Born in Meham near Rohtak, brought up unconventionally, home-schooled and by the age of seven, ranked number two player in the country; Anuradha Beniwal (29), is all set to launch her debut book titled ‘Azadi mera brand’ at the World Book Fair in Delhi on January 10. Being from a state that is usually in news for the wrong reasons when it comes to women, hers is an unusual story.
An encounter with this gutsy girl, as she visits the tricity, and a peep into her writings reveals that she pens no touristy account of India and 10 European countries, but in fact the saga of a Haryanvi Jaat girl from a middle-class family who achieved early success and setbacks but continued her spirited search for independence and living life at her own terms. It all began when her father Krishan Singh Beniwal, a lecturer of Political Science, disillusioned by restrictive school education, decided that his firstborn daughter must learn a sport for he and his brothers had all gone through wrestling and boxing. He also decided to home-school her. “I proved to be no good at sports, being a weak and sickly child. When I was six, a friend introduced my father to Chess which he in turn taught my mother Saroj Bala and my training started. I too took very well to the game which was not very well known in our circles. Some wanted to know if it was ‘chaupar’ or ‘juya’,” recounts Anuradha with her characteristic Haryanvi humour.
When she was seven, she went to an under-10 tournament at Patiala but on reaching learned that there was only an under-18 tournament for girls. She participated in it and was ranked third. Encouraged, she moved from one success to another. She did her Class 10 from an open school while playing the game 10 hours a day and travelling for tournaments home and abroad. However, one setback in a national tournament made her wary of competition and the stress accompanying it. She took a degree in English Honours from Miranda College, Delhi University. Not satisfied yet, she took a degree in law and also did her masters in English literature.
“I took up a job in Pune and it was here that I met a girl called Ramonna who would launch off to remote places on low budget. I had thought travelling was only for rich people. But inspired by her, I did backpacker trips of Rajasthan and the South. Then after saving money, I decided to encounter Europe camping with my Pune-based friend Akhil Bansal in London. I travelled through France, Belgium, Netherland, Germany, Czechoslovakia, Slovakia, Hungary, Austria and Switzerland,” she says.
She was commissioned to the book by Rajkamal Prakashan with an editor seeing her blogs in English on web portals and posts in Hindi at Facebook. “I took the decision to write more in Hindi because I enjoyed it and reached out to more people through it,” she says.
The editor Satyanand Nirupam, who assigned this book, says: “The book will inspire girls to assert their own identity written as it is by a daring Haryanvi girl who seized freedom at every step.”
However, her childhood game was to come back to her when she married Akhil and started living in London. Today, she is a well-regarded professional chess coach in prestigious schools, teaching children in the age group of 4 to 10. “Even though I stopped competing professionally, I never stopped playing the game. A portable chess set always accompanied me through my journeys.” She is also the chess master at several British clubs.
A wish for Haryanvi girls
Anuradha says, “I feel free, secure and relaxed walking on strange roads at odd hours, sleeping in camps or dancing and singing. I wish to see this happening in the streets of Rohtak too. I was born and brought up there but I never felt the sense of freedom there. I wish to scatter seeds of freedom for Haryanvi girls.”