Bullying and Communal Violence: Muslims are an Easy Target

One of the many things I hate about communal violence is that it ends up claiming the lives of innocents. The people who instigate the violence often end up finding an escape and the innocent victims are made to pay for somebody else’s fault.

Skimming through opinion pieces and news stories has been my habit ever since I was a teenager. It helps me keep track of the good, the bad, and everything in between.  Of late, I have come across quite a few stories wherein hate crimes against Muslims were brought to light. There have been cases of islamophobic bullying being carried out in the Western world. A research report issued by the Council on American-Islamic Relations brings to light a significant surge in the anti-Muslim incidents post 2017.

It is profoundly disturbing that the Muslim world has, for long, been pigeonholed. Some call them terrorists while others call them orthodox and rigid. Discrimination against Muslims is not something new. It has been happening for ages. Be it in the company boardrooms or professional sports, discrimination against Muslims is scaling new heights with each passing day.

The problem doesn’t end here. In fact, it’s just the tip of the iceberg. Hatred against Muslims isn’t just limited to the boardrooms, it is everywhere. It begins in schools, where Muslim children are stereotyped and labeled ‘backward’. They aren’t accepted as part of social systems. Islamophobia isn’t just marked by illegal detentions and arrests. It seems to have crept into our daily life.

Very recently, I came across a news story wherein a park in Noida (India) was waterlogged in order to prevent the Muslims from offering their evening Namaaz (prayers). Also, workplaces in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh have been asked to instruct their Muslim employees to refrain themselves from offering Friday Namaaz in public places. Now, waterlogging a park in order to avoid a peaceful religious gathering showcases nothing but fickle-mindedness of the authorities involved.

 Making people Feel Inferior is a Human Nature

Talking about hate and bitterness reminds me of the endless conflicts between the Sikhs and the Muslims. As I am a Sikh, you’d think that I hate Muslims, but you’d be surprised to know that some of my closest friends are Muslims. I sit with them when I am at work, while I eat my lunch, etc. Over the years, I have realized that people love to hate somebody.

I remember being bullied for being a Sikh. My turban was untied by a bunch of bullies and quite shockingly, one of the bullies happened to be a Sikh hims. Stories of children being bullied on the lines of religion happen to be a commonplace. The sad part is that the media doesn’t consider such stories to be newsworthy and peppy.

It comes as a surprise hatred against isn’t just limited to non-Muslims. It comes from other Muslims as well. Take the example of Syria. The country has turned into a bloody battlefield wherein countless innocent people are being slaughtered by rigid Muslim factions.

Creating a Healthy Environment

The first step to getting rid of hatred is to realize that all of us, irrespective of religion, sex, caste, etc. are nothing but human beings.  This reminds me of a dialogue from the popular Bollywood film “My Name is Khan” starring Shah Rukh Khan wherein his mother tells him that there are only two types of people in this world i.e. good and bad. The sooner we realize that bullies don’t have a religion, the easier it would be for all of us to keep moving in life. Forget Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, and Isaahi, judge a person by his/her habits and the world would be a better place ( hopefully).

Kerala’s Life Away From the Featherbeds

Not many would have thought that Kerala would make it to the Semi-final of the Ranji Trophy, India’s premier first-class competition before the season got underway. It certainly would be no overstatement to say that before the season’s commencement, the team from India’s far south was caught in dire straits.

The team was in shambles as a bunch of players, including the likes of Rohan Prem and Sandeep Warrier, had shown dissent against the captain (Sachin Baby). Also, it goes without saying that Kerala’s cricket association does not have an abundant pool of resources at its disposal. Not many domestic cricketers want to join Kerala cricket. Mumbai and Karnataka are the envy of most first-class cricketers because of the kind of perks and facilities the players are provided with. Continue reading “Kerala’s Life Away From the Featherbeds”

‘Close’ Review: Noomi Rapace Stars in a Film Full of Predictable Plot Twists

Blood, bullets, and a badass female bodyguard form the heart of Netflix’s latest offering titled ‘Close’. Starring Noomi Rapace as a no-nonsense war veteran who is hired to protect a millionaire’s daughter, the film is marked by a few moments of undoubted brilliance and thrill but falls way short of expectations owing to a predictable storyline and a wafer-thin plot.

It is time to take a closer look at the film.

An Overview:

The film begins in a war-torn area, supposedly somewhere in the Middle-East. Sam (Noomi Rapace) is introduced as a headstrong and steadfast woman who doesn’t think twice before pulling the trigger. Her latest assignment sees her protecting Zoey (Sophie Nélisse), the daughter of a mining tycoon.  After the death of her father, Zoey needs to be transported to her mother’s safehouse in Morocco. Sam accompanies her to the safehouse. It is here that things turn nasty. The intruders raid the safehouse and kill most members of the security team along with the Head of Security. Sam is seen bashing the bad guys in her attempt to protect the rich brat. The rest of the film deals with how both of them join forces to take the bad guys by storm.

