Krisha: "Confiding in someone you trust will not escalate the matter, but instead mitigate it. The bully is not stronger than you, and will never be."
Issue IX Young Person of the Month Interview Empower
Interviewed by Sadhana Mahato
20th April, 2021
Krisha Khandelwal is currently a freshman in high school. She is an International level Chess Player, an Indian Classical Singer. She is the founder and executive director of Let’s Defeat Bullying, an international non-profit that aims to educate and spread awareness against bullying and encourages children to seek help. She is also the co-founder of Project Injoy. In her free time, she loves volunteering with children, reading fiction, writing book reviews for her blog, and articles for other gen-z organizations like Zenerations.
Walk us through your chess journey.
Krisha: When I was about 4 years old, my dad started playing chess with my older sister and me. Back then, it was just another way for us to while away our time. However, my curiosity for chess was piqued by the time I was 5. My dad then put me under serious training and soon I started competing in tournaments. Before I realized, I had started growing fond of chess. For me, nothing mattered more than my game.
My first milestone was achieved when I stood first in my U-7 State Chess Championship. The next milestone was achieved in 2015, when I came 2nd in my U-9 nationals. Having stood 4th & 8th when I previously participated, this was an achievement that is extremely close to my heart…The following month, I stood 4th in the World School Chess Championship U-9 Girls held in Bangkok, Thailand and 2nd in the Asian School Blitz Chess Championship. In 2016 I came 4th in the Asian Youth U-10 Girls Chess Championship held in Mongolia. It was a great experience having played all of these tournaments.
Back in lower school I never had to study and thus practiced chess the whole day. I went for tournaments from one corner of the world to the other. However, when middle school barged in and the timings changed, my timetable was forced to alter. I was afraid that I would have to reduce playing my tournaments in order to be able to cope up with school. However, I was fortunate enough to be blessed with an excellent school who cooperated with my extensive travelling and were extremely supportive and encouraging for my Chess.
Right from playing tiring games for 4-6 hours in tournaments to practicing like there was no tomorrow, Chess has given me a lifetime of experiences. I have played with people from every corner of the world, faced my set of wins and losses and made a few friends and enemies along the way!
Tell us something about Let’s Defeat Bullying.
Krisha: Let’s Defeat Bullying is an online campaign to spread awareness against bullying, and encourage children to seek help. Our mission is to empower children and encourage them to stand up for themselves, and seek help. We are committed to changing the culture for students across the world. We work towards educating and spreading awareness against bullying, and we provide help for those in need and at risk of suicide, and raises awareness through our various programs and social media campaigns. Our mission is to educate parents and students about the detrimental effects about bullying, and work towards defeating it. We strive to promote and enhance social wellness among today’s youth by empowering and encouraging them to address bullying. We aim to enhance and foster a school’s ability to address bullying incidents in a proactive and timely manner through our programs, as well as by creating education and prevention strategies.
What prompted you to take action against bullying ?
Krisha: I vividly remember what it was like when I was being bullied back in 6th grade. My best friends were the ones who bullied me, and ostracized me from their group, and bad mouthed me throughout the grade. They made it really difficult for me to make new friends, and they would go up to people, and fabricate a story which was enough to convince the others to refrain from talking to me, and exclude me from their group as well. This was so frustrating and scary, and I felt trapped and lonely.
I really did not know how to get out of this terrifying situation, and I despised going to school. The only thing that got me out of that horrible situation was asking for help. Informing my parents and teachers, put an end to the bullying immediately. While I still did not have many people to talk to at school, I felt so much better knowing that I was not alone in facing the bullies. I was comforted by the fact that my parents and teachers had stood up for me, and had publicly called out the bullies for what they had done. Now, when I look back, I realize just how important it was, and how I took the right decision by informing someone older about what I was facing, and asking for help. If I hadn’t done so, they wouldn’t have stopped bullying me, and things would have seriously escalated. What I have gone through, is really hard for anyone to imagine, and unless you’ve gone through it, you don't really understand the magnitude of the situation. But I can tell you this, it feels horrible when you are a victim of such insidious behavior. The way you feel when you are being bullied cannot be described, and even though victims of bullying might not say it, they do need some help. I noticed how a lot of people don’t ask for help when they are being bullied and instead silently sit and suffer.
One of the main reasons why I founded Let’s Defeat Bullying is to encourage children to stand up for themselves when they are being bullied, and seek help. I know what it feels like when you are being bullied- how you dread going to school, how you feel helpless when you are being verbally abused and when you are being pulled down or cornered, and how your anxiety builds up. I’ve been through it. It takes time to heal from the consequences of being bullied. It takes time to heal from that traumatizing experience, and it requires help and support from those who you trust. It requires strength, and eventually you will emerge as a strong individual. Instead of silently suffering, and slowly losing all your confidence, you need to ask for help. Being bullied does not define us. We are stronger than that, and we will rise above it. We are all in this together, and we will get through this together. The best piece of advice that I can ever give you is to seek help. Asking for help does not make you weak or a coward, instead it demonstrates your bravery and courage. Confiding in someone you trust will not escalate the matter, but instead mitigate it. The bully is not stronger than you, and will never be.
Instead, the bully is just a normal person like you, who faces everyday problems, and uses bullying as a mechanism to vent out his/her feelings.
WE ARE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER, AND WE WILL DEFEAT BULLYING TOGETHER!
How do you help yourself and others to channelize one’s energies through chess and classical singing to bring about a positive impact in society?
Krisha: Chess and Indian Classical Music gives today's youth an avenue to express their overflowing creativity. Having played chess at an International level for over 8 years, chess really helped increase my critical thinking and problem solving ability, and I personally believe that it is imperative for the younger generation to have these skills. By teaching them Indian classical vocals and how to play the harmonium, we are channeling their inner creativity, and helping them learn a new form of music which will stay with them for lifetime.
Tell us something about STEM and how do you associate it with your extracurricular and academic pursuits?
Krisha: I am really interested in STEM, and plan on pursuing a degree in CS. I integrate my passion for STEM academically by taking a variety of classes, and getting a deeper understanding of the different realms that exist within this field. Extracurricularly, I have written a lot of articles on the different career options in STEM, powerful women in STEAM, why there is such a huge gender gap in this field, and how we can help disabled students study STEM. Through one of Project INjoy’s programs, ‘EDUjoy’, we empower females and non-binary students to take up STEM related careers, and teach them how to code for free.
How do you find a balance between your educational goals and responsibilities and recreational activities?
Krisha: Being an International Chess Player, an Indian Classical SInger, the founder and director of two international non-profits, as well as being involved with other Gen-Z organizations such as Zenerations, and being a full-time high school student, I certainly have a lot on my plate. But one thing that I’ve learnt over time is that if you manage your time well, then you can do as many things as you want, and still have some free time for yourself. Prioritizing is an important skill that I’ve learnt over time, and I strongly believe that if you make time for what you believe is important, then there will be time for everything.
What is your message to our readers and the youth of the society?
Krisha: Be Kind. Always. You never know what another person is going through, and the least you can do is be a person that they can trust, and give them a shoulder to lean on.