All profiles authored by Ela Ghose (except her own)
A soft-spoken lover of felines and all things furry, Vandana can be fierce when it comes to protecting our four-legged friends. She is also a passionate advocate for the preservation of the environment and has participated in several city-wide programs. A self-acknowledged introvert and old soul, she loves music, gardening, beautiful spaces and expresses herself through painting and creative writing.
In “real life”, Vandana is an educator who blends creativity into every assignment, fostering curiosity and an innovative mindset.
As an academic and avid reader, Vandana finds the world of words fascinating and Scrabble is a part of her continued journey of learning. She has participated in several tournaments across the country.
Nitya Chagti, a consummate scrabbler. Her mother, Anuradha, is the driving force behind the annual Delhi tournament: the GAIL cup.
Currently studying for a PhD in Late Antique European History at Syracuse University, this 22-year old burst onto the scrabble scene when she was barely a teenager. Always an avid reader, from her first scrabble game, she was hooked to Scrabble with her first game where she made a prescient (G)LOVE-GRINDER! She even wrote about it on a blog here. Her passion drove her to study hard, learn strange word lists and, as a consequence to win several State, National and International accolades in Scrabble.
When she started playing competitively, her "Scrabble dream" was to beat the 2013 World Youth Scrabble Champion, Moiz Baig, in a match. She was able to face off against him in 2014 in Sri Lanka where she beat him by some 30 odd points. A triumph and warmly recalled moment!
While playing tournaments in different cities, she also wrote a horror-suspense YA trilogy of which the first book was published (she was 15 at the time), was dancing professionally (modern, contemporary, jazz, and limon), and leading heritage walks in Lutyens Delhi.
And if by now, you think she’s just some academic nerd who can also dance, here’s what else she enjoys doing: long-distance swimming, kickboxing, hiking, boogie-boarding, and yelling out hilariously incorrect answers to TV game shows.
Nitya approaches everything she does with an ‘all-in’ ethic and has devised a way to use her anxieties and failures to fuel her achievements. As a youngster she had a few bad experiences with water and as a result was afraid to swim. But at the age of 18, she decided she no longer wanted to be afraid and learned how to swim. Now, four years later, she sees swimming as a meditative experience and apart from regularly swimming 2 kilometres in one go, has also qualified to become a lifeguard.
Similarly, her failures in Scrabble have steadied her by knowing that when she’s down, she can pick herself up and go on to win. Perhaps the one attribute that defines her, is grit. Perseverance and tenacity come easily to her, and consequently, the fruit of that labour too.
So what does the future hold for her? She hopes to be able to dive into teaching, which she sees as a reflection of her swimming experience: where she will be constantly challenged and forced by the antagonistic current of questions to become a better learner. And she wants to do some diving IRL too - sky-diving is on her horizon!
I would normally have ended this here, but a recurring theme through our conversation was Nitya’s mother, Anu. So for those of you who don’t know her, here’s a brief synopsis through her daughter’s eyes: a pillar of strength, genuine to the core, a dedicated hard-worker (whether at office or home), optimistic (channelling Robert Bruce here!), and her lucky charm. Tough to say who is luckier!
When Nitya’s back in Delhi later in the year, she’s promised to play a few games with new scrabblers to teach and, I think, inspire.
Sid started playing competitive scrabble regularly with the Gurgaon chapter about a year ago. Soon after he entered the 2019 CapGemini Tournament in Bangalore, playing in Division C and placed toward the bottom of that division. A year later, in January 2020, he played again (same place, same tournament, same division) and won the division. No easy feat there! Later in the year, at the Wordaholix tournament at Lonavla, he won an award for best performance. He has collected these accolades with hard work and regular analysis of games. Apart from a large and growing scrabble vocabulary, he is very accurate at scoring (some credit for that is due to his ‘real life’ work that entails crunching masses of data).
Sid loves playing with young kids and enjoys losing to them too! The kids have been a great inspiration for him and he owes his success partly to them (mainly Madhav Kamath, the under-10 All-India scrabble champ).
He is a voracious reader, is extremely creative (he likes to hand-make gifts and cards) and enjoys travel and experimenting with food. He is also an animal lover and board game geek (he plays games like Codenames, Saboteur, Catan, etc).
His dream is to write a book some day. He hopes to quit his job soon and take up teaching so that he can get more free time to do all the things he really likes – with a large chunk of his time for Scrabble!
