Player Profiles

All profiles authored by Ela Ghose (except her own)

Vandana Grover

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.


Vandana Grover: In memoriam.

With long, flowing silver-grey tresses, large eyes with a hint of mischief, Vandana had a dreamy quality about her. Her soft, slow speech and the “oh dear” when she either made a mistake or forgot something, made the average observer think she was a little forgetful and absent-minded. But in fact, she had a sharp, agile mind and was a wonderful raconteur, particularly when it came to stories about animals.

But above all, she was kind. Generous, compassionate and thoughtful, Vandana always found something good about everyone and was generous in both her assessments and action. She made time for her friends, whether it was to play Scrabble, just lend an ear, or advise and guide.

Her love of animals was intense: she adored her 5 cats (one of whom recently passed away) and knew their moods, temperaments and likes and dislikes. She fought tirelessly with her RWA to be allowed to keep them (and feed the stray dogs outside) and finally, after years of legal wrangling, won the right to take care of her pets.

She loved trees and plants and her spirit thrived when she was in beautiful, natural spaces. For her birthday this year, in March, she planted a few trees, one of which she said I could gift her as a present – and I did! She was deeply connected to nature .loved plants and trees and being surrounded by green.

When she came over to play Scrabble (in pre-pandemic times), in typical Vandana fashion, she made me a fridge-magnet with a little cycling figure and ribbons and my name. Her house is filled with the lovely art and craft that she has done over the years.

We used to play regularly on ISC and would chat between games. When I didn’t see her online for a while, I asked her if all was OK and she said her husband had CoVid and she was waiting to be tested. That was about 2 weeks ago. And now, in a telescoping of time, she’s gone.

Noise, arguments, stress were anathema to her spirit. She sought and actively embodied serenity, kindness, love, peace, harmony and beauty. The world is a darker place without her light. I hope wherever she is, she has all the beauty, love, peace, serenity, compassion and kindness that she would ever want. Shine on, Vandana. You are deeply missed.


Nitya Chagti

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.


Siddharth Nityanand

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!


Archana Aggarwal

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 Bhatia

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.


Shalini Shadev

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!


Charles Carneiro

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!


Pramit Kamath

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 Ghose

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

Akshay Hiremath

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".


Sudhir Kamath

Sudhir Kamath made his mark in the scrabble community as soon as he joined. Sudhir really knows how to play hard to get. After chasing him relentlessly for information about himself, one could sympathise with what the NCB officers felt like trying to get a statement from Deepika Padukone. This is what he finally divulged.

Sudhir used to play scrabble casually as a kid, but he discovered tournament scrabble 20 years later when he realised there is a delhi scrabble club where Sunny Bhatia, Marisha, Charles etc were a part of .Though Sudhir joined tournament scrabble in 2014, by 2017 he was already a part of the Scrabble committee and always had a peaceful solution for everything. He’s also been an active member of the Delhi Scrabble club, helping organize tournaments as well as bringing in new players through school workshops (in partnership with Collins) or organising informal meet-ups at cafes or homes.

In his first tournament, the inaugural GAIL cup held in delhi in 2014, he came 15th and realised that this is something right up his alley and something he enjoyed immensely. That’s all it took him to get hooked. His study of formal word lists didn’t start until 2 years later when he realised that “natural” word knowledge and strategy would only get him so far.

Sudhir’s most memorable scrabble moment is walking away with the first prize in CapGemini Division B in 2018, a feat he repeated in 2020. Another memorable moment was getting a 7-tile overlap against Carolann at the Mumbai nationals a few years ago (see the board in the pics)! That kind of unusual occurrence apart, he doesn’t get too excited and has a Buddha like aura around him regardless of whether he’s winning or losing. Maybe except when he loses to his son Madhav and then you can’t miss the hint of pride and joy in Sudhir's eyes!

The Kamaths are almost as popular as the Kardashians in this part of the world. Sudhir’s brother Pramit has also been on the tournament scrabble scene ever since he started playing while at IIT-B, and even represented India at a world championship. (For Pramit’s profile read here: Madhav went one step further and has already won a couple of age group titles at the World Youth championships. 5-year old Madhav started watching his father play, and remembered the words that he saw! Sudhir helped him develop this interest by printing a few word lists, and by age 7 Madhav was the child prodigy of the Indian scrabble scene. (For Madhav’s profile, read here:

What Sudhir loves most about the whole scrabble experience is the bond that holds the scrabble fraternity together, that delightful mix of people from different parts of India and even abroad. Socializing over scrabble tiles by day, and over dinner, drinks and poker in the evenings makes each tournament seem like a mini vacation. Coincidentally, it was scrabble that introduced him to poker! On one of his first outstation tournaments, he discovered a group of scrabblers who would get together to play some poker into the late night and soon that became one of the highlights of scrabble trips and that nudged him into his next career move)

After graduating from IIM-Ahmedabad, where he also found his better half, he worked with the prestigious consulting firm McKinsey & Co, and then led Suntera Energy as CEO. From barrels of oil he moved to poker chips three years ago when he founded an online gaming start up His life now revolves around this and he testifies that all the cliches one may have heard about start up life - product development, hiring, firing, raising funding, running out of funding, angry customers pinging him in the middle of the night, they are all true! He is not an expert at playing poker, but the popularity of the site with new and professional poker players, leaves us in no doubt about his leadership skills.

Sudhir is a father to three bright boys - Dhruv, Madhav and Rohan, with whom he bonds over football matches and board games. The lockdown has also given the family a great chance to spend time together though a lot goes in chasing the youngest for meals. He also enjoys travelling, solving cryptic crosswords, pub quizzing, and the occasional bit of reading. He jokingly tells us that for every book he reads now, his wife Malavika reads a hundred, and Dhruv probably reads a thousand! More than reading, he likes sharing “A link a day” on his facebook page - some quirky and some serious, but each one interesting. Currently he’s on a hiatus and plans to restart this when he has some time on his hands. As of now he is lucky if he finds time to brush all his teeth at one go without having to attend a call in between.

He is a firm believer of living in the moment and tries to make the most of every single day. His dry humour keeps everyone around him in a happy place. His goal on the scrabble front is to learn all the 3 letter words, enough 7 and 8 letter words and win a big tournament someday. Some of us are trying to teach him some interesting 4 letter words too, but that’s where his quick learning stops. He knows he has to set a good example for his boys.

Soft-spoken, mild-mannered and someone who naturally brings people together, Sudhir is an invaluable asset to the scrabble community, particularly the Delhi group which has grown in leaps and bounds under his eye.

Ritu Verma Chadha, inputs from Radhika Mahalingaiah & Ela Ghose