Cooking at tournaments
Some years ago I met Harika at a chess event and, as always, had a great time chatting with her. Suddenly she said: "Frederic, can I invite you to dinner?" – "You invite me?" I asked incredulously (she was like sixteen at the time). Sure, she said, and when I asked her to what restaurant she said "No, in my room." Turned out she cooked a meal there, in a little rice cooker, with vegetables bought at the local market and homemade spices she carried around with her. The meal was delicious – and all the Indian players were jealous that I go to eat it, not them. I asked Harika why she did this – the meals in the hotel were part of the package. "But they are so bland," she said. "I can't taste anything!" Harika comes from Guntur, a coastal town in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. The food from that region is know to be very spicy, but deliciously so.
Back to the Times article: Harika tells the author how she travels with a "pressure cooker" (actually it is an electric cooker without pressure). "My mom packs all the necessary masalas for me. So, once I am in my hotel room, I cook. Of course, the hotel officials don't know that. Actually, I got caught in Russia this one time. I, like a stupid girl, kept the pressure cooker out and the someone at the hotel noticed it and took it away. Other than that one instance, I have never been caught. You know what? I actually made this practice (of carrying a pressure cooker and masalas) popular in the chess circuit. Now, some other players also do the same (grins, mischievously). I am not a great cook, but my co-players seem to enjoy what I make.
Another aside: Back around 2008 Harika promised me that she would become a full GM (fulfilled), the Junior World Champion (fulfilled) and Women's World Champion (pending). When she lost very unluckly to Mariya Muzychuk in the rapid chess tiebreaks of the semifinals in this year's World Championship she actually apologized for this mishap. I had shown her some important functions of ChessBase 13 and she wrote me in Skype: "[31/03/2015 19:13:09]: Cloud engines were really useful, thank you so much for providing the needful. Maybe in future will make u proud. At least will try." You have already made me very proud, dear girl!
Chilling at home
Harika has been travelling to tournaments all over the world for the past fifteen years and says that she is now tired. Given a choice she'd rather stay at home, 24/7. "Actually I have become a homebird. I just love to laze around in my PJs and spend the entire day sitting in my room," she told the Times. "It's a task to get me out of the house." She reads chess books and play the game for hours. She is also addicted to TV series. "What I really like doing is plonk myself on a couch and binge watch TV. I watch every possible soap that is aired on TV, in any language. I know all the storylines and love drama."
Harika says that people find her strange, because she doesn't like hanging out and does not go out of her way to make friends. "Partying? It's just not my thing. I might go out for a movie once in a while with family. I don't even have another hobby, come to think of it. People must think I am 'uncool', but like I care.. I am 'cool' with that!"
See the article.