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An Open Letter..

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Open Letter to Mr Narendra Modi

A Bollywood film called ‘Udta Punjab’ is to be released on 17th June, this year. A film I, and many others across India and the rest of the world, have been eagerly waiting for. Unfortunately, I have recently learnt that the Central Board of Film Certification (Censor Board) are censoring the film because of its subject matter; drugs.

I do not live in India, I live in the U.K. but that does not mean I am happy with this new controversial development surrounding the fate of this movie. Frankly, I am appalled with this decision to cut over 80 scenes from the movie as well removing the very essence of the plot; the state of Punjab.

My parents were born and bred in Punjab, my grandparents, great-grandparents and so on. My life is enriched with the culture and traditions of Punjab. I may very well be British but my heritage originates from Punjab. I, like many other Indian citizens, am concerned about this decision made by the censor board, for a variety of reasons.

Removing Punjab from ‘Udta Punjab’ defies the whole point of the film. ‘Udta Punjab’ will depict the horrifyingly high usage of drugs in Punjab, where over 70% of the youth are drug addicts. By taking Punjab out of the equation you are allowing the state to get away with issues that should be dealt with head on. Do you honestly believe people aren’t aware? I have visited Punjab many times and I have witnessed first hand the complications that arise from drugs and how the government of Punjab and India are idly sitting on their hands whilst a state tumbles head first towards its death.

For the first time, ever, someone has decided to finally speak about the issue of drugs and now you are doing everything in your power to stop them from highlighting a message that affects the future of your country? Not once has anything been done to try and reduce the use of drugs in Punjab. The government is fine with the state getting destroyed by drugs misuse but what irritates them is when someone brave enough comes along and makes a film on it. The hypocrisy of the Indian government baffles me.

The Punjabi government is known for banning films that portray the reality of their misdeeds and to some extent, if I put myself in their shoes for a minute, I can understand their (deluded) need to hide their mistakes. In the past, a couple of Punjabi movies have been banned in Punjab because of their subject matter. However this did not stop the outcry and outrage of the thousands of Punjabis around the world. The movies were shared on social media and were tremendously successful abroad, I should know, I watched them too.  But enough is enough.

Anurag Kashyap (a film director and producer) recently tweeted this:

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I wholeheartedly agree with his statement. I find it encouraging to see well known and critically acclaimed Bollywood directors putting their foot down and protesting against the censor board.

A lot of Bollywood movies have ‘item numbers’; songs that show female actors dancing and singing in a sexualised manner. I have always felt uncomfortable with the idea of item numbers purely because of the degrading manner in which female actors are portrayed. I have the uttermost respect for Bollywood actors and actresses that branch away from such sexism and provide entertainment through films that actually have a moral and ethical tie to them. ‘Udta Punjab’ is one of those films and it sickens me that the movie is being cut so those who place themselves on a pedestal can continue to live their privileged lives without any obstructions.

Drugs, rape, sexism, dowry, discrimination, homophobia are subjects that deserve to be spoken about. The youth of India deserves to be shown the truth about its country. The highest platform to get that point across is the Bollywood movie industry. With the exception of cricket, the Bollywood movie industry has the biggest impact on Indian citizens. Filmmakers who use that as an advantage to spread good are the ones I respect and when a filmmaker is using the same platform to talk about an issue that the majority of India needs to know about, why are they being hushed up? For what reason?

Mr Modi, you have constantly said that India is a tolerant country. Is it? When its own government and constitution cannot comprehend the importance of freedom of speech and expression, how can you expect your citizens to follow through?

Punjab is my hometown. I love the people, the traditions and culture that lives within Punjab. But if drug misuse is not brought under control, Punjab’s youth will descend towards their death. Growing up, I saw Punjab as a state that flourished with vibrancy. Now all I see is the aftermath of a state forgotten by its government and left to fend for itself. ‘Udta Punjab’ deserves to be shown in India and across the world. Those 80+ scenes deserve to be shown and Punjab itself needs to be brought to the forefront of every Indian’s mind because without that, the state and the people of Punjab and other states across India will continue to suffer.

