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Bhushita Ahuja: Helping with the queening of the pawns

Bhushita Ahuja, a passionate young 16-year-old girl takes it upon herself to empower the well-deserving kids coming from humble backgrounds through chess. Her foundation, Samvedna, teaches 500+ underprivileged kids chess from across 7 states in India. Her story is an inspiring one, the way she transformed from a sportsperson to a change-maker, fuelled by her passion and desire to give back to the game that had shaper her personality. Bhushita embodies the fact that age is just a number and she acquires personal satisfaction and a sense of fulfilment from her noble actions and as a believer of karma, feels it’s her duty to give back to society.

Bhushita started playing chess when she was 7 years old and the game was taught by her mom who had read the benefits of teaching kids this sport in a parenting book. Being an individual who loves to challenge herself, Bhushita soon found her immersed in the world of the 64 squares, joined an academy to learn the game professionally and got involved in tournaments. She won the Delhi State U-17 women championship in 2017, played for Delhi in Nationals at Jalandhar and represented the country in Teplice Open and Commonwealth games. Bhushita would often spend 8-10 hours a day practicing chess. As you may have realised, chess had become a part of her system and she was deeply passionate about the game. However, when she entered 10th grade, she had to make a very difficult decision. It was either chess or studies because both required a lot of dedication and it wasn’t possible to give both fields equal justice together. As she was only 15 at that time, leaving behind academics was not that encouraged by those around her and therefore with a heavy heart she decided to pursue chess as just a hobby. But it was like she had stepped in too far to be able to back out so easily and that’s where the idea of Samvedna came in her mind. A feeling, a desire to give back to the society through chess., an initiated that she started with her younger brother, Bhavik.

As a background, her mom is a full time social worker and she still remembers, she took her to a slum when she was 10 and made me play chess with a few kids there. Bhushita says, “I was playing against a boy who was 3-4 years older than me and around 20-30 people had gathered around to watch the game. That moment stayed with me and it is what inspired to me to target the underprivileged kids and teach them chess! Not only would chess help them develop essential life skills and have a positive affect own their academics but it’s also not a bad career path. “

They had decided the cause and step one was to gain the necessary funds to execute the initiative. They planned to organise a tournament to launch Samvedna and so, preparations for the same began. They got ONGC to sponsor us, spread the message in all their chess contacts and invited Gautam Gambhir and the Sports Minister, Kiren Rijiju as chief guests to the event. On 14th and 15th December 2019, the tournament took place at The Banyan Tree School, New Delhi with a participation of over 250 players. Well, making this event a success was not exactly a piece of cake for them… there were several challenges they faced in their path. For example, in the first week of marketing, they had 0 registrations and we were utterly shocked, on the brink of cancelling the event. However, they took their own chess learnings into consideration and just like the pawn doesn’t turn back, they decided they’ll not give up and instead change their strategies. So they started personally calling up parents and convincing them to make their children take part and gladly this worked. End all be all lesson was- Where there’s a will, there’s always a way. After the tournament they started 2 physical centres in the slums of Delhi and then were hit by Covid… the classes had to be shut and they were unsure what to do. But then they thought, ‘So what if things have shifted online? On the brighter side, if we start our classes digitally, we don’t have to limit ourselves to a specific geographical region, opportunities will be limitless. That’s what we did, got 20+ coaches from across the country to teach students in various regional languages, We collaborated with several NGOs and were able to educate 350+ underprivileged kids from across 7 states in India and the journey goes on…

Bhushita feels sports are essential for all round personal growth and therefore she envisions establishing a healthy sporting culture in the country. She wants to promote chess among girls as she feels there’s a stark gap in that sector and she also wants to introduce chess to senior citizens cause it poses several benefits for them. Bhushita feels when you give, you get more- give opportunities to those who require it and get respect and internal joy in return. Apart from chess Bhushita has several other feathers in her cap. She is an author, having written the book, ‘Open Your Wardrobe for Answers’ based on clothing psychology and she is also a motivational speaker- having addresses large corporates like Tech Mahindra and IRCTC as well as several colleges internationally. Bhushita feels dreams are what don’t let you sleep at night and when you really have the right intension coupled with the right kind of motivation, you are unstoppable. The ‘queening of the pawn’, a popular chess rule that allows the weakest piece on the board to become the strongest piece on the board- metaphorically represents what Bhushita is trying to achieve through her efforts. One drop at a time makes an ocean and even one source of light is enough to navigate through a dark tunnel… Bhushita’s story inspires us to be torch-bearers of change and create a positive impact that will be remembered for years to come.

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