Sunday, December 21, 2014

Amalraj's date with the legend!

A casual chat with Anthony Amalraj last week:

Me: Hi, how are u? All good in Poland?

AA: Neha, I am so happy today.

Me: Wow, what’s the reason? Please share...

AA: I beat Persson.

Me: Wait, you mean you beat Jorgen Persson, one of the legends of table tennis?

AA: Yes, exactly him :-)

I couldn't help but write this!

Jorgen Persson has competed in 7 Olympic Games. He is 5 times world champion for team Sweden, twice World Cup winner, World champion in singles, European champion in singles, team and doubles. In short, he is a legend. A living legend. Although, he has retired from competitive sport, but continues to play in the Polish league for the club ZKS Palmiarnia Zielona Gora.

Amalraj beat Jorgen Person in a thrilling 3-1 victory, in the Polish league where he plays for the club AZS Politechnika.

So after the news of Sharath Kamal beating Kreanga Kalinikos this December, the news of Amalraj beating Persson, the legend, has bought smiles on the faces of a lot of TT lovers all over India.

So what would one do after beating a legendary table tennis player like Persson? Here’s what Amalraj did (his signature move after winning) - jumping high in excitement, as high as he can, refusing to stop until his satisfaction.  Have a look...

Beating Jorgen Persson was surely a dream come true for Amalraj, who as a kid, used equipment named after Persson, and watched a lot of his matches on TV and learnt from his game.

Amalraj and Persson sharing a light moment after the match

 2014 has been an amazing year for Amal, who currently lives and trains in Rzeszow, Poland.

He won the Silver Medal in the Commonwealth Games in Men’s doubles along with Sharath Kamal in August this year. The very humble Amalraj attributes his success to coach Peter Engel. Peter was sure that the combination of Kamal and Amal would be a deadly one, a partnership that would surely win us a medal in the CWG. The duo delivered as expected, making the entire nation so proud!

Amalraj's signature jump after winning the Men's doubles semi finals at the CWG, Glasgow

We spoke at lengths about how Chennai welcomed him after his victory in Glasgow. “I was on cloud nine. For 4 days I barely slept. I haven’t met so many people in my life till now than I met in those 4 days. I was a hero suddenly. The response from the TN government was laudable. Our efforts have been recognized, this is great for our sport”

"Oh, I also go to meet Sachin Tendulkar!!!"

 Amal has been playing incredibly good in the Polish league which has become stronger this season because of addition of many top world ranked players like Hok Sang Yun(Korea), Cheng Wiexing( Austria), Yoshida Kaii( Japan), Wang Chung Tin( Hong Kong) and many more.

He has won 8 out of 14 matches till now, completing a successful first half of the league.

Amalraj is all excited to finally play the National Championship in Pondicherry in January 2015.

“I have missed the entire domestic season. It’s a great feeling to play in India, because the kind of love and support I get there is overwhelming”.

We all are excited as well; National Championship is the only tournament where we see the best of all Indians competing among each other.

Can he win the nationals? The clock is ticking, 3 more weeks to go!

Good luck, Anthony Amalraj.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014


 Dear Malala,

Your speech in Oslo just shook me; it gave me goose bumps on my skin, tears in my eyes and enormous respect for you in my heart.

When the news of you getting the Nobel Peace Prize was out in October this year, I did a Google search on you. Call me ignorant, but before that I just knew that you are the girl who was shot in the head by the Taliban.

And then today I watched the entire award ceremony.

 Dear Malala, you are an inspiration to all women and men- your struggles depict the amount of strength a fearless and a courageous woman could possess. Your story proves the saying, that the pen is mightier than the sword.

 Malala, your commitment and dedication towards achieving your goal, inspires me. The passion in your voice, the sparkle in your eye, strengthens me. Your struggles wake me up from by ignorant slumber and your steps guide me to take the road less travelled. 

At an age when girls are concerned about pimples, fashion and boyfriends and are still discovering themselves, you, at that age, have stood up for the basic right of the girl child, the right to education, all over the world. Malala, I salute you. 

As I watched you receiving the Nobel Prize along with Kailash Satyarthi, two of you who are fighting for the cause of child education and child labour, I was reminded of the child of the lady who works as a domestic help at my place. I felt deeply ashamed, she does not go to school, and occasionally replaces her mother at work in an event of an emergency. Remorseful thought.

And then Malala, you inspire me further. 

You inspire me to stand up and speak up for my rights, to go out there and fight, that age is not a barrier and doing what you feel is right, is never a crime. 

Your story is a slap on the faces of all those who go to school, but never study, those who complain of studies being a burden, to all those who do not respect their teachers and to those who have access to internet, but use it only to ”have fun”.

Your friend’s dream of becoming a doctor was crushed into pieces by the hooligans who forced her into marriage at the age of 12, and motherhood at the age of 14. But Malala, I hope that your dream, of becoming the Prime Minister of Pakistan, turns into reality one day.

I have ordered my copy of I am Malala.

You are my strength.

More power to you.

A woman.