If you have been to Chennai in the recent past, you may have disdainfully walked quicker down the street when a bright-eyed 14-year-old urged you to buy a rose. Perhaps, you should have looked closer at those eyes. In them you would have seen the fire to take on life and turn its odds upside down.
Saranya J. survives off the streets, where she and her mother sell flowers and assorted knick-knacks. She is also the best under-14 Asian girl chess player and placed third in the world under-14 championship.
From the streets of Chennai comes this story of sport transforming lives. It’s an extraordinary tale of one little girl’s pluck and human philanthropy. Saranya’s auto rickshaw driver father deserted her mother with two little daughters eight years ago. Fate saw her wander into the Bloom Chess Academy where she was mesmerised by the play of black and white only to discover that she had an incredible proclivity for the sport.
MA Velayutham, owner of the Academy, decided to prop her talent and Saranya mushroomed. “I don’t charge her any fees. In fact, everybody tries to help her out. Her classmates from well-off families pool in money to send her for tournaments,” says Velayudham.
“Apart from my friends, my school (Velammal Matriculation Higher Secondary School), gives free education and sponsors my overseas trips,” says Saranya.
The hard work and goodwill paid off when she started winning tournaments in quick succession. She became a national under-13 champion in 2008 and then took a giant leap ahead to win the Asian under-14 crown in the meet held in New Delhi in 2009. She did not sit on her wins; instead she raced on to win the u-17 nationals the same year.
Her aim in life is simple: “I want to give my mother a good life. She has had a tough time so far. I want her to eat well, dress well and relax,” says Saranya. It’s certainly motivation enough.