Category Archives: Media Mentions

Quoted in Mid-Day: Health – Speak Up Against Substance Abuse

I’m writing this post a little late since last week was such a flurry of activity. I performed at the Unerase Poetry against Drug Abuse event. And in the week leading up to it, I also got quoted in a Mid-Day story about using poetry to bring awareness to this cause.

Here’s what I said:

“When I was a kid, I remember a TV serial called Chunauti. It was trying to raise awareness against drug abuse. The Archie comic series that I read around the time also carried messages like, ‘Say No To Drugs’; I felt these were redundant messages. But, when I went to college and later to work, I realised they were a regular part of the world around me,” shares spoken word artist Ramya Pandyan, who goes by the name Idea Smith.

This week, Pandyan will be sharing her thoughts on drug abuse at a spoken word poetry event titled UnErase Against Drug Abuse.

Pandyan, meanwhile, hopes to share her thoughts on being startled at how “normal, everyday and invisible the addiction is – cigarettes that actually contain marijuana; detailed discussions among ‘cool’ people about the smoothest weed, the best rolling paper, etc. I’ve learnt not to judge the habit at face value. But I’ve also seen friends lose large parts of their lives to this addiction.”

My poem was a story of our individual journeys into addictions of different sorts. The video of the performance may come up in a few weeks.

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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.

Poets Talk — Quoted In The Afternoon Despath & Courier ‘More Power To Poetry’

The Afternoon Despatch & Courier (Afternoon DC) ran a story today about the emergence of poetry as a modern art form. I’m quoted alongside viral stars Aranya Johan, Sudeep Pagedar and InkStation founder Harshit Anurag. It’s great to see something that we are all so passionate about, receive widespread recognition.

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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 Stage Was My Doorway Out

I’ve had a rather nice September after the rough times before that. Looks like my health diagnosis was a step in the right direction. I took a break from the Open Mic scene for a month which is why there haven’t been too many poetry videos. But if you saw this post, you’ll know September brought me a bouquet of special poetry performances. That this happened right during a time I decided to take a break itself seems like a sign from the universe to me. And living through them makes me sure. I feel like I’ve finally walked through the doorway of that dark, deep dungeon I’ve been imprisoned in for years.

So, in the order in which they happened:

Gaysi‘s DirtyTalk was the one that I wrote a special piece for. I was super nervous, not helped by an unexpected Encounter, minutes before my performance. Maybe I will write about that in more detail another time. Or maybe not, it was probably the fullstop that I’ve been needing for four years. I went on to deliver the following performance and it was a great one, if I do say so myself. I really want to thank the organisers as well as the audience. You have no idea how much this performance was a turning point in my life. It was reprieve after years of struggling.

The very next afternoon was the Radiocity Free Verses feature event, where I had the pleasure to meet the vivacious Harnidh Kaur who I’ve been hearing about for ages. I enjoyed her poetry. I wasn’t feeling very well and my hands were shaking (after a long time). But again, I think that added to the flavour of my opening piece ‘A Lover of All Things Digital’. It’s nice to remember how far I’ve come from a stage-petrified girl to a feature performer.

And finally, I got to be one of the 100 Thousand Poets for Change at a ‘Women Empowerment’ themed event hosted by the US Consulate at Kitabkhana. I know a theme like that seems tailor-made for me so I brought out my old favorites ‘Superwoman’ and ‘Feminist Poetry’. I am enjoying being the fun, irreverent, fresh end of things. I don’t think I’ve been the fun side of any group that often. I wish I were also the funnier side but that’s for another blogpost. Here’s my performance from that day.

Planet Radiocity Freedom aired my recorded performance four times this month. Eventually, they’re bound to put it up in the archives and I’ll share a link then. In the meantime, they also ran a short interview with me and the photo feature from the Free Verses September event is up on the site right now.

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For a lot of reasons, I feel like I was carrying around a gigantic boulder in my mind that was blocking everything. That boulder has just been set aside. I’m still raw from where it was dragged out. But I can suddenly breathe better and see more clearly. September has been about clearing the stones and letting the dust settle. I have been to hell and back. I enter October with a lot of hope and a nod to the Sandman.

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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.

 

Quoted In HT Cafe: ‘A Shot In The Dark: Why Artistes Love To Perform With The Lights Out

HT Cafe carried a story by Sapna Mathur on darkroom performances in Mumbai. I was quoted for my spoken word poetry. They were also nice enough to include a video of my collaboration with Karthik (performed in the light, so you can see) of the same act we did during the darkroom event – Lullaby.