The Story

To be honest, the story looks quite predictable right from the beginning. There’s absolutely nothing new on offer. We have a stern and steadfast cop protecting a rich brat. Zoey doesn’t get along with Sam at first but warms up to her eventually. Sam does everything she can in order to protect her. The story also brings to light Sam’s softer, and an extremely vulnerable side. We are told that Sam got pregnant at 16 and had to abandon her child. Everything happens fairly quickly.  The bad guys are made to bite the dust as Sam uses her survival skills to good effect.  The story has blood, bullets, and brutality.

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The Performances:

‘Close’ rests on Noomi Rapace’s brilliance. She is the axis around which the entire film rotates. The veteran does a commendable job and carries the entire film on her shoulders. She plays the quintessential action ‘hero’ and looks convincing and believable.  Also, she doesn’t rely on dialogues and lets her hands and punches do the talking. There are sequences wherein you want to humanize with Sam.

Sophie Nélisse nails her part with relative ease. She plays a usual rich brat who doesn’t care much about life. Her life takes an unexpected turn after her father dies and leaves his billion-dollar mining business in her hands.

The likes of Indira Verma and others do not get much screen place. You cannot expect to have well-defined characters in a movie that has a runtime of 95 minutes.

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Vicky Jewson has done a reasonably good job behind the camera. He has kept it tight and to-the-point. A 95-minute runtime doesn’t give you much time to think. No frame appears unnecessary. As far as creativity is concerned, the director has nothing new on offer for the viewers but keeps the film’s essence intact.

The action sequences are a major highlight of the film. Much like the film’s lead character, the film is a no-nonsense action film and has some adrenaline-pumping fight sequences to keep you hooked. The film has a purpose, it has a tightly-knit story, but one has to say that the ending felt a bit rushed. All of it appeared a bit too easy and straightforward for Sam.

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The Verdict

Simply put, watch ‘Close’ if you are a die-hard fan of the action-thriller genre. Also, Noomi Rapace’s stellar performance is enough to grab your attention. She holds the film together with effortless ease.

 Rating: 3/5

It Has Been a Path-Breaking Tour of Australia

Winning a series down under has always been the dream of each and every Indian captain. The fact that Australia hasn’t been a happy hunting ground for the Indians is no hyperbole. The series played in 2003-04 happened to be the last instance where the Indians managed to retain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy on Australian soil. Sourav Ganguly’s men succeeded in keeping the Aussies at bay throughout the series and managed to salvage a commanding draw in the 4th and final test match of the series after scoring in excess of 700 runs in the first innings. Consequently, the series was squared and the Indians managed to retain the silverware.

Approximately 15 years down the line, Virat Kohli’s men have defeated the Aussies comprehensively across formats. It certainly would be no hyperbole to state that there’s a wide gulf that separates the current bunch of Aussie cricketers from the ones who played in the 2003-04 series. Back then, the Aussies had some of the finest cricketers in world cricket. You had the likes of Ricky Ponting, Adam Gilchrist, and Michael Bevan in the batting department. The bowling department was no less impressive, with tried and tested names in Brett Lee, Jason Gillespie, and Glenn McGrath tormenting the batters frequently. Continue reading “It Has Been a Path-Breaking Tour of Australia”

Bits & Pieces

As I lay in bed, with your arms wrapped around me
I couldn’t think of anything apart from thee
When the heavens opened, the earth, in its entirety,
succumbed to the soft-falling shower.
As we lay beside each other, my heart skipped a beat
I guess it symbolized latent power

Overflowing streams of thought overpower me
As I think of you, with a thousand inked pages
Lying in front of me
At yet, not a single word has the power to describe you,
because you’re a spirit, completely untamed and free

Today, when I hold my pen between my fingers
I tend to realize that you’re quite a humdinger
You made me write what was untold
It lied there, in the coffers,
So cruel and cold

Whenever, in the shackles of ignominy, I am caught
Pieces of you overthrow the clutter
It is here that memories begin to return
And curtains of darkness, thick and suffocating
Begin to burn

Again, as I lay in my bed,
with a thousand fragments of unspoken thoughts lying beside me,
I look into your eyes
which have, after a long night, become heavy and red
You count up to three
And, as always, a piece of you flies into me

Picture Courtesy: Pinterest

When Our Bodies Met…


It was like holding a butterfly,
Beautiful and full of life
When I held you in my arms
For a moment there
I felt complete, I felt joyous

