Tag Archives: Spoken word

The Show Goes On But Can It Be Better?

In the last week, a young woman accused Shamir Reuben, a popular male poet, of trying to elicit nude pictures from her. The case has hit news headlines, caused a lot of shock, outrage, accusations, defensive statements and more in the poetry community in Mumbai. Since then, there have been other accusations and statements.

Soliciting nude pictures may be a socially taboo topic of discussion. But it’s not strictly speaking, illegal. The young woman says she was underage at the time though, which is what takes this into the realm of a crime.

The accused is a well-known face on the local Spoken Word/poetry scene. But this scene is a young one and still new to the limelight which has caused an outpouring of ‘I didn’t even know who this guy was until yesterday so why are they calling him famous?’ How well-known a person is or perceived to be, has nothing to do with the incident. Or does it? Shamir’s social currency as a known poet and a senior person in his company makes this an imbalance of power, with regards to the victim (who was a student and a new poet on the scene then). Harassment and abuse can both only happen in a situation where there is an imbalance of power/privilege. Her age and gender also make this complicated since articulating NO or even the fact that she was asked something she should not have – are difficult.

Shamir has been much admired for his work and his feminist viewpoints. This makes it a hard accusation to digest but also an easy one to turn into outrage. This uncontained mess of emotions has resulted in one of his female friends being harangued to the point of trolling, for her feminist views while having been friends with him. The meninist brigade is screaming for proof and about not ruining the man’s life. Blame and shame are being rained on everyone around with proportionately defensive reactions. We seem to be losing sight of the issue on hand, which is that a minor was asked and possibly coerced to send nude pictures.

I know Shamir slightly, having met him once and having admired his work often. Because this is happening in the space I frequent and love, this bothers me, yes. But perhaps because I cannot claim to be a close friend and also possibly because of the harassment I’ve faced as a woman through the last year and half, I’m not as shaken. I am relieved that we are finally talking about it, even as I’m saddened that an underage girl had to be harassed for the poetry circle to take cognizance of the issue.

I’ve been part of a number of discussions in the past few days about power, privilege, consent, harassment, abuse and more. It’s been hard, trying to keep my thoughts straight while respecting everyone concerned (because make no mistake, every human being deserves that) and also not adding to the uproar.

I was quoted in a Mumbai Mirror story titled ‘Sexual Misconduct Case: Working Towards A Safe Creative Community‘, where I’ve said,

Ramya said, “We’ve each experienced misogyny and silencing and (SXonomics) have come together because we want to do something about it. We are not here to police people, especially after an act has been committed – that is for the law authorities. But we’d like to make people conscious about how they think and treat each other, especially women. Lecturing doesn’t take one far so we’ve tried to bring out our messages in engaging ways, using what we do well – performance, writing and art.”

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Some of us were quoted in a Mumbai Mirror story this weekend, about the way forward after the #ShamirReuben story broke out. I am deeply saddened that it had to come to this point – of underage girls being harassed, before the space that I love, was willing to take cognizance of the misogyny. But I'm relieved that it has finally forced out these long overdue conversations on abuse, gendering and the dirty politics of sex entering art and work. The story came out on Sat 10 Feb in Mumbai Mirror and is titled 'Sexual misconduct case: Working towards a safe creative community'. #gender #sexuality #sex #sextalk #harassment #abuse #gendering #genderpolitics #crimesagainstwomen #sexualharassment #consentviolation #mumbaimirror #pressmention

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An earlier interview of mine was also quoted as part of a Mid-Day story covering the case.

“Spoken Word poetry is not a new art form. It has its roots in every oral performing tradition. But it has gotten a new lease of life. Currently, the popular flavour is for performances to sound angry and rage against something specific. With time, I think, these themes and tones will evolve too. All in all, I think we’re set for some very exciting times in storytelling, performance and art!”

And finally, the Kommune (Shamir’s now former workplace) invited me to participate in a discussion on building safer spaces within the performing circuit. A part of this discussion can be viewed on Facebook Live here.

