Tag Archives: The Hive

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‘.


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.

My Fortnight In A Playlist of Poetry

I haven’t really felt like writing much of late. I also haven’t felt like talking or socialising as much. It has been a month of enjoying the cliched ‘my own company’. And no, I don’t mean solo dates. I mean, there is so much going on even when I’m only talking to myself.

Anyway, I haven’t exactly been antisocial. There has been work. And in addition, I’ve been going to a lot of poetry events. That doesn’t feel as much like socialising, especially if it’s newer venues and events. I’ve been seeking the last actively for awhile and I found two. They’re great for now because they are fresh enough to be open to all forms of poetry and attract completely fresh slate minds. So yes, there’s cliches, there’s teenage angst and canned feminism and stale cynicism. But it comes from unfamiliar faces, in newer stories. And best of all, the career poets haven’t showed up as yet. These are the people who are approach poetry, performance and events the same way mid-level managers approach corporate events armed with visiting cards and antacids.

I realise how bitchy that sounds considering a fair lot of them are known to me. I hesitate to call most of them friends because I learnt more than a year later that they’re no different from the b-school alumni meet crowd. There used to be a certain quality to the poetry with performers like this but now it’s all so formulaic and worst of all, drowned in the politics of who’s getting showcased, who’s performing on which show, who got paid and how much. And with all that comes the condescension, the backbiting, the sniping (in whispers and in poetry). Writers are truly appalling people. Well, people are appalling people.

Anyway, I discovered entirely by mistake two new platforms. The first was Art Refurbish’s poetry slam + Open Mic at Khar Social. The crowd was entirely unfamiliar. I made it in late after having wrapped up a three hour webinar and a trek through the heat. The freshness of the performances and the audience was invigorating. I was one of the last performers and I did ‘Paper Plane‘ but I felt like I was experiencing it for the first time. Truly, this is a wonderful medium that allows your old stories to be reborn with every telling.

The Hive feels like homebase now but the crowd was almost all new and there was a new host too. For all intents and purposes, that makes it a new event. I brought out ‘Paper Dolls‘ from my TARQ event earlier this year.

Tuning Fork turned up two events within the space of a week. The first time, I was wearing a saree just because I was in a mood to. And I went in with ‘Feminist Poetry‘ well, because I thought it would be funny to do that particular piece when the audience probably expected more ‘respectable, traditional poetry from the woman in the saree’. An old poet-friend had referenced angry feminists in his heartbreak poetry earlier. I called him out mid-performance and the audience laughed, him along with them all. 🙂

The next week, I was determined to not continue with the feminism theme. I had attended the Caferati Open Mic at Prithvi earlier in the evening after all. Karthik showed up as a surprise and we performed ‘Lullaby‘ there.

But at Tuning Fork later in the night, one young man started his piece addressing the (exaggerated airquotes) FEMININAZIS in the audience. Several people turned around and looked right at me and when it was my turn, they hooted. So I changed my plan and went in with ‘SuperWoman‘.

And then, when I finished, I got off the stage, changed my mind and returned to request another performance. I concluded with ‘Paper Plane‘, my third rendition in two weeks (I also addressed Manisha’s Creative Writing class and concluded my talk with a rendition, not recorded).

Later that night, the young man came up to me and said “Well played.” I grinned back at him. This is so cool. Banter and conversations in poetry. Me for the world, only in poetry. I’ll enjoy it while I can.

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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.

“My Feminism Is Someone You Haven’t Met Before” – Feature At TPC #UndoingGender

The Poetry Club, Airplane Poetry Movement and The Hive came together to pull off an event on #UndoingGender. They had asked for submissions and this piece was one that they picked for a feature performance. I performed it last evening with Karthik Rao on the guitar. I’ll post a video shot from a better angle shortly.

