Tag Archives: Feminism

Stage Fright And A Lily

I found gratitude in February. Here are all things that were life last month.

A conversation on safe spaces – One of Mumbai’s performance/art spaces and Shamir’s former employer hosted a discussion on safety in performing spaces. We shared experiences, fears, ideas and some hopes for this landscape that we are all committed to.

SXArena: The Third Wheel, UnValentined! and Digital Dil – We decided to try a new format that included poetry, conversations and some simple games to explore ideas of sexuality and gender. The topics of our day were polyamory, relationships outside the primary romantic one, love in the times of hookup and connections beyond the commerce.

The SXonomics Show: Touch Me Not – We were invited to conduct a gender sensitisation drive for The Habitat. We rolled this out as a series of 1 hour shows that combine comedy, satire, music, poetry and dramatic performance to address hard questions. Our first show addressed sexual harassment. It received a good response and this very encouraging review. We have since done one more show on gender (im)balance and have another four coming up (every alternate Monday at The Habitat, 7:30PM).

We, The XX Chromosome: Women’s Web and SheThePeople hosted a two day Women Writers’ Festival 2018 and invited us to do a show themed ‘We, The XX Chromosome’. Our 45 minute performance addressed gender stereotyping, the casting couch, rape culture, outdated fairytales and consent violation.

I started a new friendship and that person came to one of our events just as a show of support. Their presence and their ideas expanded our world view on gender, sexuality and love.

I wasn’t nearly as good at the old friendships. I think after 2017, I found it hard to remember that there were still people who liked me and wanted to spend some moments of their lives with me. But friendliness came knocking in gentle, sweet ways. I went to another old friend’s birthday party without a gift because I had just had no time to get one. But on the way, I stopped and picked up a lily because it reminded me of her. She thanked me so many times, I felt bad that I had categorised our friendship as needing the commercial validation of a store-bought gift. And yesterday she told me that the flower had continued to bloom and spread its fragrance all across her house. This is so lovely.

We were featured in the press several times (1, 2, 3, 4). Ironically right after I posted this poem:

Let me just say life is mischievous at times. 😋

There are days when I fear getting carried away and that this will all crash land. I do love how much I’m learning, though. After a recent show, a member of the audience told us that she had seen one of our early performances and we had come a long way from that. That just feels so, so, so very good.

Every now and then, Ishmeet says or does something on stage and I marvel at how a mind can work and how a gesture or a facial expression can be used to convey an idea. It’s like learning a new language and I’ve always enjoyed that.

I am still awkward in my transitions on and off stage. But stage fright does not cripple me as badly now. I’m learning to enjoy even the mistakes I make, laugh at the times I am clumsy. And that’s the same lesson as life itself, isn’t it? Look up at the stars but also find time to laugh when you trip over the stones. And always, make room for the flowers.

Here’s a handful of SXonomics laughs coming your way. This is our first video.

What does the future hold? Well, Aadhar card linkages and income tax returns. But also four new SXonomics shows, SX-on-Mics (our first community event on Women’s Day) and more videos. And a lily or two.

===============================================================

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.

LA-based GirlTalkHQ covers SXonomics: ‘Indian Band SXonomics Using Spoken Word Poetry To Talk Feminism & Fight The Patriarchy’

Late last month, LA-based GirlTalkHQ spotted SXonomics and carried our story:

“Indian Band SXonomics Using Spoken Word Poetry To Talk Feminism & Fight The Patriarchy”

They say of us,

“While SXonomics touch on topics that are universally understood, such as shaming other women for their choices, there are issues that are specifically directed toward an Indian audience. The two women have dissected the way sexism in India is deeply tied in with the caste system which discriminates against those of a lower socio-economic bracket. In this way they are reinforcing the notion of intersectionality, something today’s feminist movement can no longer ignore in order to stay relevant.”

They added to the Scroll.in story by also tracing our individual journeys through feminist viewpoints.

In many of our conversations, I find myself saying, “I’ve thought/felt this for years and I thought I was alone!”. Protesting rape culture disguised as romance. Hitting back at misogyny.

