22 June, 2021

Arms And The Pious Girl

A rare hijabi ­athlete flourishes amid Kerala’s charged atmosphere

Covered Iron
Majiziya Bhanu at a gym in Vatakara, Kozhikode
Photograph by Akhil Komachi
Arms And The Pious Girl

Majiziya Bhanu has not read Orhan Pamuk’s Snow. But, as she prepares to travel to Turkey this October, the novel seems to hold up a mirror to her life. The Nobel laureate’s 2002 book, set in the eastern Turkish city of Kars, has the headscarf as one of its central themes. It probes the inner conflicts of hijabi girls amid growing tensions between secularists and Islamists in modern Turkey. Bhanu, a 23-year-old Muslim girl from Orkatteri, a serene village in Kerala’s Kozhikode district, has knowingly or unknowingly pushed the headscarf into the centre of a socio-cultural debate.

The burkini-clad Bhanu has qualified to participate in the World Armwrestling Championship to be held in Antalya, 17 hours away from Kars, after winning gold in the National Armwrestling Cha­MP­ionship held in Lucknow in May. Earlier, she had taken the ‘Mr Kerala’ physique contest by surprise to win the women’s title in Kochi this February. Local media celebrated the victory by flashing pictures and visuals of her flexing her muscles in a black...

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