Simran Gill

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International Women’s Day..

 
In the last couple of months I’ve come across an organisation that fights for equality between males and females. There are already a few well known organisations that are challenging society norms as we speak. One such example is the He for She campaign. The reason I’ve decided to speak about the Pink Ladoo campaign is because it’s something that I can relate to intimately.

The Pink Ladoo campaign is also fighting for equality amongst South Asians by selling Pink Ladoos (an Indian sweet) to celebrate the birth of a baby girl.

As someone who comes from an Indian background, I guess it’s safe to say I’ve suffered gender discrimination in a variety of places from a variety of people. The sad thing however, is that my first glimpse of inequality was bestowed upon me before I was even born.

I am a Sikh. My parents were born in Punjab, India. My ancestors were Indian. I have three sisters, no brothers.

To most people the latter part of that statement would not raise eyebrows, however amongst Indians and South Asian culture, the very thought of having four daughters and no brothers would be deemed a criminal offence. Perhaps not as much now but definitely whilst growing up, I was constantly criticised for having no brothers, as were the rest of my siblings.

Growing up around and with Indian traditions and culture was, at times, difficult. As a child I was always made to feel as if my family was incomplete because my parents did not have a son, or because I did not have a brother. I was constantly belittled for being a girl. The statement, “oh only if you were a boy…” was ingrained into my brain from a young age. The fact that I wasn’t good enough because I was a girl, hurt me deeply and annoyed me to no extent.

As I grew up I began to see just how much discrimination females faced within Indian culture and I began to disassociate myself from such ideals. One particular traditional event that still gets on my nerves today is Lohri, this is a traditional event where the birth of a boy is celebrated. Big or small there’s almost certainly a celebration if you’ve given birth to a boy. I am completely against the idea of just celebrating the birth of a boy. A child is a child.

With that in mind, my family and I celebrated the birth of my 9 year old cousin when she was born in 2006. She is the pride and joy of our family and is loved and cherished by us all. She’s brought so much happiness in our lives and I’m so proud to say that she is my sister.

Although my sisters and I have grown up constantly being criticised for our gender, the one person who suffered the most was my mum. There is no one in this world who I love more than my mum. She’s an inspiration to me and she’s the one person who makes me want to be a better person.

Whilst my siblings and I were young, my mum was called names, ridiculed and ostracised for having four daughters. My dad faced difficulties too but most of the wrath was towards my mum. The culprit: friends of our family and relatives. The worst culprits in my eyes.

The constant whispers, gossiping and hateful looks drove my mum crazy but she didn’t let that phase her. She fought against these bullies to give the four of us our best chance at life. The unfortunate thing is that majority of the time it would be women criticising my mum. How a female can treat another female like that is beyond me. I don’t understand what goes on in their minds. The fact that they cherish having baby boys more than girls is laughable because they too, were at one point, baby girls. It astonishes me the lengths some women went to make sure my mum had a boy. My mum is a warrior for fighting against gender discrimination and it’s a subject that I too feel strongly about.

I fully support the Pink Ladoo campaign because a baby girl’s birth should be celebrated. She shouldn’t be shunned by society or aborted because the family wanted a boy. It’s awful the lengths some people still go to in order to have a baby boy. This needs to stop. Girls are as incredible as boys.

We are not the weaker gender, there is no such thing as the ‘weaker’ gender. We should not be dismissed nor should we be made to feel subservient. We give birth to the next generation and as individuals it’s important we take a stand to highlight just how pivotal our role in society and in this world is.

Today is International Women’s Day and I wanted to share this post to highlight that equality starts at home.

Happy International Women’s Day! Let’s fight for equality together.

#PledgeforParity

More information about the Pink Ladoo and He for She campaigns can be found in the following places:

Pink Ladoo He for She

I am afraid..


