Firstie Focus: Kessh Bhasiin ’22

Photo of Kessh Bhasiin ’22

Name: Kessh Bhasiin 

High school: Modern School Vasant Vihar

Hometown: New Delhi, India

Pronouns: she/her/hers

Possible major: neuroscience and behavior or biochemistry, and a certificate in Middle Eastern studies

Why Mount Holyoke: Coming from India, I have seen some women raised to be nothing more than a mother and/or a housewife. Mount Holyoke appeals to me because it raises us to something much more than that. One of my favourite things about the College is the Five College Consortium. And, as a student who studied both the arts and sciences in high school, liberal arts had to be what I pursued. Plus, the campus is gorgeous and there’s an unlimited meal plan, so what could ever go wrong?

Favorite places so far on campus, if you’ve been able to visit: I haven’t visited, sadly, but the library, the dining commons and the lake currently top my list.

In 10 years: I want to be in a place where I can look back at the last few years and be happy with the things I’ve done and the people I am surrounded with. Also, somewhere where I can give back to my parents and have them be proud of me.

Career aspirations: A doctor or a researcher in a biological or biochemical field.

About chess: If you were to ask any of my schoolmates, friends or family about any of my hobbies, I can say with 99 percent assurity that each of them would include chess on that list. I began playing as a pig-tailed six-year-old. I have been fortunate enough to find two brilliant teachers who patiently trained me and encouraged me to be my best. I became a state champion multiple times, captained my school team, which won the national championship, and represented my country at international tournaments.

A few years ago, just as I was finishing class 10, I began to implement my experience and training in a different way. Chess had taught me the power of imagination. I had developed a cognitive vision of sorts, and I began to share this with those who needed it the most — visually impaired children. I continue to travel to a school specially designed for these children, in my hometown of New Delhi, India, to teach six 17-year-old boys how to play the game. More than my own triumphs, their winning or even participating in a tournament, their sheer joy at my arrival and their eagerness to learn slowly morphed into my favourite part of being a chess player.

But I began to notice a few issues: My students had problems remembering things I had taught them earlier, they couldn’t review games to understand or analyse their mistakes, they were physically unable to see the time on the chess clock while playing against one another, etc. I began to search for a solution to these difficulties and the idea that came to me was an interactive chess board. This, to me, is one of the key ways to integrate visually impaired chess players into the mainstream world of 64 squares. The interactive board is designed to call out time and the movements of pieces, as well as several other elements aimed at enabling visually impaired beginners learn the game with ease.

Over the summer, I spent time meeting with people associated with building the board and continue to make changes to the design, keeping both ease of access and cost efficiency in mind. The game of chess has given me more than I ever dreamed of receiving. It has helped me foster relationships with my students, teachers and friends. It has enabled me to discover my love for neuroscience. And it gave a jumpy, outright tomboy the ability to sit at a board and concentrate for four to five hours at a stretch.

Also, I felt like Ron, so that’s always a plus.

Proudest moment: The look on my mom’s face when I won my first state championship

A noteworthy interest/experience: Definitely chess, but my months interning with a bariatric surgeon are also some that helped me be sure of my passion and actually understand what it means to be responsible for another human, their life and family.

How I spent the summer: Apart from teaching, I spent most of my summer writing, reading, skating, watching romantic comedies and documentaries on Netflix, eating and developing my newly discovered love of cooking with my father. I made a great amount of time for my best friends, parents and family before I jumped across the globe.

Influencers and social media accounts: Michelle Obama, Ellen DeGeneres and far too many travel bloggers

The most important things in my residence hall room: Nutella, coffee, a framed picture of me and my best friend, and Simba, the true Lion King.

Patronus: Probably a wolf because I pride myself on fiercely protecting those in my pack, crossed with a monkey because I’m dramatic and loud.

Hero: My mother, always and forever

Quirkiest thing about me: I have hypermobility of joints and can pop nearly every joint, from my jaw to my toes.

Favorite books: the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling and “When Breath Becomes Air” by Paul Kalanithi

TV shows: “The Simpsons,” “House,” “Sherlock” and “The Big Bang Theory”

Movie: a Hindi movie called “Jab We Met.” I identify with Geet, the female protagonist, far too much.

Music: My favourite song is “Wild Child” by Kenny Chesney, but my playlist includes everything from the Beatles to Hindi music to Drake.

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