A lovely mix of contrasts, Archana’s poised and sophisticated exterior belies the friendly, curious and helpful person within. She claims to have a short temper but (fortunately) it is never in evidence. According to her, Scrabble helps her keep cool. Ever amiable while at Scrabble, she ensures that everyone is looked after with a characteristic warm smile. An excellent baker, she ran her own bakery business till scrabble edged it out.
Archana took Scrabble enthusiastically and in a short period has participated in national and international Scrabble events. She is also one of the organisers of the Delhi Scrabble Club.
Her scrabble study and play are interwoven with running an efficient home. Her scrabble goal is to organise a successful outstation Scrabble Tournament in 2021 and to be ranked in the top 30% of the country.
Sunny lives up to his name: radiating energy and buzz, he energises any environment around him. A fairly late entrant to scrabble, Sunny started playing competitive scrabble about 6 years ago and in a short span of time has become the No. 1 player in Delhi.
When he started playing in 2014, there were only 4 people in the club! By 2016, some well-known players had joined the club (Charles, Pramith – both seasoned players – and Sudhir, a relatively new player then). They used to meet at the DLF Club in Gurgaon with the understanding that whoever won the games, didn’t pay for their meal. Several free lunches later, Sunny realised he was on to a good thing. He had a natural affinity for the game and was able to hold his own (and beat) more experienced players. Success breeds success and today Sunny is well-entrenched in the scrabble community.
Regular study and game play keeps him ahead of the curve. So far he remains unchallenged in the Delhi No. 1 position!
While scrabble is a relatively new-found passion, his first love is badminton. He plays intense badminton for a couple of hours every morning and has done so for the last 30 years. Sunny’s idea of an ideal life is to work with animals, play badminton and scrabble and also actively encourage youngsters to take up scrabble competitively.
Petite, light-eyed (Shalini is convinced an ancestor had been naughty!) Shalini professes to be the quintessential Punjabi: Friendly, helpful, generous and somewhat devil-may-care.
She was introduced to the game by Charles Carneiro (profile coming up!), who was her neighbor at the time, and has been hooked since then. She’s been playing regularly with the Gurgaon group for the last year or so. Shalini struck gold at her very first Gail Cup when she
won the best newbie award in 2019!
She is now one of the most regular scrabblers in Gurgaon and one of the most improved players in the NCR circuit. She first examines the board for juicy openings and then looks to place her tiles – and she can quickly compute her options too. A math teacher with a love for words, Shalini is set to get her teeth into competitive scrabble!
She has travelled extensively and has lived in many different parts of the country. A polyglot with a flair for languages, she picks up a language if she hears it being spoken often. She can speak Punjabi, Bengali and Kannada with varying degrees of fluency. Now she speaks Scrabblese too and is looking forward to ‘regular’ scrabble tournaments!
One of the best players in India, Charles started playing competitive scrabble from the get go. At 16, his family moved from Dubai to Fujeirah, a small town in the UAE and he was introduced to Scrabble by a group of his father’s friends who, by today’s standards, would have been A-div players. Combining his passion for Blitz Chess and Crosswords (there was no anagramming software back then!) with his innate competitiveness, Charles debuted in competitive scrabble with a stellar performance. In his first competitive tournament (UAE Open in 1990) he scored 615, with 6 bingos: BIRDIES (opening move), INTIMATE (second move on BIRDIES) and PANACHE, J?STIFY, OMINOUS, ZE?OING. Picked, J, Z, 3 S’s and both blanks. A dream game in a dream tournament.
Charles regularly visited and lived in Mumbai, where he used to play regularly with top-notch scrabblers (also coincidentally ‘Gulf-kids’), Akshay and Sherwin. After moving from Mumbai to Delhi, and more than 6 years of looking for scrabble partners, Pramit Kamath* said his brother (who lived in Delhi) though a newbie, might be a good player. Sudhir Kamath** has gone on to be a great player in his own right, and has fathered two scrabble prodigies- Madhav *and Dhruv*. Along with Sunny Bhatia* and Marisha Sharma** these four laid the foundation for Scrabble in Delhi.
He has an off-on affair with Scrabble. When he stops enjoying it, he stops playing and restarts after a gap. He’s had around 6 "returns" to Scrabble since 1990 with gaps ranging from 6 months to 6 years. What he loves most about Scrabble is the social element of the game. Some of his best Scrabble moments included late nights in between tournaments chilling with Irfan, Sherwin, Nakul, Udayan, and Akshay sometimes as late as 2 am the morning of a tournament. And they all usually went on to great finishes despite the lack of sleep.
