On Losing A Voice And Remembering How To Speak Again

This Monday I said two conflicting things within the space of an evening.
I said,

“This is my favorite stage to perform.”

Two hours later I thought,

“I’m not coming back here again.”

Let me tell you a thing or two about performing, about writing, about women’s voices and about men, men, men. The silencing, the hatred, the chauvinism, it’s relentless. It’s pretentious non-talents (usually male, small town North Indian origin) parading ada and fake Urdu to present stale ideas. It’s uber urban metrosexual men getting intoxicated and turning everything into jokes that are not really funny. It’s the in-betweens eating Instagrammable food and hoping you’ll swipe right on Tinder. But this is nothing new. It’s the story of every patriarchal, toxic masculine space.

But it’s also the sniping. It’s old boys’ clubs jeering every woman performer. It’s leching that happens in words and laughter rather than eyes so it’s harder to call it out. It’s passive-aggressive bullying of the “Settle down, honey. There, there, she got upset. Now silence, boys, give her a hanky. Look, you’re so pretty when you smile.” variety.

Then it’s the wheedling by ‘Nice Guys’ to speak softer, be gentler, talk about men’s good points.

This Monday was simply the last straw on my back. I decided to let them keep their male voices, talking to a male audience about how women are pretty/horrible creatures. This Monday, I decided not to go back and to hell with a world ruled by monsters called men.

~O~O~O~O~O~O~

Raju recommended Sonya Renee Taylor’s ‘The Body Is Not An Apology‘ at an Alphabet Sambar meet last month.

This is why writers should first and foremost be readers. And speakers should be better listeners. I found Sonya’s powerful voice and gestures moving me as much as her words.

Today, I listened to her deliver ‘When The Shotgun Questions The Black Boy‘. Now this is a tricky one. While it’s politically correct to talk about #BlackLivesMatter, really what’s it like to be Indian on this? We face internalised racism within our country itself, not to mention what it’s like to be brown in multicoloured spaces. My ex bullied me and demeaned my intelligence frequently for not acting or thinking like a black person. But this poem, today, made me want to cry. It reached beyond what he said, what anyone else demanded I think or feel. It moved me beyond who I thought I was.

This is the power of good poetry and a good performer. It can change perspectives. It can make a person reach beyond their life and feel empathy, inspiration, anger, whatever the speaker wants them to feel.

I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to do that. But it’s sobering to know that as a performer, I share a space with people who change lives. I cannot let my individual annoyances take me away. As one of the few women performers in the city, I owe the stage at least that much. Artists and writers are responsible for moving thought forward for a civilisation. The world needs more women’s voices. I may not be the best but I’m part of the little that my city has. And I’m not going to let them down.

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If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

Nine Ways To Survive The Rs.500/1000 Demonitisation

I will refrain from commenting on the goodness/flaws of India’s demonitisation of Rs.500 and Rs.1000 notes. I will however share some ideas that may get us through the next few weeks.

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* Image via carli jeen on Unsplash

  1. If you are reading this, you have an internet connection and probably a smart device. This means you have options. Use credit cards, debit cards, netbanking and mobile banking wherever possible.

  2. Delay non essential card purchases to save your credit limits for important things. It’s temporary. You can probably do without that new jacket or rare book or cool gadget for the next month.

  3. Avoid COD for ecommerce. Let the economy use Rs.100 notes for vital things that do not have other options.

  4. Reduce cash spends on commuting. Avoid buses and autos. Use trains and metros because these accept payment by card.

  5. Avoid thronging banks and ATMs. Let their cash reserves be used by people who don’t have digital/plastic options.

  6. Pay your service staff (watchmen, drivers, maids etc.) advance to help them get through this transition period without having to compromise on essentials like food.

  7. Pool cash purchases with neighbors so you can transact with the Rs.2000 notes and reduce the pressure on the Rs.100 bottleneck.

  8. Pay contributions to group activities by online transfer rather than cash. Netbanking has no lower limit so you can even transfer Rs.20.

