Kerala Village Started Playing Chess
Every evening in Marottichal, the hustle and bustle comes to a standstill.
If you were wondering, Marottichal is one of the lesser known hills in Thrissur district of Kerala. A place where the inhabitants have a special passion for the game of chess.
If you spend one evening in Marottichal, you will find people converging around black and white boards. They are all discussing hushedly, almost as if conspiring, with sudden joyous cries of “checkmate” – the game is just another way of life for the people of India’s first chess-literate village.
People of all ages, genders, and cultural beliefs are in love with the game, and have vast knowledge. You will find 8-year-olds lecturing you about Vishwanathan Anand, Bobby Fischer and Gary Kasparov.
It started out as an activity of leisure some three decades ago. Soon it became an obsession and a healthy one at that.
Some 25 years back, C Unnikrishnan came to the village and started a tea-stall after giving up a job in Bangalore. He found that the villagers were engaged in bootlegging and the youngsters were turning to brewing and the situation was going out of hands. Moved by their plight, he decided to distract them from the unhealthy ventures with the game of chess.
The 59-year-old started teaching the game to the villagers for free. Within a couple of years, chess became very popular in the small village. Now, at least 70% of the 6000 strong village plays chess.
Now, chess has become a normality in everyday life. And enthusiasts are welcomed with open arms in Marottichal .
Unnikrishnan’s wife complains about how her husband ignored the tea-stall and even outsourced the majority of his life-savings for his first love, chess, as reported in the Hindustan Times.
The Fischer fan imbibed the love for the game into the hearts of the villagers and later on, the Chess Association of Marottichal was founded in a bid to popularise the game even more.
Association president Baby John, who is a retired government servant, said, “We piece together our life around this beautiful board.”
The impact of the game has been huge. Both Unnikrishnan and John stressed on how lives of many villagers have changed. Violence and police inquiries are a rarity now. The villagers say that the game is used to checkmate the maladies of the society.
In January, as many as 1001 people played chess with the tables being lined up for a stretch of 1.5 km. This was a record for the most number of people playing the game at a single venue, and the village was thereby honoured with Universal Asian records (URF Asian Reward).
For others, it might just be another game, but for these villagers, it’s a way of life.