The Good, The Great, and The Grace: The Queen’s Gambit

Episode 8: End Game (Spoilers Ahead)

My father introduced me to chess. I was 8-an apt time to start training to become a master someday, only if I had the aptitude. (*light chuckles*). My first ever recognition of extra curricular activities in school was a 2nd place certificate in a Chess Tournament. I have played less of chess as the years passed, becoming lousier by the day, but I have always remembered what a stunning game it is. When Netflix’s The Queen’s Gambit came in, I knew I had to watch the show. After finishing the series in 2 days, I have a fuzzy feeling inside of me. The last episode, End Game, was heartwarming, not just because it wraps up the plot, and we bid goodbye to all the characters, but because it simply is.

Be aware, spoilers ahead.

The Queen’s Gambit is many things. It is without doubt a show with a class, portraying complex dynamics of genius, madness, addiction, fear, family, friendship. After the last episode, I have been thinking that the show is also about grace. The grace to win, the grace to lose, the grace to overcome, and the grace to be. It is grace that takes Beth from good to great, it is grace that makes Luchenko and Borgov the Grandmasters they are. It takes grace for Jolene to give up her savings for Beth. It takes grace for Harry and Benny to help Beth from a thousand miles away. It takes grace for Beth to let go of her addiction. And it is grace that allows her to be herself with the people of Moscow in the final few minutes of the series.

One of my favorite moments from the last episode is with Luchenko and Borgov, the two grandmasters.

“I resign with relief,” Luchenko says with a look of joy as Beth makes her move. Not a single strain of defeat visible on his friendly face, only grace to have played a great match. Borgov smiles as he realizes his moves have been outwitted-no anger, no resentment, no loss on his face. He gives his Black King to Beth and hugs her. He claps, a gesture that a new champion has arrived. (Oh and the background score that plays!)

In the first episode, Openings, Mr. Shaibel teaches Beth about resignation. This scene is used as a flashback at times when she loses, taking her loss mostly with anger and resentment. But the way Luchenko and Borgov accept their defeats is a graceful act on their own. I think they taught Beth how to accept both victory and loss, and perhaps us viewers too.

When the time comes, roads must be opened for the new to come in. That doesn’t mean the bygones are forgotten, it merely means there is time for everything, to win and to lose, to reign and to resign, to progress as the pawn from the front file, and to be Queen at the center of the 64 black and white squares.

I’m looking forward to reading the novel the series is based on. Hope it has arrived to this part of the world by now. Perhaps it would tinge more emotions in me as a reader.

I Made Clouds Today

I made clouds today,
floating from the tip of my
digital nib.
Drew them on a tablet
and painted
as I watched the screen.

I wanted the clouds
to be fluffy
like cotton candy.
Of course I can’t eat them.

I made clouds today-
blue sky and white clouds,
soft like furs of
the stray kitten.

I made clouds today.

Book Quote #5: The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown

Like millions of people all over the world, I came to know about Brene Brown through her TedTalk. However it was not her famous talk on vulnerability, rather the one on shame. I’ve stumbled upon her here and there through her podcasts, write ups, and other things on the internet. But never had I read her book. This was about to change after reading The Gifts of Imperfection.

There were times when I felt some stories and examples were a bit shallow and I wanted to know more about it, however, there were also lines, seemingly normal lines, that became glaringly obvious as it shone across the page. These lines will be sticking with me for a long time. The best thing about this book is how it normalizes feelings of shame, insecurity, worry, comparison, and many other emotions we feel on a daily basis but never have time to deal with. The book is simple and a good read for first timers in this subject or self help.

When I sat down to write this blog post, I thought an hour would be enough. I had underlined and made notes of many quotes while reading, but I didn’t think there would be so many that choosing 7 out of them would require a break and restarting.

Here are 7 quotes that touched my heart. There are many more, 7 for this post.

Ellen, I think asking for what you need is one of the bravest things that you’ll ever do.

As someone whose barely ever had courage to ask what I need, this line struck like gold. To ask for what we need, is indeed the bravest thing to do. Be it in class wanting to go to the bathroom or to ask what someone else is thinking. It is scary to ask for what one needs.