The story is called A shot in the dark: Why artistes love to perform with the lights out‘.

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Conversations can crystallize your own impressions and Sapna’s questions made me think about my craft a lot more deeply. Here are the things I said –

“Ramya Pandyan, a Mumbai resident who has been attending open mics since 2009, says she started participating in blind poetry shows because they offered her anonymity. They also made her more aware of her craft. “The biggest distinction between the performing arts and other art forms is that there is no barrier between the artiste and the audience. With writing, you feel a certain safety behind the computer screen or notebook. But when you’re on stage, you are naked and vulnerable in front of the audience and their judgement. But a dark room levels this playing field,” she says, telling us that she’s even recited her poem, Lullaby, to live music in the dark. “Once you get used to the darkness, you feel a certain warmth and closeness with the people who are in that room with you. You can hear people breathing, shifting and fidgeting. We tend to listen to each other better — both the audience and the performers,” adds Pandyan.”

“During her regular shows, where the lights were switched on, Pandyan had become used to finding encouragement from some “friendly faces” in the crowd. But trying her hand at open mics in the dark has brought her out of that comfort zone. “Removing the visual aspect of a performance poses a huge challenge, which can only be good. Also, stage fright deters a lot of good writers. Reading in the darkness, without the weight of the audience’s eyes on them, might encourage many more people to approach the stage,” she says.”

“What is even more trying is when artistes want to collaborate on a performance in the dark. Pandyan worked with guitarist Karthik Rao on a blind poetry show, and it was “tricky” to carry through. “Any spoken word performance is a spontaneous art form. This means your words, speed, tone and the order can change with every rendition. In collaborations, you have to communicate with each other during the performance without letting the audience know. Thankfully, Karthik and I managed to read each other’s sounds during the performance and didn’t miss any beats,” she says. Bad experiences or good, this is an activity these performers are willing to experiment with. “We grew as artistes because of it,” says Pandyan.”

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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.

DNA Feature: ‘From Business Consultancy To Performance Poetry, This Woman Manages It All’

Earlier this week, DNA‘s Anvi Mehta ran a story on my performances as a Spoken Word artist. Heh, I’m deeply flattered. The story is titled ‘From business consultancy to performance poetry, this woman manages it all

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Here is what Anvi wrote (quoted from her article):

Andheri-based Ramya Pandyan, quit her corporate business consultant job in 2009 to take a sabbatical. A regular blogger since 2004, Pandyan was introduced to open mics and poetry recitals during this break.

She is now known for performance poetry and spoken word.

“I visited an open mic event where I saw many writers read out their poems and perform them. As I used to write poems since my childhood, I thought of doing the same and very soon I started attending open mics at The Prithvi Café, The Hive and other such places and became a member of Caferatti events,” Pandyan explains.

As an ardent blogger, poet and performer she was in touch with other writers, poets and artists. The various groups for creative writers and performers influenced her to start a community of her own in 2013.

“This community is called Alphabet Sambar and we meet weekly to share our writing work. The members help each other grow by reviewing their writing works. We also have a series of activities like writing challenges, workshops and boot camps. As we support the worldwide annual novel writing challenge (Nanowrimo), where participants finish a novel in a month, last year we had conducted a novel writing boot camp,” she adds.

It was because of this writer’s community that Pandyan met a few performance poets and was introduced to spoken word. “A few members did performance poetry and spoken word. It interested me and now for a year and a half or so, I am following these styles to read out my poetries. I use music, expressions and actions when performing. Like for a poem called ‘Paper Plane’, which is not a typical rhyme, the piece goes further as I actually make a paper plane for the audiences,” she narrates.

Juggling with her consultancy, training and some freelance writing alongside her regular poetry performances, Pandyan also maintains her blog as well as a YouTube channel of her performances.

She performs every Monday at Tuning Fork, Khar, Tuesday at The Hive, Bandra and fourth Mondays at Prithvi Café on a regular basis.

If interested in joining her writing community, you can reach her at her Facebook page, the alphabet sambar page, Youtube channel, blog, and tweet @AlphabetSambar or @ideasmithy.

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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 onTwitter and Instagram.

