A Beautiful Failure, Manoj Barakoti, Runner-Up, Wordism Mangsir


Then, he would begin the warfare, and for me, it meant one disappointment after another. No sooner had I somehow held back my tears at one major loss, another even bigger blow would follow- every passing minute was then a slow and painful tow towards doom.

Occasionally, I would rejoice at an easy kill or his oversight, trying to boost myself up, trying to make even for all the horrible losses; only to find out later that it was only his sacrifice for an even bigger kill. The enthusiasm I had in the beginning, a slim hope of glorious victory, would wane away right before my eyes, and all I could do was try to make some humour of it, (hoping that he finds it funny); trying to feel “it is not real, It’s a game!”. Then my sisters would show up, eager to see my victory, but after they spent a few minutes reading the situation, they would walk away, not caring to give me any encouragement for a reversal, turning me even more despondent. Soon, my King would be hopelessly trapped in a nasty prison, and I would try my absolute best to simultaneously check if there is any escape and to find a way to digest the loss. This is how it mostly went during our holidays when I was in primary and secondary.

The first time my brother taught me the rules of chess, I thought it was a fairly mundane game with strict rules and victory being determined perhaps by a boring probability. He did not teach me the tricks and the ploys that rule the game. He is fifteen years older than me, and he was already very smart and experienced. I felt honoured to be around him, and I would give up other joys like playing in the swing to do something together. I used to overlook that I was trying to bite a lot; and after a humiliation, I would promise never to play it for years. But, the prospect of beating him always remained all the more alluring. He would find a way of flattering me, and I would get caught in the trap.

It was the favorite thing we two did during our holidays under the safety of our home, although it always ended with my blues. With his studies away from home, and my school near home, we would rarely get chances to spend time together, and I did not have many friends. To me, it was also a peek of adult life and guidance.

Last week, as I got notified in my facebook page about the world championship match Carlsen vs Kajarkin, I made time to review those games. Chess is quite similar to life. If you make a move, not only have you left the earlier impasse, but you have also begun a whole new train of . As the interpreter explained the moves and why the players made those choices, I was thrown back into my own way of thinking back in those days. I distinctly recall one instance when I won, and over the years, I gradually made him think harder and harder, but he would then use some cleverness wholly unknown to me and the game would be elevated up into another level. I would remain puzzled; I thought I was smart, and I could do nothing!

The match between Carlsen and Kajarkin was an epic battle that took an entire week to finish: with draws in 12 games and four short games-Carlsen was the victor. Chess operates through its nomenclature of every square, through its name for different openings, and through the recall of decisions players have made in the given scenario (in a way, new games are a sort of development over earlier ones); but it also moves around more subtle realms, like the side of the board from which the attack is begun and the calculations of possibilities of many many scenarios after a move is made. It was the first time I saw a world championship game and got a peek into their way of thinking. But in a way, I think it was also a way of making it even with my brother, now that I know, in the highest level, the secrets he used back then.

Perhaps I shouldn’t have played with him, perhaps I should have shied away, perhaps I should have known that he had too much of experience or he may be outright more intelligent. But, I would nevertheless enjoy the possibility of a complete reversal, even though that rarely happened, or it rarely happened in a streak strong enough to lead me to victory.

But, the games were never only about chess.
They were about bonding and fun amidst the often-turbulent family of ours. They were more about the talk that we had and the silence that we had during the game. These failures were the boldest part of my holidays back then, and now 22, I haven’t played with him for almost a decade.

Occasionally, we still enjoy the same battle of wit while playing cards, and I am thrown back to the memories of those chess battles and the talks we used to have. Chess was our most honest and clear way of talking, and those failures were rather beautiful. I hope to restart playing chess with him soon.

Question and Answer with Manoj

1. Tell us more about you.

I am currently studying agriculture and have a day job as a coordinator/teacher at a college. But a lot of other things are going on.

2. What was your thought when you apply to Wordism competition?

Well, I have always been in love of philosophizing and thinking things.I have been helping others to write things and I also have a literary/philosophical( you might call it political theory more aptly) project called “rato nilo seto” going on-which has taught me a lot of (and it might be postponed) things . In this particular contest though, I was looking forward to exercise some of my skills. And I was voraciously reading Hannah Arendt at the time. Thanks to this contest, I thought about those days that I wrote about. Otherwise, I would have never remembered them.

3. What are your dreams and aspiration?

(By the way, this is awesome. )Its not everyday that I am asked that. Part of my problem was I could not think about myself this way for years. Well, I would like to work as a professor at a challenging and prestigious institution and see where it leads me. But, mostly I would like to live.

4. Anything you want to say who is reading this!

Thanks for reading this. I want you to know that its very important to be eager about your own life and regard your own achievements as the most important. I want to tell them, just go out and explore.

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