  9. Be prudent with payments at metro stations, airports and utilities still able to accept old notes. These enterprises would also have certain upper limits so let their cash transactions happen with people who can’t pay by other ways.

This is temporary. Let’s try and get through it without panic-mongering. The experience might even benefit us all.

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If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

Welcome To Friendship Dial-In Services…

My phone is going to take the better part of a month to return (if it does). Till then, I’m using a substitute phone that lives up to its designation by degrading call quality within ten seconds and shutting down every couple of hours . I was unusually serene for the first five days, right through Diwali. Then I spent two days in the abject misery of frustration mixed with anxiety and stress. And now I’ve floated into a sad sort of peaceability.

Why sad? Because I just realised the reason for my first two moods in the week following my phone’s crash. ‘A break’ sounds good in theory to people but everyone else seems to be having real trouble with it. I didn’t, because I didn’t expect anybody to call. It was the Diwali weekend and I knew everyone I knew would be busy with their own lives.

Then came Monday and I was oddly relieved at not having to deal with the world’s calls (possibly why I procrastinated the service center visit). Tuesday is when the reality of other people’s demands and their irritation at my inavailability hit; it’s what pushed me out of serenity into stress. It only took a day for me to realise there was no one or nobody who cared about my problem being my problem. Everyone around me only cares if my problem becomes their problem.

It led me to realise that I’m not missing being unavailable on calls because people only ever call me when they want something. I’m not being a whiny complainer, I’m the same. With so much happening around us and the glut of low-involvement messaging options, a phone call is relegated to the status that a telegram once took. It’s the red light, the emergency bell, the pull-chain-to-stop-train signal. No wonder I experience a slight feeling of “Oh God, what new demand is the world making on me now?” when my phone rings.

A friend reported her irritation at the onslaught of forwarded Diwali greeting Whatsapp messages. This year she said, she responded to each one asking how the person was and what was happening in their lives. Not one person replied, she said.

After several unpleasant conversations, I’ve managed to shut down a friend who would keep badgering me on Whatsapp with “What’s up?”, “Why aren’t you replying?”, “I’m bored.”, “What are you doing?” I have been emailing him (and a few others) a long, personal email every month. I haven’t received any response from him on this.

We are so superficial in our communications and thus in our relationships. I think many of us aren’t really capable of meaningful interaction or even aware that this is necessary. But when life’s vagaries hit us, we hit our panic buttons except we do it with Last Dialed numbers. I have just been taken off the Panic Button lists for a month and I don’t even feel guilty saying it’s a relief.

After all, I realised, there’s nobody really responding to my Panic Buttons when I hit them. No, that’s not true, there are enough of people who do that. But let’s be clear. These are transactions of ‘I need them as much as they need me’. That’s neither relationship nor is it reliability. As it turned out (like it always does), relying on myself was the best thing to do. I sort things out best on my own and you know, I don’t really do too badly. The world causes so much chaos, ego, needless panic and violence that left to my own devices (heh, pun intended), I’m rather undramatic and matter-of-fact.

So, my dial-in services are temporarily unavailable and my customer service has been moved to email and messaging. And true to the tradition of great customer support, I’ll respond only when I feel like. Thank you and have a good day.

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If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

 

I Wear: Bohemian Rockstar

I was invited to feature as one of the performers at the US Consulate’s event for 100 Thousand Poets For Change, the theme being ‘Women Empowerment’. The event was in Kitabkhana and Reema agreed to come along so we decided to make a day of it. Here’s us suburban girls in town, on town!

And this is what I wore for a day out, traveling and to perform in my kickass, fashion-forward, sex-positive feminist avatar.

I Wear:

  • Pink top: ONLY
  • Black jacket: Life
  • Distressed jeans: United Colors of Benetton
  • Red handbag: Baggit
  • Red shoes: ONLY
  • Red fascinator: Mumbai local train

Reema was dressed in her classy-but-ready-for-travel avatar and here’s what she wore.

If you enjoyed this style post in video, check out the other I Wear posts and videos.