When our bodies met,
I felt a rush going through my body
And I wanted to melt away in your arms
Like a candle melts away
After it embraces fire

When I closed my eyes
I could feel you as you laid beside me
I could feel  your cheek on my shoulder
And I was aware of the pleasure it gave me

Our bodies met, like air meets fire,
To give rise to flames
And all cautions and worries were thrown to the wind
For a moment there, everything appeared complete

And then, out of nowhere, the splendour began to end
The dream broke, and my body began stiffening up
Everything began disappearing, my body began to freeze
Memories began to crumble
Like broken shards of glass

I could hear you breathing
What a wonderful dream it was
as our bodies met,
For the first and the last time
And then you bid adieu

 Picture Courtesy: Pinterest


Memories of Adelaide: The Iconic Dravid-Laxman Stand

Australia has always been an iconic cricketing destination. The Indians, in particular, have witnessed some of the most memorable victories on Australian soil. Both teams enjoy a rich cricketing history. Encounters between the two sides are termed as high-voltage and are known to grab a lot of eyeballs across the globe. While the Indian team under Virat Kohli looks to create history by registering its first series win on Australian soil, let us go back in time a bit in order to revisit one of the greatest partnerships of all time.

The 12th day of December 2003 marked the beginning of one of the finest Test matches the Adelaide Oval had ever witnessed. The second Test of the 2003-04 Border-Gavaskar Trophy saw one of the best “come-from-behind” victories in the Indian cricketing history. Some would remember the match for Ajit Agarkar’s match-winning spell of 6/42 in Australia’s second innings.

Others would remember it for Ponting’s commanding batting display, but fans will always remember it for the game-changing partnership between Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman. It was a partnership that saw them replicate the heroics of the 2001 Kolkata Test match. 

Rahul Dravid scored a scintillating double century, while Laxman scored a breathtaking 148. Both of these men helped the Indians to claw back from the brink to register an improbable victory, arguably one of their finest on Australian soil.

The Background

 The first day of the Test match saw the sun shining brightly over the Adelaide Oval. The Indian pace battery faced an acid Test against a formidable Australian batting line-up. A hard and dry batting strip greeted the Aussies after they had elected to bat first after winning the toss.

As one would expect, runs flowed freely and the Aussie great Ricky Ponting sent the Indians on a leather hunt. The Aussies piled on more than 400 runs, and Ponting raised his bat for a second time in the day to celebrate his double century.

The second day saw the Aussie tail frustrating the Indian bowlers. Forty-odd runs scored by Jason Gillespie Australia’s first innings total went beyond the 550-run mark. The alarm bells had started ringing for the Indians.

The Indians let the bat do the talking

Despite getting off to a promising start, the Indians found themselves reeling at 85/4. A deficit of 471 stared at them. Out walked VVS Laxman as the Indians began a phase of rebuilding the innings and giving him company at the other end was Rahul Dravid, his partner from down south.

Some watchful batting from the two helped the Indians to reach 180/4 by the end of the second day. The duo had stitched a 95-run stand in a little under 30 overs, but the job was far from done.

Ain’t no mountain high enough

The third day’s play at Adelaide saw Dravid and Laxman unleash their powers to turn the script in India’s favour. The duo stitched a monumental 303-run stand to steer the ship out of tumultuous waters. Both batsmen played freely and score at just about three runs to the over for the most of their innings. While Dravid preferred caution over aggression, Laxman scored rather freely to suck the life out of the Aussie bowling attack. The partnership, in all fairness, was quite similar to the one we saw in Kolkata in 2001. Both the batters kept knocking the ball around to keep the scoreboard moving. All the villanies of nature had befallen the poor hosts as the rock-solid pitch offered little or no assistance to the bowlers. 

Both batsmen made good use of the excellent batting conditions. The Aussies were without some of their finest bowlers ( the likes of Brett Lee, Glenn McGrath, and Shane Warne were not available due to various reasons). The Aussies were getting a taste of their own medicine. Even as Laxman was dismissed after scoring 148 with the scorecard reading 388/6, Dravid showcased great vigil and batted with the tail to get India’s total to 523; just 33 runs shy of Australia’s first-innings total.

An iconic stand 

The partnership between Dravid and Laxman redefined the way overseas tours were perceived by Indians. More often than not, the Indians were known to squander the advantage while playing in Australia, but this time it was different. Sourav Ganguly’s men knew how to play. They knew how to clip the feathers of a flying eagle.

India, under Sourav Ganguly’s inspired captaincy, had mastered the art of pulling-off unexpected victories. They could win a match from anywhere and against any given opposition. They could pull off victories from just about anywhere. Sixteen years down the line, the runs they scored can be seen ornamenting the record books, while these stories have become a part of the country’s cricketing folklore.