A couple of months ago my sisters booked tickets to go see an event at the O2 arena, a popular event which many of you in the UK will know as the Jingle Bell Ball. An annual Christmas concert for music lovers. At the time we were very excited when we received tickets and we were looking forward to what would be (we presumed) a joyous and entertaining evening. However in light of the recent terrorist attacks, I was becoming more unsure of actually attending the event.

For the first time in my life I felt this fear that almost consumed me. I didn’t let it show, nor did I speak about it but inside my mind all I could think about was whether or not I would be safe going to the concert. There were moments when I was tempted to just cancel the whole evening. As it turns out, we did end up going and the experience has taught me a lot about fear itself.

The second we arrived at the O2, I had this deep sense of paranoia that was really quite suffocating. I kept thinking of the Paris attacks and the most recent attack at Leytonstone train station in East London. My mind automatically thought the worst, yet there was nothing in my line of vision to even provoke that sense of fear.

As we walked towards the arena entrance I saw an officer with a guard dog, standing and casually looking over the crowd. His seemingly calm demeanour didn’t hide the stark reality of why exactly he was standing guard over this crowd of strangers.

Our first steps into the arena were halted by employees and officers who scanned us and checked our belongings before letting us through into the dome. Although the security went a long way to reassure me that I would be okay, a part of me was saddened by just how much life has changed. The constant reminder of our lives being in danger is always around us and what hurts most is that no matter how much we say we won’t let fear ruin us or how we’ll go to a certain event to defy terrorists, deep down we’re all subjected to this claustrophobic atmosphere every time we’re reminded of what has happened.

We’re all human. Fear is an emotion that is hard to control, just as any other emotion we might feel. It’s brave to say that we will fight it and carry on as normal but are we really ever normal again? Becoming paranoid at a loud bang or a suspicious package is something almost everyone has probably now been a witness to. Being afraid does not mean I am weak, it does not mean I am a coward or that I will let terrorists win.

It means I’m human. I have the ability to feel and be humane because I’m afraid for myself and others. That’s an emotion we can’t force ourselves to ignore and it’s an emotion that we shouldn’t be ashamed of.

I sang and danced at the Jingle Bell Ball whilst also permanently memorising the closest exits to me and where I would need to run should anything happen. Just because I’m living life doesn’t mean I’ll forget, even for a moment, that my life can change within a second. Keeping calm and carrying on is a good motto in itself but so is learning to deal with your emotions. We can’t control emotions as much as we’d like to, so don’t hide them. Don’t be afraid of fear, instead accept it and accept that it will be a part of you.

This whole experience taught me that fear doesn’t have to be a weakness, it can be a strength. For one, I’ve become more vigilant and if you want to call that paranoia then you can. I’d rather be paranoid than sorry.

The point of this post wasn’t to demoralise any of you but for you to understand that at the end of the day it’s okay to be afraid and that we are better off sharing our vulnerabilities rather than hiding them away where they constantly eat at us. We are sadly living in a time where we have to live amongst monsters who wish to destroy the peace within humanity. They are monsters, who are incapable of feelings and emotions. But we are not, and that’s what makes us different. Our bravery, courage, strength and yes our fear makes us human and as humans we should use our emotions to make this world a better place. I’m not ashamed to say I’m afraid because I know, for me, being scared does not mean that I am not strong and I know that I will never give up without a fight.

Be afraid, be scared, accept fear as a part of yourself because it is fear that will give you the courage, strength and bravery you need to fight against monsters. What makes us different is our ability to feel. Emotions are a powerful part of our body and mind and with that we can create a world where we can eliminate the evil that is incapable of any feeling.

Burnt Paper Sky by Gilly Macmillan..

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Blurb:

Rachel Jenner turned her back for a moment. Now her eight-year-old son Ben is missing.

But what really happened that fateful afternoon?

Caught between her personal tragedy and a public who have turned against her, there is nobody left who Rachel can trust. But can the nation trust Rachel?

The clock is ticking to find Ben alive.