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If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

 

 

A Stranger’s Houseparty

I haven’t written anything new through October. It wasn’t a bad month though. Far from it. The rains petered out and I think I dealt with my least favorite season a lot more gracefully than I usually do. I know it often seems like I’m endlessly complaining. But only I know, within me, there is less being shaken up and torn asunder by life’s events.

A couple of interesting things happened.

I went cycling, twice, both on events that I saw advertised on Facebook. This wasn’t fashionable, professional adventuring or even glossy tourism. It was quite simply, going around places I’ve known my whole life, on cycles. The first trip was in South Bombay, through Colaba, Marine Drive and Nariman Point. The next week took us through Bandra’s winding lanes and slopes – oh, slopes! I never realised Bandra is such an up-and-down suburb. It was quite lovely. I took to cycling the same way I took to swimming, even after years and in a way that I’ve never quite taken to gymming. I was thrilled at my own body memory, my fingers moderating speed, my body angling for turns before my mind even considered it. And finally, I realised, just like swimming, this is an activity that allows you to be completely alone even in a crowd. You can cycle through a road full of people who don’t think like you do. You can share a swimming pool with other human bodies that are violent, petty, angry, sad. And in the water (or on a pair of wheels), gravity treats you the same. You have your own tiny universe of one in the midst of these million others. This is my favorite revelation of 2016.

And finally this accidental click. I haven't cycled in about 20 years, save one time in Goa in the early 2000s. Cycling really is well, cycling. You never forget. I found myself skating along, my thumb pressing the bell at turns and my left hand gently nudging the brake, working with my feet to slow down rather than stopping violently. It is also such a wonderful way to see the city. We covered a lot more ground than on foot. In addition, while it's a group activity, you're also in your own little cocoon, your cycle and you. The closest I've come to this is swimming, my favorite physical activity. Maybe it's time I buy myself a bicycle. bike #ride #rideout #helmet #cycle #bikelife #streetbike #bicycle #bicycling #cruisin #cruising #cycling #cyclist #cyclists #citysights #mumbai #SoBo #southbombay #Bikeurious #travelmastergogo #latergram #oldbombay #oldbombaycharm

A photo posted by Ramya Pandyan (@ideasmithy) on

The second thing to happen, was my phone conking out this past Friday, just before the big Diwali weekend. To my own surprise, I didn’t panic, get angry or really well, even think about it. Four days passed before I even thought to initiate repairs, find a replacement or tell people around. It was a kind of automatic silence vow that just happened on its own. Was it a coincidence that Diwali didn’t seem as loud and scary as it usually does? I had an allergy attack late Sunday night but I went to sleep and then it was all okay.

Something is definitely happening. I’m slowing down, calming down. It’s not that I don’t feel as intensely anymore. It’s just each time an emotion surges, another part of me seems to look on and say, “Hmm, okay. Too tiring. Not worth it. It’ll be gone in an hour or two.” Is that a good thing? I know it’s certainly more convenient to the world around. But you know something? I don’t think I care that much about the world around me anymore.

There are people I care about, of course. But somehow mixed into my caring, I can suddenly see boundaries. I can see their limitations, I can see how my caring is conditional. And it seems to make more sense to not do, say or express certain things because these would be attempts to change something that cannot be changed (like people’s innate nature).

I am lonesome. It’s not a gnawing, desperate hunger, though. It’s that sense of walking through a roomful of friendly strangers who are not it. I don’t even know what it is. Maybe it’s a person or a place. Maybe it’s several people. Maybe it’s a job. I know the situation I am in is not immediately hostile. It’s not threatening as much as it’s annoying occasionally. And even those annoyances don’t feel worth getting upset over. I’m in the wrong room but it’s not a horrible place to be. Yeah. That’s where I’m at now.

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Image via Jakob Owens/Unsplash

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If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

I Wear: Women At Work – Diva Minimalist Or Tomboy Chic?

