Checkmate! - Shruti Bajpai

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Checkmate! No, we're not playing that board game here! In this edition of Collector's Item, we're talking about HBO South Asia country manager Shruti Bajpai and her husband Nestle India vice president dairy business Mayank Trivedi's chess sets' collection.

Shruti Bajpai

While the couple already boasts of 12 chess sets from various countries across the globe, they have just added two more from Turkey (where Shruti and Mayank are currently holidaying).

Speaking to Exec Life from Turkey, an animated Shruti says, "We have just added the 13th and 14th chess set to our collection. Turkey is famous for Mother of Pearl and also for Mosaics. We were keen to buy a chess set that was made of either of these and luckily we found both."

A Mother of Pearls Chess set from Turkey

They started their collection three years back when Mayank was transferred to Switzerland. While it was he who initiated this collection, Shruti too started sharing his passion for chess sets within no time.

Such is their passion for collecting chess sets that the first thing on their agenda while visiting a new country, is to go on a chess set selection expedition! "For us the priority is to have a chess set from a country that we have visited. It is very easy to ask friends to bring you back chess sets from where ever they are going but we don't like to do that. Secondly, it has to have something that symbolises the country the chess set is from and it has to have typical characteristics of that country and its flavor," says Shruti.

A chess set from Egypt

Shruti and Mayank have to pick a set from each country they visit and hence their home in Delhi sports a special area that displays their collection from countries like Equador, Egypt, Korea, Greece, Germany, Kenya to name a few. This special corner in their home is diligently looked after by Mayank, who is very possessive of the collection. Says Shruti, "Mayank has specially designed and constructed this corner in our house where we display the chess sets. The display has been set according to a pattern and no one is allowed to touch the pieces."

With the help of a small vacuum cleaner, the couple takes pains to clean their chess sets to make sure that dust is taken out of every nook and corner of each and every piece. While their collections sports sets made of different material like wood, ceramic, metal etc; each needs a different cleanser. "While we clean most of them with a soft cloth, there are some pieces that are made of metal and hence they require regular shining," says Shruti.

A chess set from Greece

While most of the chess sets are collected by them on their numerous trip abroad, there are a couple of sets that have been gifted to the couple by family and friends.

Of course, the hazards of picking up a fake piece or a 'Made in China' piece, when abroad are always there. To avoid being conned, Shruti and Mayank make sure that they do their research and also ask reliable people who know about the country's heritage to find out what they should be looking for in a chess set. "We are very careful to pick up the right piece.

Since we have been doing this for the last three years, we can now make out a piece that is a Chinese make. We make sure that we ask around for the authenticity of what we are buying to avoid being duped," she says.

A passion for traveling coupled with an interest in chess is what made them start their collection. While the traveling continues, the board game has now just become a prized collection of theirs, with the couple seldom getting down to playing the game itself. "While we used to play chess a lot earlier, now it has become more of a passion of collecting the sets. We don't sit to play anymore," informs Shruti.

Swaroski chess set: Ultimate Collector's Item for Shruti & Mayank

Since the couple is always on the lookout for authentic pieces, what is the kind of money that they spend on buying chess sets? "Since this is not "art" in the strict sense of the term, the monies are affordable! On an average, a chess sets costs anywhere between $ 100 - $ 300. We are also not brand conscious when it comes to these sets. In fact, we have some really elegant yet cheap sets," says Shruti.

While the collections increases year after year, one luxury that Shruti wants to treat herself and her hubby to in the near future is the Swaroski chess that she laid her eyes on some time back!

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