It’s as if we’re divided the world into ‘those who offer help’ and ‘those who need help.’ The truth is that we are both.

Sometimes we are the savers and sometimes we need to be saved. There’s no black and white. Our circumstances keep changing.

People often want to believe that shame is reserved for the folks who have survived terrible traumas, but this is not true. Shame is something we all experience.
To feel shame is to be human.

This reminds me of a line from Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower: “I think that if I ever have kids, and they are upset, I won’t tell them that people are starving in China or anything like that because it wouldn’t change the fact that they were upset. And even if somebody else has it much worse, that doesn’t really change the fact that you have what you have.” I think shame does that: invalidates what we are feeling.

We develop hope mind-set when we understand that some worthy endeavors will be difficult and time consuming and not enjoyable at all. Hope also requires us to understand that just because the process of reaching a goal happens to be fun, fast, and easy doesn’t mean that it has less value than a difficult goal.

We seem to be seeking pain even in places where it is not needed because pain justifies so many things for us. If it wasn’t hard, it wasn’t worth it. Maybe it is not true.

Everything required that we make more money and spend more money.

And what if we could make less money and spend less?

Squandering our gifts brings distress to our lives. As it turns out, it’s not merely benign or ‘too bad’ if we dont use the gifts that we’ve been given; we pay for it with our emotional and physical well-being. When we don’t use our talents to cultivate meaningful work, we struggle. We feel disconnected and weighted down by feelings of emptiness, frustration, resentment, shame, disappointment, fear, and even grief.

As I read these lines I remembered a scene and a line from The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. The conversation between Santiago and the Alchemist about finding the former’s treasure. Santiago is hesitant to go and seek his treasure as he thinks he might have already found it, and the Alchemist reasons that his heart will never stop seeking the treasure till it’s buried and out of reach. Elsewhere the line comes up: ‘You will never be able to escape from your heart. So it’s better to listen to what it has to say.’ A few pages later Brene herself mentions the book and how she reads it every year.

Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. because what the world needs is people who have come alive. – Howard Thurman

This book has many quotes taken from other authors, writers, and thinkers which I think is a great opportunity to explore their works and thoughts further. This one by Howard Thurman is gold. A lot of us including myself ask what sells in the world, what kind of job does well, what the world wants. Often we forget that it’s at the end about us and not anybody else and that’s the best we can do.

While all the content in the book is quite good, what sealed the deal for me is Brene’s own personal story that shows up at the end in the research section chapter. This makes it 8 quotes for the list, so let’s call it the bonus quote.

After years of dropping out, I graduated with honors from the University of Texas – Austin with my bachelor’s degree in social work when I was twenty-nine and immediately applied for graduate school at the University of Houston.

For someone who has been believing that we need to get our goals and life straight by so and so age, Brene reminds me that there is no straight way. As Tolkien said, not all who wander are lost. Maybe they aren’t. Maybe we aren’t. Maybe I aren’t.


The thing about quotes is it starts at one place and connects all over. Perhaps that’s the interconnectedness of the world and ideas. Follow Book Quotes at The Wordcastle for more such quotes from my past and recent reads. I like to believe there’s a reason why a particular quote strikes, connects, or sparks.

A New Planner: A New Year Poem

What a trouble it is,
a new year
for the first few days.
My hands so accustomed
to the old date –
writes it unconsciously all over.
A few months
and it is a habit
until another year comes by.

What does a change of calendar do
but make me feel older,
a little nervous of the passing time
that I seem to capture
in my daily planner.

I must now go buy a
new one, least I forget
the meetings scheduled
for this year.

A new year means many things,
a new planner and it’s cost
is the first it brings.

___

I’ve been wondering for a few days what post should I make for 2021. How should I wish you a Happy New Year for the year it has been. I am out of words. All I want to do is bask under the morning sun as the cold seeps away from my cold feet and hope that everything will be better soon. I hope you take some time to bask in the sun yourself as you feel the sun rays over your skin and realize that it’s magic. Other times I have been trying to buy a new planner, the correct size I am yet to find. And thus, a planner poem instead. Hope you enjoyed.

Happy New Year.