Possibly, I sound pacifist. If you’ve ever read my work or seen any of my performances in the past two years, you’ll know that is not who I am. But I don’t see any point in adding further anger and outrage to this story. I am not one of the victims in this case so it does not feel right for me to co-opt their stories. All my anger and pain and outrage of the last two years only resulted in further attacks and in my being shut out of spaces. I have no desire to fight any more of those battles. But I am still invested in the stage, Mumbai’s stages. I want to spend my efforts and any influence I wield, in making this better, taking what we’ve all learnt as a community, from this unsavoury episode, to be more responsible and equal. I stand for equality and respect for all performers and artists.

If you’d like to talk about this, feel free to leave a public comment on this post or inbox my Facebook Page or the SXonomics Facebook Page. I’m still sorting through my thoughts about sexual politics that the accusations and counter-statements raise. I’ll write about this on XX Factor shortly.

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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.

ARENA


ARENA

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

If you liked this, please follow my microfiction/micropoetry at https://www.yourquote.in/ideasmithy

Sweet Lullabies

I performed this week as well at the newly rebranded The Habitat (formerly Tuning Fork). There was a massive crowd, mostly new. And a lot of the new poets spilt their tales of pain, depression and heartbreak. My original plan was to do a dark,smoky piece or a breakup piece. I have been in such an emotionally bruised place, that I was in need of comfort. But just like writing, I realised performing is catharsis, not healing. So instead I created comfort with this piece. It’s an old one but I’ve revamped how I perform it. What do you think?

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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.

Thank You For The Paper Planes

I returned to the poetry circuit last week. Yes, I have been performing here and there but only where I’ve been pulled in. 2017 has hit me with so many things, I’ve needed to stop and regain my breath. I wrote a new piece and read it right off my screen. And then I was glad for a chance to bring back my first piece. It always gives me a new lease on life, when I live through the Paper Plane performance. A young poet who I know slightly, reached out to me later to thank me for sharing that and said she needed to hear just that, on that day. All I can feel is immense gratitude for this idea choosing to come to the world at all, and through my head. Thank you for all the paper planes.

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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 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 Showwoman Under The Paper Plane

It turns out I have a showwoman in me, once I let go of the painful things keeping me inside stage fright. Last Monday, I performed Paper Plane, my first ever piece and my guiding philosophy.

It gave me the impetus to do CoffeeShop, which people have really liked and I have a lot of fun doing. Enjoy! And thank you for the love. The only thing I love more than making people think is doing so with a laugh. 🙂

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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.

And Then There Was Music

I sang today.

Actually it’s the second time this week. Earlier this week, I met a friend visiting from out of town at what turned out to be a karaoke event. I sat through an hour of people rollicking in songs I did not recognize, trying hard not to feel outdated and irrelevant. And then my group picked out a nostalgia track that took me back to when singing was fun.

In case you’re wondering….the original:

Just before it was time to leave, something swung into place. A new year I realised, new resolutions, new promises and all that means the old burdens don’t exist any more or don’t have to matter anymore. The microphone is not new to me anymore and with karaoke, you don’t really expect anyone to be superlative in their mastery of the song or even memory of the lyrics. I chose this slightly (now) obscure song to pay tribute to the Angry Girl I started off as at seventeen. And it was good.

Today was Tuning Fork’s first challenge of the year. They had us write a piece in an hour to a prompt and just before going up on stage, they told us we’d have a predefined mood to render the performance. I started in fits & jerks, picking pieces of pretty lines and unfinished poetry from my stash. Then I decided to set those aside and go with a story that’s been lurking in the back of my lungs, waiting its turn while my voice, throat and mind got comfortable on stage.

This was the story I told. And the mood I picked was ‘Happy’ which felt like 2017 continues to be on my side and help me stay well, happy. I just listened to my performance and I’m so happy there’s still music inside me.

It feels like I’m seeing someone I’ve known all my life in a new light. Thank you for the music and the microphone. 2017, I thank you for your gifts.

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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.

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.

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