Erotica Writing With Ramya Pandyan At The Hive

This Sunday I introduce a workshop on Erotica Writing at The Hive. My interest in sexual and sensual writing was probably sparked off when I first read The Vagina Monologues. That book is a more clinical look at women’s relationship with their gender and sexuality but it was a door. A little later, I met Chuck Palahniuk’s visceral writing, first with Fight Club and then with Snuff (both of which I enjoyed tremendously). Fight Club twisted you inside out as a reader and brought you face to face with your mental and physical demons. Snuff took that to another level and met the fears and shame we all place deep within our cells, with dark humour.

Then 50 Shades of Grey burst on the world. I’ve written about what I thought of the books. But it did more than tell a particular story. It forced readers and writers to think about sexuality in stories. And after that, I think, how can you not? Sex, sensuality and gender are such integral parts of the living experience, how can a writer whose job it is to hold up a mirror to our humanity, ignore it?

I’ve explored the genre in a more focussed way after that, with famous works like those of Anais Nin, less popular ones like L Marie Adeline and a lot of amateur writing. And more and more I became convinced that it would be impossible for me as a writer to proceed, unless I faced upto and overcame my inhibitions and shame about writing about sex and sensuality. It continues to be a journey but I feel certain that I wouldn’t struggle as much with writing a first kiss scene as I did, in my first book back in 2009.

This workshop is an attempt to bring other writers to tap into that vital source of inspiration and material — their own senses. I think it’s also important to open up a conversation about what erotica is. As reactions, I’ve received some versions of “Hahahaha, are you going to teach people sex positions?” But there has been a lot more cautious interest than I had thought. People are curious, watchful. And that makes it possible for me to see the first kind of reaction for what it is — fear/discomfort disguised as humour.

This Sunday ought to be interesting. Here’s what I have planned for the workshop:

  • Tapping into sensation for inspiration
  • Imagining characters as feeling, sensual beings
  • Describing physical impressions in a vibrant manner

I will be doing this via a series of writing and visualisation exercises. The goal for my workshop is that participants find it easier to write about physicality, sensuality and even (but not limited to) sex in their future work.

The workshop is open to people above 18 only. The event details are here.

Erotica Writing with Ramya Pandyan

On: October 11, 3pm to 5pm
At: 50-A, Huma Mansion, Chuim Village Road, Khar (W).
Call: 9619962969
Cost: Rs 1000

You can also email writerslab@cultureshoq.in for details.

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Update 1: Mid-day ran a story about this workshop on 9 October 2015.

12072678_10156126704530015_1119432899257021472_nUpdate 2: The event also got listed in Mumbai Mirror’s Events page on 10 October 2015.

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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.

Celebrating Faiz – Poetry, Independence & Free Expression

The creative powerhouse called The Hive is hosting an evening commemorating the life and works of the poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz tomorrow. There will be film screenings, readings and discourse on the life of Faiz. There will also be a special poetry feature by six poets, including me.

I’ve been experiencing the power of poetry these past few months, how it allows a thinker to shape their deepest emotions in a way that touches other people, moves crowds even. Art, activism and social commentary are closely linked to each other and I’m privileged to be a part of the space in some manner.

Come and support the cause of culture and free expression. These are the details of the event:

On: August 16, 8 pm to 10 pm
At: Huma Mansion, opposite Ahmed Bakery, Chuim Village Road, Khar (W).
Call: 9820998790
Cost: Rs 200
Tickets available at the venue
Mid-Day ran a feature on this event today here.

HeroPress: Who We Are

The people at HeroPress asked me to chronicle my journey into WordPress. It turned into a personal saga. That doesn’t surprise you, does it? This blog and being IdeaSmith started with needing to share things that were intensely personal. WordPress has been an important part of that eleven-year long journey. As have you, dear reader. The post with their introduction is here.

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Blogger by Identity: IdeaSmith is not just my name

This is a story I’ve told many, many times before. Only, I’ve never been asked by anybody within the WordPress community. So far, my stories have always been for my readers. My name is Ramya Pandyan but I’m better known as IdeaSmith.

My first brush with blogging began in the late 90s when the internet was a new toy in India and people went to cybercafés once a month to check their email. With all the eagerness of an aimless teenager, I organised my tiny contacts book into lists and started emailing them things I had written. People wrote back asking why. I replied telling them to let me know what they thought. Some of them did and others forwarded those pieces on.