WHOSE SIDE ARE YOU ON?

Review:

I’ve heard a tremendous amount of accolade over the past few months about Gilly Macmillan’s debut novel, unsurprisingly I was intrigued not only by the synopsis of the story but also I was curious to learn what sort of angle this particular novel would take. Burnt Paper Sky has been on my TBR list for a while now and I finally had the pleasure of recently reading it. As a debut, the novel was brilliant and my only regret was not reading it sooner.

A missing child is a parent’s worst nightmare. Too often the guilt becomes overbearing and spins our life out of control. This is exactly what our protagonist, Rachel Jenner feels when a momentary mistake costs her, her eight year old son. Missing for a year, Rachel is plagued with grief and is being publicly slaughtered by the media over her lack of supervision and the role she played in the disappearance of her child. Overwhelmed by her experience and those around her, Rachel yearns for her son and the impact his disappearance has is devastating but is Rachel truly to blame or just an innocent pawn in an otherwise brutal world where deception surrounds its claws around the vulnerable.

I loved this book! It’s so difficult for me to put into words just how much of an emotional impact this novel had on me; I’m not the type of reader who cries easily but I came incredibly close to doing so whilst reading this highly charged novel. The missing child plot is one that has been recently portrayed quite a bit in various genres, from television shows to movies. However, what I liked about Burnt Paper Sky was that although following the same outer sphere of the other genres, this novel had much more depth to it and so much rising from beneath the surface than a simple ‘whodunnit’. The deception, betrayal and overall precision of just how incredibly devastating this incident is makes for a perfect recipe for psychological thriller fans and definitely peaks the curiosity of even the hardest cynic.

The media angle was what sold the book for me. Highlighting the flaws in our media today was a perfect reflection of just what our society, in general, represents in today’s generation. How judgmental we’ve become as a nation is emphasised greatly in this superb debut. How as individuals we strive to be as open-minded as the next person but as soon as a story breaks out in the news and makes national headlines, we instantly assume the worst of the person or people involved. The idea that we are as flawed as the person in front of us is realistically portrayed and makes you question just how judgmental you are.

Rachel was a tragic character, in the sense that her story leaves you feeling saddened and sympathetic of her situation, to such a great extent. Her pain is evident from the very first page to the last and there are a few times when I had to stop to just get over the lump in my throat. Some moments were truly heartbreaking and I know for a fact that for any readers with children, this would have been very difficult to read. As such, Gilly does an incredible job of allowing the plot to progress sensitively to its climax. Her writing flows seamlessly throughout the novel and for me, it definitely didn’t feel like a debut novel.

Very few books have the potential to keep me reading well into the morning hours but this was one such book that I could not put down. So cleverly written and emotionally charged that you’re left feeling despondent for the characters within the novel. Thought-provoking from beginning to end, this novel is a perfect recipe for any psychological thriller readers. One of my favourite, if not the favourite, books of 2015! I look forward to reading more of Gilly Macmillan books in the future.

Overall Rating: 10/10

More information about Gilly and her debut book can be found in the following places:

Official WebsiteFacebookTwitter

Bend It Like Beckham: The Musical..

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Recently I went to the Phoenix theatre in London with my family to watch the hotly anticipated Bend it like Beckham, the musical. Now for those who know the story and loved it this would have been a new venture into the world of theatre and film. The musical was brought to us by the director of the original movie, Gurinder Chadha. 

For those of you who aren’t aware of the original story here’s a quick summary:

Jess needs extra time.

She is facing the most important decision of her life: live up to family expectations of university, career and marriage, or follow in the footsteps of her hero David Beckham. When the talented teenager is spotted playing football in Southall, a world of unexpected opportunities opens up before her. But as her sister’s traditional Indian wedding approaches, can she keep her family happy and still follow her dreams?

At times hilarious and touching the movie depicts how two cultures can be merged together to fulfill one’s dreams and ambitions but the biggest step to take is to believe in yourself. The musical follows the same plot and as such the screenplay is brilliant. What adds to this already brilliant story-line is the music. Without a doubt a musical only works if there’s good music and this production gives the audience that in spades.

