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'I am a very proud mother; he is a very nice boy'

March 16, 2007

Susheela Viswanathan, Anand's mother

It is legend now that Anand learnt the first moves of chess from his mother when he was a small boy. The lad has now become world No. 1.

Susheela, who taught Anand his first moves on the chess board, looks back on some unforgettable moments in the life of her youngest son.

Just five minutes before Anand finished his game against Vassily Ivanchuk of Ukraine at the Morelia-Linares chess tournament, I was watching the game on the Internet. I knew he had drawn the match. As Carlsen's game against Leko was going on, I had no idea about the outcome of the tournament. So, when Anand rang up soon after his game and told me that he won the tournament, I asked him, how he could say that he had won the tournament. He said, 'Even if Carlsen wins, he can only tie with me, and even then, I will be the number one.'

Soon after that, somebody rang up and asked us, 'Is it true that Annad has become the world number one?'

I told him that unless I hear from authentic sources I will not comment.

Then started so many phone calls that repeated the same question.

When Anand rang up later in the evening, I asked him, "Is it true that you have become the world No 1? So many people are ringing us up."

He replied: 'Yes. It is true.'

I was filled with so much happiness that all I could tell him was, "I am very happy, Anand, all the very best!"

I feel immensely happy even now but I do not know how to express my feelings. The tournament standards are so high these days that it is not easy for anyone to win. You have to work really hard, you have to be patient and accept success and defeat with the same spirit. Today, when a player loses one game, he loses a lot of (Elo) points. At the same time, it is very difficult to gain points at the highest level.

It is true that all of us have been waiting for Anand to be world No 1 and now the moment has come.

We celebrated our son's achievement by going out to have dinner that night. We do not know how he celebrated there, because when he came online to chat with us, we were eating out.

I will not say this is the best moment in Anand's life. There are many wonderful moments which I still remember. One such day was when he won the World Junior Championship. Then he became a Grandmaster, which was a very, very important event.

It was in Coimbatore that he became a Grandmaster. He is India's first Grandmaster and the second Asian after Eugene Torre. When Torre became a GM, Anand was only eight or nine years old. So, it was after a long gap that an Asian was becoming a Grandmaster again. Anand was 18 then.

I still remember how the boys there in Coimbatore ran out and bought a small present for him with the message, 'Congratulations, Grand Master Anand!' I have still kept that present with me.

Once in London, we were sitting in the gallery and Anand was playing a very experienced GM. He was 15 or 16 then. Anand, as usual, played a fast game and beat the man. As soon as he finished the game, he looked up and waved to me. I also waved back to him. All those sitting in the gallery asked me, 'Why is it that he is waving at you?' I said, "He is my son, that's why!"

There are so many such pleasant moments which you always like to cherish.

Once we had been to watch Anand play Karpov. Though Anand was very young, he played brilliantly, but Karpov, with his experience, won the game. Because he was young, everybody was rooting for Anand. He took it casually, as he always does.

We also had an occasion to watch him play Kasparov. The first seven games were drawn, and then Anand won the eighth game. My goodness! You should have seen Kasparov's behaviour. I said, "I don't want Anand to win at all if that man is going to behave that way."

He [Kasparov] was so abrupt after the game that he knocked out all the doors and made so much noise. He doesn't take defeat like a sportsman.

Anand has always been a cool person. You just can't tell a person to be cool because it is easy to say such things but difficult to apply in life. I have not seen him extremely elated when he wins. He has never come home crying after losing a match. You know, as a seven-year old, he won a book as a prize for perseverance! Though Anand did not win any game, he waited there and played all the games, and all the others were adults. Even after losing, he would wait there and watch the games of others. He was that kind of a boy. The organisers were so impressed with his attitude that they gave him the Perseverance Award!

I feel it is the father who helps his son develop important qualities. The mother only pampers by hugging and kissing her child! So, if Anand's attitude is commendable, the credit goes to my husband. Even today, when I talk to him, I only say I love you Anand, and he says, 'I love you Ma!' But his father points out to him what he should do and what he should not.

Everybody is asking me what gift I will give him when he comes home as the world No 1. But tell me what gift I can give him. He has got everything and he doesn't want anything. What he prefers is spending time with us. We will be together, talking, playing…

But I pamper him with our simple food. As he spends most of his time in hotels, he loves home food, especially what his mother cooks! He is quite happy with sambar, rasam, etc.

Yes, I am a very proud mother and I must say he is a very nice boy!

Photograph: Sreeram Selvaraj

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