Surviving hate labels like MANHATER, BITCH and SLUT. Coping with harassment, abuse, discrimination, body shaming, social pressures. Searching in vain for role models. Watching yourself go from person to battleworn warrior. Choosing to be the social outcast in an unsafe environment, because the other choice is unfit for human dignity.

So much of SXonomics is about solidarity, about finally feeling NOT ALONE in a world intent on turning us into mute sex objects/caregivers. Our individual journeys have made us who we are and now the stage gives us a chance to brew these together into a potent mix that fights back at an oppressive system. And beyond that, standing together has given us a chance to remember that we are human beings beyond being crusaders and human beings must have fun, pleasure and inspiration. SXonomics is all of that.

SXonomics is on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Here’s our first event in February:

Alt-Valentine 5

SXArena: Alt-Valentine: A series of short events that combine performance, poetry, improv, roleplay, readings and audience interaction. Please contact Mr.Aniruddha Chatterjee at +91-99769118555 for details. The sessions are: The Third Wheel, Un-Valentined & Digital Dil.

===============================================================

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.

SXonomics in DNA AfterHours: ‘ These Bands Are Giving Out A Strong Message In Music/

I’ve been relatively quiet this month, on the blog. But the words have been hard at work. My collaboration with Dr.Ishmeet Nagpal, SXonomics, has gone on to the next level. We decided to take January to take stock, figure out where we wanted to go next. And maybe as a sign from the universe, we’ve started getting noticed and counted in some very flattering worlds.

DNA reached out to us for a chat about our work. It was so heartening to know that someone somewhere thinks we’re doing something right, and not being foolish to do what we do. They featured us in a story about performing bands using art to further social messages. Do we do that? Yes, yes, we do and not just with music. But sometimes, you need the world to tell you that it sees you, as you are. Thank you, Dhaval Roy, for seeing us for our true work.

The story is ‘These bands are giving out a strong message in music‘ and we’ve been quoted as saying,

“Spoken word feminist party SXonomics use satire, improv, poetry, music and audience-inclusive performance to project feminism as a fun and relevant way of life, while sparring with “patriarchy, toxic gender roles, relationship politics and mental monsters”, like founders Dr Ishmeet Nagpal and Ramya Pandyan tell us. “

“SXonomics, on its part, is alarmed by the things that have been passed off as culture, romance and poetry. “Problematic messages in Bollywood where a woman’s consent is not respected — like, ‘Tu haan kar ya na kar’ and many other such things are a matter of concern. Films are a huge influence on the common man’s way of thinking,” says Ramya.”

For SXonomics, the goal of their caricatures, poetry and collaborations is to prompt people to think about the current state of affairs in the country. “We want to create reference points in our listeners’ heads and make them realise when something wrong happens. Many of them have come up to us and said that our pieces like Shaadi Ka Laddu and Chaar Log (a satire on chaar log kya kahenge?/ what will people say) keep coming up in their daily lives,” says Ishmeet. Ramya adds that many of their listeners (including men and women) have told them how their performance has been an eye-opener to many aspects that existed in their lives but they were unmindful of.

Ishmeet says that when a message is propagated through music or any other art form, it is likelier to stay longer with people and make an impact.

We’ve been quoted alongside bands like Kerala’s black metal caste protest band Willuwandi, Buddhist Dalit rights activist rock band, Dhamma Wings, McLeod Ganj’s JJI Exile Brothers who sing about Tibetan freedom, Imphal Talkies‘ work on North East India’s insurgency and Aisi Taisi Democracy‘s satire. It’s a privilege, an honour even, to be counted among people who are crusading for these causes using art and performance.

Thank you every one of you who has listened to, read, clapped/snapped for, sung along with, commented, liked, talked about or even thought about what each of us has had to say. You make what we all do, possible. You make it a world that can be shaped by artists and love and passion, not just guns and politics. You allow us to believe the world can be made a better place, one song, one poem, one beat at a time. Thank you.

SXonomics is on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

===============================================================

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.

Relationships Redefined – A SEXONOMICS Workshop

SEXONOMICS grew me as a performer and as a shaper of ideas and thought.  Ishmeet and I found that by pooling together our ideas, we came up with things bigger and better than each of us could manage. For instance, our first realisation was that we had gone beyond our individual identities as poets and ventured into the realm of drama. We were also pushing the envelope on the usual feminist discourse in our worlds, with satire, roleplay and more. This allowed us to talk about heavy topics like patriarchy, social structures and toxic gender roles but also stay accessible to our audiences.

