The arclights strip me naked
But let me keep my neuroses
So long as I package them as poetry
I can trade them in for a fingerful of clicks
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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.
It turns out I can do pretty poetry, as long as it’s in small doses. Sudeep Pagedar pointed me in the direction of YourQuote and their daily word prompt has been giving me a reason to post a daily micropoem.
A life was changed
Many things were broken
Many languages spoken
That bore plurals for things that hadn’t before
States of being
And in ending
Yet another rule broken
Another grammar rebuilt
When I say
Life is ending
But I am not yet over
I pass into
And a hundred different memories
Which will each
And build new grammars of their own.
I want to live in a world without words
A world where a sweet delicate combination of sounds
Cannot jolt my heartbeat the wrong way
I’ll probably listen a lot better to other sounds
like the incessant honking on an empty road
and my mother clattering dishes in the kitchen
I’ll turn these sounds into thoughts
and thoughts into sounds again
ones that sound sweeter
becomes passive aggression
My tongue smoothing over the sliding ssssses
is a gentle enough set of sounds
It’s a soft P
A thread of sssses
A little bump like a firm rock, that G
And more sssses.
settles over my face and my nostrils
like a film of plastic
It makes my face itch
I think that’s just the G
so I shift awkwardly under it
But it clings to my cheeks
and I hear a RRRRRRRRRRIIIIPPPPPPP
and there goes another
against the sides of my eyeballs
Passive Aggression did that
No, I don’t like words at all
Rochelle brought her wonderful self to Alphabet Sambar and my life last year. She also carried us in the direction of Performance Poetry. In the past year, she has conducted several workshops on the art form. And last week, she hosted her first ever Open Mic at Me So Happi. As a show of support, I said I’d be there. But I got swept up in her infectious warmth and was inspired to give it a shot myself. So here, wonderful world (because I’m feeling that good!), is my maiden performance. You can see Rochelle in the corner just behind me, cheering me on.
Rochelle, thank you for being a wonderful person and for showing me how it is possible to be both warm and an independent woman.
This event has whetted my appetite and I’m hoping to do more. If you’ve been following my journey, you’ll see how this could be a milestone for me creatively and individually. Please leave a comment with any thoughts you may have.
Note: Alphabet Sambar is a community project for writers, that I began in October 2013. Today we have over 100 members spread across 7 countries and 14 cities. Mumbai is our most active spot. We meet every Sunday to share our writing, critique each other’s work and have a geeky laugh or two over words. If you love writing and conversations about words, come join us! Alphabet Sambar is on Twitter and Facebook. You can also write to me at ideasmithy at gmail dot com if you’d like to attend a meet.
Walk with me,
But not everywhere I go
Point me to the star
That your eyes follow
And if I don’t, Pause
Just long enough to see
What dark alley I went down
Before you smile and move on.
I’ll meet you on the other side.
We’ll share notes
And say how lovely it was to walk together.
#ideaverse #poetry #alley #city #traveller #mumbai – at Kala Ghoda
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