was as if I was celebrating a thing of the past. She had celebrated for this already a year ago when she got the dream. She asked me what the fuss was all about for didn’t we know this result before? Why celebrate suddenly now, having been tensed and silent all the while?”

The sponsors make Rakshi and the other two medallists pose with the trophy
after the Championships.

Rakshi's 'dreams' are connected to Chess and, more importantly, the Game of Life.
(A picture that I enjoyed taking at home. I was happy that a champ came home -

 a champ in Faith actually!)

It is only faith that allows one to celebrate every moment in one’s life without getting nervous, tense or beset with doubts. Even when things go ‘horribly wrong’, there should be celebration only. That is faith. And that is what I learned powerfully from Rakshi’s story of triumph. The official report carries the story from an Indian team perspective with details of Rakshi’s best game against Bat-Erdene Munguzul (She had lost to her in 3 previous meetings.)

“What is your future dream Rakshi?”, I ask her a final question.
She innocently misunderstands the word ‘dream’ and replies,
“When Swami comes in my future dream, I want to ask Him for a boon that whenever I want to see Him, I should be able to see Him. That is all.”

All the best dear Rakshi, in the Game of Chess and the Game of Life. You are a champion in both!

Download the photo and read one of the newspaper articles on Rakshi's achievements. It is
not surprising that the media keeps out her references to Swami. :)

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  1. Sairam Barru! I usually wait for the concluding parts of your multi part stories to get published so that I can read it all in one go :) and I'm glad I did the same this time.
    This child's story reads like a drama script! Beautifully narrated and written as usual, I had tears in my eyes reading this and a lump in my throat that won't go away. There's no doubt Rakshitta is a blessed/evolved soul to whom He is no stranger. I would love to track her progress and look forward to more updates from you on her, not just on her progress in her sport, but also about her experiences with our Lord. Thanks again Barru for a lovely Monday morning.

  2. The Indian media consciously ignores Bhagwan's Divine play...It also happened when "The India Today" group used Bhagwan's name for a commercial purpose & made huge profits but still didn't mention his name when the Train accident happened near Anantpur or even going to "Mandya" reporting that no woman was found to be named as "Kasturi"(misqouting Bhagwan's words on Prof. Kasturi)...Time will come they will automatically realize how much they(media persons) had wasted their time misrepresenting Bhagwan instead of realizing his "True Divine Phenomenon"...Sairam

  3. Splending! Kudos to Rakshi for such unswerving faith in Swami! :) She has indeed taught us a lesson about having solid faith in Swami and His words. :) Thank you dear Aravind for bringing her story to us. God bless!

  4. Beautiful, her faith is truly unflinching and as always your writing adds more beauty to the story.

  5. Sairam Aravind....Rakshita is indeed blessed by SWAMI to teach us all a lesson in FAITH and SHARANAGATI. Enjoyed reading the narrative from your pen...guided by SWAMI...Thanks a lot for sharing. Best wishes and Love

  6. Sai Ram Aravind, big lessons to be learnt here. 'look after your own faith and leave others faith to Swami.' 'There's no such thing as shaky faith, either you have it or you don't.''When you have God for your Best Friend and Companion what's the need for anything else.' And what a boon to ask of Swami!! Now,I wished I had thought of that. i am paying heed. I pray that her Faith remains as steady as a rock throughout life and she become a role model for millions and millions of youths throughout the world.loving regards, chandan aunty.

  7. Sai Ram brother Arvind. Rakshita is indeed really blessed and a huge inspiration to all of us. Irrespective of her being so small by age she has taught me such a wonderful lesson.Thank You very much for sharing this amazing story. Sai Ram

  8. A charming story of a child but carrying a profound message for the young and the elderly alike, for all inspired by the ONE SAI whom we al love and adore.


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