My Feminism Is Someone You Haven’t Met Before

When I tell people
“Don’t call me chick”,
they say,
“You’re not, like, one of those feminist types, are you?”
No. I’m not.
I’m not any kind of feminist that you’ve ever met
And chick? That’s a yellow baby bird
I’m not yellow
I’m the colour of Fair & Lovely ads
Before the girl gets the boy, the job, the life
My Feminism knows appearance matters
But that’s because she looks fabulous in every colour
My Feminism is a flirt
She doesn’t have ‘angry tearful breasts’
But a pair that go in opposite directions
So she uses a bra to hold them together
and calls them ‘Bait’
My Feminism says, “Hello, boys”
My Feminism loves men
Of course, they are often useless
But that’s not their fault – they think with the wrong head
My Feminism has boyfriends and best friends
and a Best Man at her wedding
She changes her mind
No you stupid boy, it’s not always PMS
I would die if bled every time I felt something
Yes, bleeding has something to do with periods
And no, women aren’t really scared of blood
We just pretend so we can laugh behind your back
My Feminism will not make you feel like a man
ßIf your body plumbing is my responsibility
I’m going to flush it down the drain
But my Feminism is not hard
She cries when rape happens
She aches in a world that values control over consent
Gender, sexuality, relationship status regardless
My Feminism weeps the unshed tears of all the men she has known
She bleeds when she sees broken children
Underage is a sin, whether it owns a penis or a vagina
My Feminism loves children
It’s an affection that wears innocence and magic
Not a maternity gown
My Feminism owns her body and her choices
My Feminism won’t condemn you for sexualising women
This body was designed for sex
Good sex. Lots of sex.
And when you’re done gaping over that
She’ll explain the difference between ’sexual being’ and ’sex object’
So don’t chick me, you
She wears red lipstick and combat boots
Kanjeevaram sarees, backless cholis
Butterfly clips and leather jackets
She’s siren, babydoll, bitch, child-woman, earth mother
She knows even labels come off
Even ink washes off
My Feminism doesn’t believe in
Slut shaming
Fat shaming
Any kind of shaming
She’s shameless
But not nameless
She believes with real responsibility, comes real power
So if you’re getting friendly with a lot of crotches,
Girl, you better learn where to hit if the shit hits the fan
And stop moping about your weight and calling it cute things like plus size
And “Real women have curves”
Get real
My Feminism gets a workout because
She knows adrenalin and endorphins make up for absent male attention

My Feminism reads
Shakespeare, Sophie Kinsella, Terry Prachett, Milan Kundera
and Nancy Friday
She gets together with Hermione Granger and Katniss Everdeen
to laugh, laugh, laugh at Bella and her stupid vampire
Hell, my Feminism plays poker with Frankenstein
Like every other monster, he’s just a little boy who was created by a woman

My Feminism is a cat
Alley cat
Well, cats have nine lives
And guess how often my pretty, funny feminism lands on its feet?
Always. Miaow.

I am an individual
And my Feminism is someone you haven’t met before.

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.


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.

Independence Poetry: Feature @ Celebrating Faiz

Here’s something I penned and read (I hesitate to call it a performance because of the lack of polish or practice) at The Hive’s ‘Celebrating Faiz’ event this Independence Day. I’ve only gotten around to posting it now because I’m not as embarrassed by how amateurish it sounds.

And this is the unedited script of what I read:

Yesterday we talked about independence
About British Raj and the freedom struggle
Of martyrs and sacrifices
We watched Karma and Rang de Basanti
Shahid Bhagat Singh (both versions)
We listen to the radio play

Ma Tujhe salaam
Ae mere watan ke logon
Mere desh ki dharti
Tamizha Tamizha un nalum nam nalen

Because this is what it means to be Indian on Independence Day

I wonder what the people whose work we celebrate thought of it
What was it like to be Indian before August 15th, 1947
They were politicians, activists, writers, soldiers, freedom fighters
Driven by their own personal politics
And one common ideal

Of being their own people
In their own land
Of owning their lives,
Their rights

My independence is not that
I was born into a country that was already a democracy
I was never restricted entry because of my nationality or skin colour
I don’t need permission to meet in public spaces
To say what I think
To buy, sell, work, live

These challenges and victories over them
This is my history
But history, as glorious as it may be
Is just legacy,
stories from the past

Independence, on the other hand is a living, breathing thing
It’s personal
And it’s a prickly, uncomfortable creature
A monster living inside the head
It refuses to be confined to history textbooks
It’s not hanging on the wall in fading photographs of people no one has ever met
It has moved from Shahid Bhagat Singh
It is struggling to solve today’s problems with both Gandhigiri and Rang de Basanti
It’s chanting a battle cry against internal and international prejudice
Chak de, India
It’s working quietly to bring light to one remote village using a water pump