Reema moved into a new place last month and I helped her (slightly) by keeping her company while her new place was professionally cleaned. The rather mundane circumstances didn’t stop both of us from dressing up. And this is what we each wore:

I Wear:

  • Yellow hoodie: Cou Cou
  • Blue racerback: Zivame
  • Loosened skinfit jeans: Levis Diva
  • Lavender jockey hat: Baggit
  • Snow quartz pendant: Magick
  • Checkered socks

and Reema in style!

I Wear:

  • Pink (almost bespoke) top: Miss London
  • Severely distressed jeans: Ross Dress for Less
  • Black socks with pink toes

If you enjoyed this style post in video, check out the other I Wear posts and videos.

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If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

I Wear: Ranger Ramya Goes Adventuring With Stories

Alphabet Sambar meets are always a pleasure. But getting up on a Sunday morning when the weather is so meh (rainy! cloudy!) needs all the willpower I can muster. So on this grey morning, I decided to ask colour to play sunshine to my mood. Here’s what I wore:

I Wear:

  • Yellow halterneck top: Flipkart
  • Olive green shirt: Cotton World
  • Denim miniskirt
  • Olive green boots: Pavers
  • Peacock necklace: Globus

* This video was shot by Gautam Sukhija.
If you enjoyed this style post in video, check out the other I Wear posts and videos.

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If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

I Wear: Candy Valley Girl

Reema and I had a funny experience last month. We met for a quick coffee-and-gab at a Kandivali mall. One of the things we enjoy doing together is dressing up and comparing notes. After all, the I Wear videos were Reema’s idea. On our way out, we decided to shoot in the open compound outside the mall. Midway through Reema’s shoot, we were interrupted by a mall employee claiming to be the manager. He told us that we couldn’t shoot there because of security concerns. He went on to say that,

“Photos are allowed. No videos. We have been told that terrorists will use it to do reiki.

I gawped, Reema stared. Then Reema began arguing with him while I, disgusted by people’s proud ignorance told her we’d just shoot elsewhere. It wasn’t till the next day that it occurred to me that the man may have meant ‘recce’. 😄

This is what we managed to capture.

I Wear:

  • Beige, floral chiffon top: Globus
  • Teal trousers: Jabong
  • Brown cloth lace-ups: North West
  • Turquoise earrings: Lokhandwala
  • Lipstick & turquoise gel pencil: Faces Canada
  • Pink handbag: Baggit

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If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

 

The Kindness Of September

September was kind.

I have had four milestone conversations in the last month. They’ve been hard, uncomfortable, cruel even. Why are we so cruel to each other? Out of fear, out of insecurity and from the mistaken assumption that caring is a finite resource that we need to dole out. But they needed to be had and I’m glad they have finally happened.

I’ve rewritten these events at least four times and then deleted them. I don’t see any point in talking about them any more. So, fresh start then. What does October hold? Less rain, I hope. We’ve had a good solid four months of monsoon and it’s really high time we see the sun.

I feel like I’ve really grown into Spoken Word. Running into the ex at at a performance was the last mental barrier to be breached. It did not kill me and it did not hurt my performance. The stage and I have built a gentle, loving relationship. Other people have tried to erode it and corrupt it in the past with excessive expectations, abuse, jealousy, rivalry, gender-based silencing and trolling. But September, September like I said, has been kind. My relationship with the stage (just like my relationship with another person) is my own and no one should be able to touch it.

I haven’t actually been writing as much in the past few weeks. But video has really taken off. It’s strange because I’ve never been a fan of the film medium. But the stories are lot easier to tell and they allow for several other things like sound and sight. Maybe it’s just the novelty. I have been sharing my performances, then my I Wear videos, general life snippets and soon, the outtakes too. Do hop over to my Youtube channel and check them out. I’m not doing this so much as a content professional as I am experimenting with a different medium of storytelling, just for fun.

The Tinder adventure has been great. I haven’t met anybody yet. But I’ve been having a few nice conversations. And what more can one ask from a social medium?

I guess the best thing about September has been that it has been a gateway through which I’ve felt able to move forward and out of the dark times of last year. Maybe goodbye is a kind word.

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If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

 

 

 

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