Although Charles is deeply involved with Scrabble, his most enduring passion is to play the keyboards. He currently plays with a Gospel Band but has also played with a rock band in Gurgaon called InDeep!!!!! (the 5 !’s are a part of the name). Although he no longer lives in Delhi, he sees himself as a Goan Dilliwala (his Hindi gives him away) having spent many years in Gurgaon. Charles is also a bundle of energy, constantly talking and constantly in motion. Scrabblers joke that one day a scientist will figure out a way to connect him to a circuit and power a small generator!
When he’s not playing keyboards or Scrabble, he professes to play tennis, cricket (he’s a bowler) or poker. Legend has it that he was an amazing pool player and had financed his partying in college by wagering on his pool matches!
Most who know Pramit can vouch for his ability to speak Double Dutch, but few know that he can actually play scrabble in Dutch.
He lived in Amsterdam for six years during which time he was a member of the Dutch Scrabble team. His bonafides were established by his ability to correctly pronounce the village name, Scheveningen –apocryphally it has been said that the soldiers in WW2 were identified as belonging to the Dutch side based on their ability to do the same!
He got to play scrabble tournaments all over Europe (Czechia, Romania, Germany, England, Israel and Malta), but his favourite scrabble memory is of a Dutch Versus Germany friendly tournament at the tiny, picturesque border town of Rösrath. The players stayed the weekend at a friend’s home, and over barbecue evenings and friendly banter, played long days of scrabble. Stuff scrabble dreams are made of…..
One of the pioneering scrabblers in India, Pramit has played competitive scrabble from his first year in IIT Mumbai. He began his ‘scrabble career’ at an IIT Madras fest and soon after his introduction to the Bombay scrabble club, played at national and international competitions, ranking second in India at the 2003 Nationals and 69th at the WSC 2003 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
While Pramit is still a top-notch player, he prefers to wake up late than rise early to catch the first games of a tournament, and consequently rarely plays tournaments any more. However, he has recently been persuaded to play the Lockdown Masters where 12 of the best players in India play on-line against each other.
He’s passed on the scrabble affliction to his elder brother (Sudhir) and nephews (Madhav and Dhruv), all of whom are champions in their own right.
Pramit also enjoys poker and chess. He watches Agadmator’s chess channel (‘thoroughly enjoyable’) and believes that the tips and stratagems help him in daily life and work. He plays poker any chance that he gets. The common thread across all these games is maths and strategy, both of which he enjoys.
Though his nicknames - armpit, and marpit khatam – suggest a seedy side, in reality he is quite the opposite: friendly, encouraging and warm with a great (though often self-deprecating) sense of humour. FYI, the photo was titled "In lockeddown-ed style"...
Ela discovered outdoor cycling about 10 years ago and over the last 10 years, she has ridden 1000’s of kilometres. For the last few years she has averaged about 10,000 + kms a year driven largely by her passion for endurance rides. To support her biking habit, Ela works as a freelance market researcher.
Ela started playing Scrabble competitively in Sri Lanka where she was working as a market researcher. She has played with the SLSL (Sri Lanka Scrabble League) and with the Singapore Scrabble League, and most recently with the Delhi Scrabble Association. Last year she came 2nd in Division B of the Gail Cup. Her most memorable Scrabble tournament was an all-nighter in Singapore on the 31st of December. The competition started around 8 pm and finished early on the 1st morning. She doesn’t remember the date but remembers thinking that this was a very good way to bring in a new year!
Ela is an integral part of the Gurgaon Scrabble meet-ups that take place several times every month.
by Akshay Hiremeth, 01.06.2020
First impressions of Akshay bring to mind Pooh Bear: gentle, soft-spoken and agreeable, with a ready smile that puts everyone at ease. This exterior conceals a disciplined, dedicated and thoughtful person.
Travel is a leitmotif in Akshay’s life: he runs a travel souvenir company, blogs regularly on travel and ensures he travels to at least one new place every year. Akshay enjoys exploring things in depth, whether it is a travel destination, movies, pop / rock music and/ or tennis (he never misses a Grand Slam final on TV, and avidly follows tennis rankings and tournament results!)
Unique to Akshay is his daily dairy, in which he has written a page a day since 1988 i.e. for the last 32 years! To ensure he stays within a single page (irrespective of the excitement levels at any day), he has developed neat, tiny, spidery writing. As a result, his scrabble score sheets look like art work with the scores neatly printed in each column. Combined with his accurate math, Akshay rarely makes mistakes in his scoring.
His introduction to competitive scrabble was through a chance meeting with Sudhir at the Delhi Gymkhana Club tournament in 2015. Since then has gone on to be one of the Gurgaon "regulars".