Injury no handicap

SWATI MOHOTA didn't win the trophy. She didn't even threaten to (she in fact failed to qualify for the women's `A'). But she won hearts for her sheer courage.

She came to Kozhikode on crutches. She had broken her left leg while playing the Sangli tournament in Maharashtra on May 14, when she fell from the stairs.

There was a fracture and the doctor asked her to take bed rest for two weeks. So she promptly set out on a long, arduous journey from her home in Kolkata. She travelled for 60 hours, on two trains, throwing to the wind the caution and her doctor's warning. He had told that her she could go to Kerala only at her own risk.

She was determined to play. Injury was no handicap for her passion for chess.

Like all the female chess players in India, Swati, elder sister of International Woman Master Nisha, knew very well that this was one tournament she couldn't afford to miss. For, only if one plays in the National women's `B', one can qualify for the women's `A' (or one should be among the four seeds). And only if one finishes inside the top four in the women's `A', she would get an opportunity to play in international tournaments. Or she should be sponsored, like Koneru Humpy, Tania Sachdev or Aarthie Ramaswamy.

Swati's decision to risk an injury proves yet again it's not easy being a female chess player in India. "There was no way I could've missed this tournament," she said, and added with a smile, "And you've put me in the limelight, for the wrong reason," referring to a report in The Hindu about her courageous act.

It wasn't easy playing with her leg heavily bandaged, she admitted. She came to Kozhikode along with her father, and inside the venue, she hopped around, leaning on fellow Bengali players like Sunetri Das. "There's some pain in the leg," she said, "especially when the cushion on the chair is not right."

But that pain must've been negligible compared to the agony she went through when she failed to make it to the National `A'. Her chances vanished after she lost in the penultimate round to Kruttika Nadig.

But there are occasions when you are the winner, even when you lose. This was one of them.