That Funny Word ‘Blog’

Years later, I was squirming in an uncomfortable office chair feeling the angst of someone freshly out of college and hating adulthood. It was only 3PM and my boss had taken everyone else on the team out. Everything of interest on the Internet was blocked (not that there was that much exciting online in 2004 – remember kids, there was an internet before FacebookTwitterPinterest and Youtube). Out of sheer boredom, I went to HowStuffWorks.com. I found an article titled ‘How blogs work’ and the word ‘blog’ made me snigger. I read it and used one of the search engines that we’d call a dinosaur today (yes, internet before Google too) to find blogging sites. The search took me to Blogspot and a sign-up form much like the ones for the chatroom services that were strewn across the internet in those days.

People had warned me that it was dangerous to reveal my personal details online so I did not want to use my real name. I hadn’t had any spectacularly original ideas in my life but I liked playing with pictures and words – just like a blacksmith working iron into objects of use and art. So I decided to call myself IdeaSmith. I wrote two posts, admired the way they looked on the screen and spent ten minutes playing with the template options. Then it was time to leave so I shut down and forgot about blogging.

It wasn’t till another boring lull at work months later, that the word ‘blog’ popped back into my mind. This time, I decided to look for other Indians and see if anyone else had stumbled onto blogging. That’s how I found Rediffblogs. The homepage was very colourful, in keeping with the Geocities design aesthetic of that time. There were six templates to choose from and I chose the one with pencils lining across the top. I carried forward the name IdeaSmith because I really liked it but I decided to call the blog Just A Statistic, to show that I had nothing new to say. I discovered later that it was an echo of thousands of blogs across the globe that carried vague, diffident titles:  ‘Ramblings’, ‘Thoughts’, ‘Meanderings’, ‘Mutterings’ were words that featured prominently. I wrote one post and published it before I got called into a meeting.

When I returned an hour later, the blog was still open on my screen and to my surprise, there was a comment! I followed the link to discover another blogger, a Delhi girl. I spent an hour reading every post on her blog. Then I read conversations in her comments and from there, I found other blogs. I even posted a few comments myself, feeling like the new girl in school trying to make friends. The next morning, many of the blogs I had visited, showed up on my blog in the form of comments. I was a seasoned veteran of chatrooms but this was a new experience. It was less like small talk between strangers at a party and more like a return visit to an enjoyable social call. I wrote another blogpost, waiting to see if it would happen again. I had no idea that I was starting something that would become such an important part of my life.

A Parallel Identity

Soon I was writing two, sometimes three posts a week and commenting every day. There had been no outlet for my creative side since I had finished school. The corporate world demanded that I conform to a certain lifestyle, a fixed way of being and thinking. The blog allowed me to bring out everything that did not find expression in my daily life, in the safety of anonymity. Months later, I went back to retrieve my first posts and discovered that Blogspot was a better platform. So I manually copied my twenty-odd posts from Rediffblogsback to Blogpost.

By 2006, I was still anonymous but I had an entire blogging-based community – other bloggers, frequent commenters and the major group blogs of the time (DesipunditMumbai MetrobloggingDesicriticsTechnorati). There were no references to judge bloggers back then, but I had found a place in that tiny community. Many of them felt like friends even though we had never met in person. My unknown identity was a part of the flavor of my blog. Every now and then somebody would try to find out more but I kept them at bay, treating anonymity like a game.

Growing Up

I met a friend of a friend and discovered that he had a blog. I stalked his blog for months, frequently commenting only as IdeaSmith. One day he left a comment on my blog, asking if I’d meet him for coffee. I had only met two bloggers at that time, both in another city and under oath that they wouldn’t say anything about me. I didn’t respond to his comment. But he persisted, putting up his number and asking me to call him. So I called him, opening with “We’ve met already.” He said “I know, Ramya” and that he remembered meeting me. I was horrified that I wasn’t as anonymous as I had thought. But we became friends.

One day, he gleefully told me that one of his friends was commenting on his blog using a different identity. I asked him how he had realized it. He said, “The IP address is visible in her comments!” I was impressed. I was not a techie and people who tossed around terms like ‘IP address’ were intimidating. “Neither am I,” he admitted, “But WordPress shows me the IP address of every commenter. And her company’s name is visible in her email address.” I realized that I better understand the people who were reading my content, if I wanted any control over my anonymity. So I took a trip down to WordPress.

I was unprepared for what the platform offered. WP Stats were the first thing that caught my eye (on Blogspot, I had had to copy-paste a piece of code and I had managed to break the sidebar while doing so). And Pages! I constantly wished for one static part on my blog where I could just put up the things people kept asking. I was sick of cramming my blog’s sidebar with the static stuff in addition to the usual toys that bloggers played with in those days – blogrolls, mood indicator, song player, blog ranking. My friend was amused by my excitement and said, “I’ve been meaning to ask you, why are you still lagging behind? All the uber-cool bloggers are on WordPress.” I realized that my blog had become more than a scribblepad. It was now a playground for my thoughts, a chronicle of my life, a portfolio even. I knew it was time to give it a better space. In late 2006, I put up a post announcing that The Idea-smithy had a new home.