Audiences across our performances have laughed with us, quoted lines from our acts in casual conversations later and on the whole, told that they enjoyed watching us.

We think our next step is to bring our listeners into our story and make all of you active participants in it too. So our next venture is an audience-interactive/performance based workshop titled ‘Relationships Redefined‘. We are going to explore the nature of intimacy, relationship expectations and the pitfalls and adventures that we each go through in our quest for a romantic partner. If you’ve been following my/our journey so far, please come be part of this next SEXONOMICS adventure!

BeHiver presents Relationships Redefined – A SEXONOMICS Workshop

Date: Saturday, 16 June 2017
Time: 6PM – 8PM
Venue: QTube, Bandra West
Fee: Rs.500/-
Registration: You must be above 18 years of age. Please carry a proof of identity. Call Aniruddha Chatterjee at +91-9769118555 to register your seat.
Facebook Event: https://www.facebook.com/events/581000048898732/

24852607_871625692996086_8138696309681641053_n

===============================================================

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.

Scroll.in Covers SEXONOMICS: ‘With humour and sass, Sexonomics the Band aims to make feminism fun for Indian women’

Scroll.in did a story about SEXONOMICS this week. SEXONOMICS is my collaboration with friend and fellow feminist-poet Dr.Ishmeet Nagpal.

“With humour and sass, Sexonomics the Band aims to make feminism fun for Indian women”

SEXONOMICS made its debut at Mumbai’s most prestigious venue, the National Center for Performing Arts at the South Asia Laadli Media Awards earlier this year. Since then, we’ve showcased our feminist ideologies in the form of several performances that take the form of dramatic satire, poetry, spoken word and music. We’ve performed for activist forums, pop-ups, college audiences and even had a ticketed show.

“The band uses spoken word poetry to provoke conversations about sexism, misogyny and gender roles.”

It has been a journey, teaching us a lot about ourselves and about our ideology. This is our story in the public media and it feels wonderful to be finally understood.

We were interviewed about a month ago. And in that time, we also made a trip to Delhi, performing our first outstation gig titled #PillowTalk at the Love Matters ‘Pleasure as a human right’ event. And starting this weekend, we are trying a new interactive format that involves audience participation in addition to our own performances.

75499-zfhjmpfplb-1512295822

SEXONOMICS: Ramya Pandyan & Dr.Ishmeet Nagpal

I have been quoted in the press before in the context of blogging, then Twitter and even Spoken Word. It is always flattering. But this story is extra special because it is one that each of us individually has struggled to communicate to the world. We’ve faced harassment, abuse and a whole lot of misunderstanding before being able to polish our ideas into entertaining, thought-provoking performance. We have managed to make people laugh and even think about things like patriarchy, toxic gender roles and social pressures. I can only feel immensely grateful for all of this finally.

I want to thank Damini Kulkarni for believing in us and taking our story out to the world.

SEXONOMICS is on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Our next event is an audience-interactive/performance workshop called ‘Relationships Redefined’ in association with BeHiver.

Relationships Redefined – A SEXONOMICS Workshop in association with BeHiver

Date: Saturday, 16 June 2017
Time: 6PM
Venue: QTube, Bandra West
Fee: Rs.500/-
Registration: You must be above 18 years of age. Please carry a proof of identity. Call Aniruddha Chatterjee at +91-9769118555 to register your seat.
Facebook Event: https://www.facebook.com/events/581000048898732/

===============================================================

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 Little Circle Of Light

I might say it’s due to the antibiotics I’ve been on, for a week. My point of view is different but the picture is very much the same.

April brought a harsh 2017 to a head. Poetry has gone big and that means the possibility of money & fame. It’s bringing out the worst traits in people. Poetry requires one to share (or pretend ). So it’s darker and more uncomfortable than the same politics elsewhere. It’s turning out to be a hard year all around. In coping with their own lives, people react in poisonous ways towards other people – by lashing out, by becoming political or judgemental or by trying to control other people.

