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India's Prodigal Son

Modified 30 May 2018, 18:09 IST

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We see black, white, red, blue, and almost everything around us. However, this young man from Vadodara, Gujarat can't get this simple pleasure of life. Yet, he has put this aside and done the unthinkable- winning the bronze medal at the World Junior Blind Chess Championships in Serbia in 2013. This was the first time ever that an Indian had won an individual medal at this event.

Darpan Inani, some of you might recall from the film 'Algorithms', is now 24 years old and is looking to make a comeback to the game after a gap of about eight months in the Commonwealth Chess Championships,2018 in New Delhi. Inani started playing the game when he was 13 and has won numerous laurels. These include being the youngest to win the National Blind Premier in 2010, representing the country in four World Blind Chess Championships, winning the Gujarat State chess tournaments in the normal category, and interacting with India's world champion Vishy Anand. He also won the strong Chennai Open in 2011 amongst a pool of over 300 players, proving that he could compete against any normally sighted player.

Apart from these achievements, what strikes one's curiosity the most is the fact that Darpan is 100% visually challenged, getting the Steven Johnson Syndrome when he was only four years old. This means that he takes 1.5 times the amount of time to do anything than any of us. He needs a person to accompany him wherever he goes, raising his expenses by double. Despite these shortfalls, Darpan has managed to achieve an international FIDE ELO rating of 1969, just six points shy of the current India number one. His highest rating was 2053, which he achieved in November 2013. Looking at his career statistics, Inani has accomplished these feats at most normal tournaments, not just the ones that are specially meant for the blind.

How can he do all of this? Well, put simply, he says, 'I realized my prime source of motivation at a very early stage in life – the satisfaction that comes after determinedly facing life’s challenges and emerging victorious! This is because I have had the opportunity to deal with numerous challenges since my childhood itself. I was born as an absolute normal child, but at the age of 3, I fell victim to Stevens-Johnson syndrome (a rare life-threatening condition) and lost my sight completely. It often happens that the very best of our capabilities and inner strengths are tested and brought to light when we confront adversities. No matter how hard the times were, I would never give up till my goal was achieved. As I grew up, the same attitude reflected in my curricular and extracurricular pursuits.'

These achievements raise eyeballs but there are more accomplishments to this bright lad's name. He is juggling his career as a chartered accountant as well and has appeared for his CA Finals in May 2018. He had secured a 99.75% in his grade 12 board exams and secured admission into most of the IIMs except Ahmedabad. These academic achievements coupled with the ones on the 64-squares makes one stumped with curiosity. In his own words to me, Darpan showed his positive energy in life and said, 'The most appealing thing about chess for me is that it is the only sport, which gives visually impaired persons an opportunity to compete with their sighted counterparts on an equal footing, without any modification in the rules.' This sentence fills one's mind with joy and passion for the game even more.

As Darpan, the new brand ambassador for Project Checkmate, now looks to make that come-back, all our 'eyes' are set on him to conquer the inevitable yet again.

Published 30 May 2018, 18:09 IST
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