The children might not have exactly known who Viswanathan Anand is, but that didn’t stop them being inquisitive about their visitors. “What’s your name aunty'” was the shy question from one youngster, to Anand’s wife. “Aruna. And yours'” was the amused reply. It was just the beginning of a “wonderful experience” for the grandmaster, his wife and the kids. The couple chatted, laughed and spent some “quality time” with the underprivileged boys and girls at Udayan, a home for children of leprosy sufferers, in Barrackpore.
That was the first stop in Anand’s one-day visit to Calcutta, to promote computer literacy ahead of World Computer Literacy Day on December 2. As brand ambassador of NIIT, he stressed the importance of computers in everyday life. “I have to keep up-to-date with the latest data on chess, and the best source is the Internet,” he told his captive audience.
The kids sang, danced and performed a complicated yoga routine for the couple, before crowding around for autographs. “He’s very nice. I hope he comes back again,” one little girl declared. Anand smilingly announced that he would “absolutely love to support the kids at Udayan. I have too many commitments at the moment, but hopefully, in the future, I will be able to contribute something.”
Next stop, The Park, where Anand held forth on the pluses and minuses of students having a hobby, to a group of principals, teachers and a few students, in a lively interactive session. Questions like “How do we get a child to concentrate better'”, “How much does an extra-curricular activity eat into study time'” and “How important is a teacher’s support'” poured in from all sides. His answers seemed to hit the right spot, and many an educator agreed with Anand.
The chess champ even took time out to give advice to an eager bunch of fans. “He is my idol,” sighed one young chess player from St James School. “He told me to always play my best game and keep my form.” And in answer to “Now that you are world champion, what next'” from a student, he replied: “Hopefully, world champion again.”
Then it was off to NIIT’s Camac Street centre to meet a few lucky students, for a quick chat and autograph session. His resounding message for the day, Anand stressed, was “spread the knowledge”. Now, it’s back to the game. With four contests coming up early next year, he’s hard at work.