From the compositions to the lyrics, the music is spectacular on a large scale. It brings to life the whole journey of the main characters and gives us a glimpse into the perspective of the secondary characters. The fusion of Punjabi and English music is one that brings a smile to your face. As someone who’s family originates from Punjab, in India and who has grown up listening to Punjabi music, this was a real pleasure. But even for those not familiar with the language or music could be seen singing, clapping and dancing to the beat of the desi drums. The music is original and authentic in every way and for me it completely sold the production and gave theatre lovers something they enjoy the most, being entertained to the max.

Although I believe the music was the selling point, it would be silly not to commend the effort put in by the incredibly talented actors, their hard work definitely paid off. There wasn’t a moment when I wasn’t hooked by the characterisations from the actors. They were brilliant. I don’t think I could pick out one actor who didn’t live up to the performance that was promised and for me that was definitely a huge and welcoming surprise.

If you love a fusion of two cultures with a story-line that entertains from start to finish then this production is definitely worth a watch. For all those people who believe in dreams and desires, this musical teaches you to never give up and to believe in your abilities and yourself. A fantastic watch for individuals of all ages and an inspiration to the youngsters of this generation. Go enjoy a family day out or a take a few friends and be entertained for 2 and half hours. You won’t regret it.

Thank you to the Phoenix theatre and all those involved in the production of this musical for bringing this joyous new British musical comedy to the west-end.

You can find out more about the musical in the following places:

Official WebsiteFacebookTwitterInstagram

A letter to my 16 year old self..

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My younger sister is turning 16 in a few days and it got me thinking about how much I’ve changed since I was 16 and so I decided to write a letter to my 16 year old self.


Dear Sonu,

I know the first thing that’ll annoy you at this age is the nickname you were given by your school friends, Rosy. It’s okay, I know right now it seems like the bane of your existence but don’t worry so much because some day down the line, someone will compliment your rosiness and make you look at it in a different way where you won’t feel constantly embarrassed about it.

Life looks pretty miserable right now what with all the impending GCSE exams hovering over you as well as school problems, friendships and crushes all just causing unnecessary stress. Word of advice, work hard, focus on your studies and you’ll do well. Some friendships will last and others won’t that doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with you, its just the way life works. You will all go in different directions but the ones that matter will still be a part of your life. And crushes, well believe you me when you get to my age you’ll laugh and say what was I thinking? But more than that you’ll learn that you’re still a teenager and so is your crush, you may feel more mature and wiser but you’re not, not really. You need time to understand the way in which this world works and right now you should just enjoy the moment and embrace it.

Going to a faith school is hard, very hard for someone like you, who’s a shy girl. I know you feel like you just blend into the crowd and sometimes even when you want to, you’re unable to detach yourself from the herd of teenagers. But there’s one thing you should know, be proud. Be proud of who you are and what you stand for. Stand up for yourself and don’t follow the crowd because you and I both know that you’re not a sheep.

At 16 you’ll feel like the world is closing in on you. Nothing seems to be going right and you feel insecure and unhappy. I can tell you this though, life is all about learning and learning is what you’ll do. The world can be a brilliant place, you just have to find your place in it and I know that you will. Right now you’re uncertain of the paths you want to take but don’t worry because I know everything will fall into place. Enjoy the moments spent with your friends and listen to your family because trust me they know best and are always right.

Don’t live life afraid, live it like a superhero. Go enjoy the little moments, go eat that ice-cream you’re craving or go watch that movie that you’ve been waiting for, for so long. You don’t need to wear make-up or go partying to fit in. You don’t need to fit in. Life is all about being different and standing out. Be who you want to be, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Don’t worry about making mistakes because one thing I do know is that these mistakes will make you a stronger, better individual.

Oh and one more thing, just remember to keep on smiling.

Love, Simran.