From chess champions and MPhil students to hawkers and the homeless, everyone takes a shot at the game at this truly unique club -- Gariahat Chess Club.
It is 7pm on a sultry night in Kolkata. Clusters of men huddle over chess boards under the busy Gariahat flyover, oblivious to the traffic and noise around them. This is the Gariahat Chess Club where for a fee if INR 10 you can become a member and play some pretty intense rounds of chess. Playing games like carrom, ludo and chess on pavements is something very Kolkata — the Left governments had installed carromboards in every nook and gully for one thing. This chess club was just an informal gathering of chess lovers in the area in the late 1980s, before the flyover was built. It took shape of a chess club in 2006 and is now called the Gariahat Chess Club. It has over 100 members — there are people who never miss a day’s play. You can also play caroms here. It’s open to all.
Also, Kolkata is one of the most egalitarian cities in the country — its public space are truly open to all. This chess club reflects that trait with people from all backgrounds coming together to play here — street dwellers, MPhil students, small traders, shopowners, retired professionals, school kids, middle class babus, in fact, many of the players are sons of hawkers who man the popular street stalls in the area.
This spot is also popular as a general hangout joint — friends catching up on their way back from work, sipping tea, people singing or strumming a guitar, beggars and the homeless contemplating life, street kids playing. All this in one of the noisiest, most polluted junctions in the city!