I felt very lonely two weeks ago. It made me angry and fearful and deeply sad. It forced out an important conversation. I did not like how it went but from sheer fatigue, I succumbed to an illusion that it got resolved. It pushed me into conversations of intimacy with other people. We always tend to think of intimacy as a soft, pretty, romantic thing but it’s not. Intimacy is the tender, slick, shiny pink of exposed flesh when the skin is peeled back. It’s really hard to deal with.

Looking back, I’m not surprised I caught a bad cold. I could blame it on the weather but my body is a metaphor for everything going on in my life. All the tangles, all the unshed tears trying to burst out of me all at once. I gave up and succumbed to antibiotics and blessed, drugged sleep. When I woke up, I was on stage at the NCPA. I delivered and walked away.

Yes, I said that. On Friday, I performed on the NCPA stage, one of the most prestigious performing venues in the country. It was a collaboration with Ishmeet Nagpal and Sudeep Pagedar. Our spoken word piece ‘The Parenting Economy’ debuted at the Laadli Media Awards for Gender Sensitivity in Media & Advertising. It was a chance to perform for the likes of Barkha Dutt (who introduced us), Shashi Tharoor, Dolly Thakore, Kamla Bhasin and Dr.A.L. Sharada. After our performance, I moved into the audience and watched the wonderful work being felicitated. It made all that usually occupies my mind, seem so trivial. Feminism is such an important issue and it impacts every human being on the planet. All the people in that auditorium that evening, even with all their complex backstories – they are all people who have driven things that changed many lives. I am but a minuscule voice in this rallying cry but it is a privilege to have this voice. As a blogger, as a stage performer, I have a chance to take forward an important truth that breaks status quo. I cannot let myself fall prey to such petty things as slam poets’ insecurity or fuckboi manipulation.

The wonderful Sharanya Mannivannan was there too to receive an award for her book ‘The High Priestess Never Marries‘. I think I’ve known Sharanya from my Desi Pundit days when I featured her blog. That admiration connection flowed into Twitter. When I saw her at the India Culture Lab event last year, I was blown away with her grace (physical and verbal). Hit by a panic-attack of shyness, I barely spoke to her. I meet people I admire so rarely now that when I do, I’m back to being an awkward 5-year old. She tweeted to me later asking why I hadn’t told her I was @ideasmithy. But she was kind, never wavering in her treatment of me as an equal. So it was an extra scoop of wonderful from the universe, to spot her in the audience and realise I’d be performing for her. We sat on the grass and chatted awhile afterwards. And it was nice.

Back home, my Facebook Events and Whatsapp try and ensnare me back into the dirty politics. I am a part of it too. I’ve brought my own rage and flinch reactions to it. I can see the ripple effects they’ve caused – cracks in perfect friendships, disillusion creeping into the bonhomie and a plaintive cry of hurt from someone I set in their place. Okay. I am done. The dregs are passing out of my system. It’s time for a new world. A new goal, a new network of relationships, a new me?

No. One thing that stands out clearly to me in this is what the real me is and that never changes. The real me is this one sitting calm and still, underneath all the pain and the disappointment and rage, beneath even the love and hurt and panic. The real me is hidden under layers of rotting tears, of congealed snot and undigested acid but it’s untouched and unfazed by it. The real me watches, offers caring when it wants, sits patiently when it sees that love will not be received and waits it out till the universe is ready again. The real me is a little circle of pure light. I’m sitting inside that right now and nothing can touch me. I’ll be back when you need me again. Till then, take care, you.

===============================================================

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.

— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —— — — — — — — — — —

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.

 

 

Breaking Barriers With Art

Spoken Word Performance At Mukesh Patel School of Technology, Management & Engineering

It’s raining poetry and platforms to share it on! I’m not complaining though. Last week, I went to the Caferati Open Mic. This is the oldest of its kind in the city and the first one I ever went to. I’m afraid I messed up my performance a bit. But I’m going to blame that on the oil bath I’d had earlier in the day. It always tends to make me a bit groggy and slow and quite unlike myself. Even as I went up to the mic, I was in the pleasant haze of “It’s all good; everything’s awwight.”

