It's only words...

It's only words...
Scrabble, as a board game, has been on a long journey. What started as a fun game to get the family together has taken on a competitive spirit over the years. It is this competitiveness that acted as the foundation for the ‘Bangalore Scrabble Club’ (BSC).

In 1998, Rex D’Souza, a retired captain from the Merchant Navy, visited Hyderabad, where he saw Scrabble take on a different avatar. It was the first time he saw the game being played with an aggressive spirit. On returning to the City, he related the experience to his wife Lennie, who decided to found the club. “That year we had a tournament in St Joseph’s School and about 100 people turned up. This made us start the club for avid Scrabblers,” she says.

Since then, numerous members have come and gone but there are those who have stuck on with passion. Manju Sood, an interior designer, has been playing Scrabble for nearly 12 years. “Umita (Melwani), a Spanish teacher, and I have kids of the same age, so we would take them to a park and play Scrabble there. Then, we heard about a tournament that was happening in the City and thought we’d go. We were very intrigued by the fancy words and immediately enrolled. There has been no turning back after that!” Umita adds, “I have been Scrabble since I was a kid but when I joined BSC, my game improved a lot. We discovered how to use tracking sheets, bingos, different combinations and word lists and to play with a timer. This gave me a phenomenal jump in the game.”

Although Scrabble is not an unfamiliar game, the members of BSC take it to a new level. Says Umita, “It’s more fun when you put a number to it and play in competitions. Many of my friends ask me to play with them but since they don’t know how track tiles and don’t play with a timer, I can’t do it.”

Sanjoy Gupta, an ad professional who has been playing for over a decade, adds, “There are two reasons I like Scrabble – there’s the puzzle angle, where I play with words, find anagrams, fit, extend and overlap words. Then, there’s the competitive angle of outsmarting your opponent.”  

There are others who play it for the love and think of it as a learning experience. “I love Scrabble, I’m addicted to it! I really look forward to playing and I’m happy I found this club,” says Nalini Bhat, a passionate Scrabbler who was introduced to the competitive side in Kenya. “I was in Kenya and a colleague’s daughter asked me to practise with her for a tournament. Since then I’ve been drawn to it,” she adds.

Saraswathi Rammanohar, a confectioner, loves any kind of puzzle. “The game makes you think all the time and keeps you alert; it stops you from thinking about negative things. Even when I’m walking or driving, I juggle the different possibilities and how to use them,” she says. According to her, it’s not about competing with others but yourself. She has been in the club for almost seven years.

People from different professions enjoy the game. Now, it has become popular with the kids as well. Harsh Sood, a school-goer, started playing because of his mother, Nupur Sood. She says that she wanted Harsh to learn the game as an alternative to technology. Yash Potnis, a 13-year-old, has been playing the game since he was 10. An avid reader, his mother Vidya Goggi says that he picked up the words quickly.

“It took him about a year or two but he surpassed my rating. It’s a way for him (and me) to learn new words, improve our vocabulary and spellings,” she says.

But it has been hard to spread the word and Lennie says that there isn’t as good a response as there should be. “In places like Thailand, you can see thousands of kids playing Scrabble. Many of them don’t even know English but they are world champions. The problem here is that it isn’t encouraged in schools,” says Manju.

Sanjoy agrees that the growth pace has been slow. “The number of people who play competitive Scrabble is in its hundreds. Although corporates have shown interest and some workshops are being held, it isn’t enough. But when compared to before there are more resources available on the internet and this helps those who are interested,” he says.

All of them agree that the club has helped them expand their horizon. “Being a part of the club has helped me compartmentalise my brain,” says Manju. With mathematical and strategic aspects to the game, it is indeed likely to push one to do their best.

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