The ease with which I was able to transfer my posts confirmed my decision. Hundreds of template options opened up (Blogspot had a standard six only at that time). I loved widgets – no more being condescended to by programmers about code errors, no more broken sidebars! Displaying comments in my sidebar, was my way of telling readers, “Welcome in. Mi casa, su casa. Your presence here is noticed and treasured.”

Where I am today

A lot of things have happened since then. I started other anonymous blogs. I became a contributor to the bigger blogging communities of the time. I was on a popular panel that curated Indian blogs. I even edited other people’s blogposts. There were hundreds of conversations that moved me, shaped me and I made a lot of friends along the way. And when I quit the corporate world in 2009, I ‘came out’ of anonymity and allowed my readers to see the Ramya Pandyan side of IdeaSmith.

WordPress might not be my platform of choice, were I to begin today (other platforms seem better suited for newbies). But I fell in love all those years ago and eventually I committed to a platform that allowed me to explore this relationship best. I’ve been here for nine of the eleven years that I’ve been IdeaSmith. It has been my extreme good fortune to find something I love doing and be able to do it for a living.

Today I am a professional blogger/writer and one of the few of the ‘old guard’ still blogging. I’ve set up and run a team of bloggers/social content writers. I write for publications and companies, teach people how to blog and advise businesses on digital content. I run a creative community called Alphabet Sambar, that nurtures aspiring writers. I have also had the privilege of addressing Wordcamp not once, but twice. I still blog at least twice or thrice a week, only it has expanded to cover three blogs, a Twitter stream, an Instagram account and a Youtube channel.

All this began for me with an accident, a chance created by a bored afternoon at work. IdeaSmith originated as words drawn from my life but it became a part of my identity which shapes my every action, personal and professional. I am a blogger, by profession and by identity and WordPress is part of what makes that possible.

Opening WordCamp Mumbai 2014 With A Snapshot of Digitalia

I attended my first WordCamp over the weekend. I also had the privilege of opening the event with the first talk.

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WordCamp is an informal conference that brings together the WordPress community – developers, designers, consultants and users. It is organised locally and happens in 172 cities around the world, each one with its own unique flavour. I’ve attended BarCamps and hosted & helped organise BlogCamps. So I was intrigued by an event centered around WordPress, a service that has been my companion through most of my journey from blogger to Content Specialist.

I have always been technology-agnostic. Technology has powered much of what I do and I enjoy the perks of a digitally enhanced life. But I don’t like to concern myself with the how and why it works as much as what it can do for me. WordPress has been one of those tools that have let me play in the content space without needing to know the nuts-and-bolts of coding and other digitalia. As a power user of WordPress, I figured that the ways I wielded the tools would be of interest to the people instrumental in building them. So I refuse to pick a side in the raging debate between developers and users. Both groups are creators, one of content, one of the technology that makes it possible. The developers’ work facilitates users; users’ needs define the developers’ existence. Thus, my talk revolves around looking at the bigger picture – Digitalia, this parallel universe that we all inhabit and help each other navigate. It was called ‘An Analog in a Digital world’. The presentation is up here and you can view the video here. Or see them both together below:

 

This session segued naturally into Rina Chaddwa‘s talk on ‘WordPress for dummies’  and Karthik Magapu‘s session on GPL Licenses. Post that, the sessions got progressively more technical, ranging from coding nitty-gritty to theme acceptance to plugin development. Annkur completed the two-day event with a talk that brought it out of the strictly technical again – ‘No SEO‘.

I felt at sea with many of the terms being thrown about here (GitHub? GPL? Anchor text spam wot???). But I think it was an important weekend for me, in order to understand better what goes on under the hood of this service that houses my digital presence and work. That I believe, is the purpose of community events such as this, for the different factions to better relate to each other. I had a great time and I hope to be a bigger part of the WordPress community from now on. I would also love to see more bloggers/content users participate in future WordCamps.

A big thank you to Aditya Kane and Alexander Gounder for organising the event and for guiding my talk!

You can find conversations around this event at  and join the Facebook community here.

Here are some other accounts of this session:

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