Evidently my good mood must have made up for my lacklustre performance because I was approached by a group of youngsters. They were having a cultural festival at their college, they said, and would I come down and perform please? I laughed and I said,

“That’s a silly thing to ask a poet. Most of us, give us a table to stand on and say, PERFORM. And we’ll do it.”

Anyway, my breeziness had settled by the time I walked into Mukesh Patel College of Engineering two days later. A poetry performance to a bunch of engineers? This calmed me down a bit.

The event was themed ‘Equality’ so I picked Superwoman to perform. Besides, it had been awhile since I’d done that and I thought it would resonate with the young, vibrant crowd in the room.

I think it did. They let me stay on to do one more piece. And of course I had to sign off with my signature piece, Paper Plane.

This day made me very happy. There was the endorphin/adrenalin high of performing. There was the quaint campus charm of performing to an audience that’s seated on the floor around you. And I was very, very happy to be a part of something that broke down the rigid barriers between science and art. I met a lot of students who were talented singers, standup comics, dancers, musicians and poets. One of the other performances sparked off a loud debate on women’s rights, the LGBT movement and more. In the midst of the shouting match, one of the students leaned in and said,

“Very sorry if this sounds stupid. But I heard you saying something about ‘rape culture’. I don’t know what that is. Can you explain it to me?”

That was the highlight of my day. Art is fun and a real morale booster for me. But moments like these remind me that it also brings people together, transforms thought and shapes our lives.

It was a beautiful day.

— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —

*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.

#WomenShould: The Things That We Do In Spite Of It

So another Women’s Day that came and passed. I managed to stay away from the hoopla that would try to sell me more cocktails, impractical shoes and unrealistic romance, in the guise of empowering me. I’ve written about my dissatisfaction with the fact that this doesn’t actually empower women, let alone women across different socioeconomic strata. But I’ve had a different thought this year. I went through a similar thought cycle with Valentine’s Day, reacting with excitement, then cynicism, then indifference and finally conscious acceptance. Both days serve as symbolic references, when we remind ourselves to think about important things and how we’re faring on them. My disappointments have not been with the concept of either day itself but with the results of the drive, the stark differences between what should be and what really is.

I live a charmed life, of a sort. Freedom to vote, to love who I will, rights over my body, to my privacy, the power to choose a career, a partner and a lifestyle. But I am not the majority, not even a significant minority. Attitudes still run largely in the direction of dictating how a woman can and should live her life. To be born a woman is to carry the shackles of ‘Women Should’ for the rest of one’s life. Awhile ago, an NGO study showed some insightful things. When you searches online for the phrase ‘women can’ or ‘women should’, the auto-prompts that are thrown up (based on popular search strings) reveal just the kind of attitude women battle every single day. Yes, even women like me, with our hallowed lives.

If this search were to be taken as a key pointer, it would seem like the internet believes that women can or should do very little. Yet, I know this is not true. We’re not all crusaders. But every woman I know, lives beyond the definition imposed on her from birth, in her own unique way. There is the student who negotiates with her family, promising to marry whoever they want her to, if she can pursue the education of her choice. There is the mother who waits patiently, through pregnancy, childbirth, nursing, preschool and primary till her children are old enough, and then goes back to the career she left behind. There’s a daughter-in-law who chooses an education system that will allow her to fulfil her family duties and gathers familial support before she enrols. Womanhood, if it is standing up to hostile elements, it is also about finding a way around the restrictions the fall in one’s path.

Bajaj Allianz is doing an interesting campaign to combat the results of the study I mentioned above. They ask you to type in a search string using the term ‘Women should…’ that involves a positive, empowering message. Let’s take this phrase back and own it, I think.

Here are the searches I did. The women around me inspired these statements.Because they exist. We exist. And it’s time to let the internet know too.

Women should go back to their studies.
Women should be ambitious.
Women should dance for fun.
Women should be engineers.
Women should be daring.
Women should take risks in their careers.
Women should talk back.
Women should wear what they want to.
Women should propose.
Women should earn more than their partners.
Women should travel alone.
Women should rescue people.
Women should be loud enough to be heard.
Women should be seen and heard.
Women should be leaders.
Women should talk about sex.
Women should be famous.

I’m also posting a series of snapshots of some of these women on my Instagram stream using the hashtag #WomenShould.

Add your stories to the #WomenShould movement too.