Independence is what refuses to let you settle into complacency

We celebrate freedom
And that means, to redefine what free means, constantly
Otherwise, we’re just raising a glass
Of non-alcoholic drink (because it’s a dry day)
To our ancestors’ achievements

As life changes with every person who lives it
Every personal boundary we encounter
Every no, every restriction that we face
And choose to push against
Is an assertion of our freedom
Our own fight for independence

I don’t want to accept the reality of today
Anymore than the people before me did
I want to reinvent what it means to be free
Freedom to love who i will,
caste, age, sex, geography regardless
Freedom to study what I want, to follow my passion
Freedom to speak, to dress, to act, to sleep, to eat
as I choose

Freedom is a dream without a horizon
And I’m chasing my own boundaries
This independence day, I’m celebrating that restless monster
That tells me,
You dare to find your own freedom.

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.

Poetry In Pune: Feature @ A Bizarre Weekend, F Beach House

The Hive asked me to ride down to Pune with them and be a poetry feature at A Bizarre Weekend. That’s ‘poetry’ and ‘Pune’ in one sentence so there really was no reason to say no. 🙂

It turned out to be a small, intimate gathering at F Beach House and here are the pieces I read out (rather than performed).

Flamingos is progressing with each telling and I hope that means it’s getting better. I’m very close to this piece and I’d love to know what you think.

I did Baby Invisible way back when I started and coming on the heels of a light-hearted Paper Plane, it felt heavy. But it was a relief to get it out and I didn’t want to revisit it again for awhile. But now I think it’s worth evolving further into something more. Again, what do you think?

Here’s Patchwork Relationship (I called it Love Story Season 2 in one telling). It’s my only ‘strictly poetry’ piece and while I’m happy with it, it doesn’t really evolve.

And finally, I wrote Passive Aggression in a workshop exercise ages ago and pulled it out because we had an empty slot. It’s not really performance but the sounds seem to suggest I could. What do you think, would you like to hear the sound of clanging dishes?

It was an excellent day and I’m very grateful to Culture Shoq for providing a platform for budding writers and other artists to hone and showcase their talent. The Hive is in need of donation and support. If you like my work or at very least, the fact that it becomes possible, please consider helping in some way possible. If you would like to contribute, donate, loan or invest any sum please do either in cash at The Hive or reach out to Sudeip Nair at sudeip@alivehive.org.

A Playlist Of My Spoken Word Performances As A Feature At The Hive

A new milestone. The Hive asked me to be one of their feature poets at their Open Mic yesterday. I find this immensely gratifying since I only really started thinking about performance poetry/spoken word seriously in January this year.

I knew I would have enough material to cover the 10 minute slot they allocated to me. But I wanted to make sure there was enough variety to keep the listeners entertained and engaged. I’ve been exploring the medium and I’ve tried to not get too repetitive. Also, unlike with writing, I haven’t had or haven’t given myself the luxury of multiple versions of the same trick.

Here are my performances. I started (without preamble, as I’ve been training myself to do) with SUPERWOMAN, which is a ten year work-in-progress, starting with this blogpost.

From there, I moved to a brand new piece that I’ve been working on for a couple of months now. Spoken word is a mutable art form and how I feel about this idea has changed considerably in these months. I initially conceptualised it as a tale of regret, of a vital choice which I made every day and the rue I felt over not once trying the other side. Over time, it has moved from being a metaphor of my life to a picture of the city that defines me. I call this one FLAMINGOS.

And finally, I moved to the one classically ‘poetry/literary’ piece I wrote and performed a couple of months ago. Adi says it doesn’t sit as naturally with my style as others. But I wanted to try it anyway to see what I could do with it. I call it LOVE STORY SEASON 2 (or, in the page poetry version ‘Patchwork Relationship’).

The video moves on to my last piece as well. That’s the one I’m coming to think of as my signature piece. It was my first ever performance piece and its philosophy also gave me my newest tattoo. I give you again, PAPER PLANE.

Love Story: Season 2 — Spoken Word Performance

This is a fresh (and hopefully improved) version of the piece I performed last week. Rochelle did warn me that performance poetry shifts with every telling. I’ve also included the words below. I performed this at The Hive Open Mic yesterday.

When my heart is a radioactive wasteland I find you standing on the the brink your back to your own poisonous past We exchange a cigarette, a story or two I tell you about him, how on restless nights I write his name in silver grey swirls of nostalgia You take a long drag and hand me the cigarette

We time travel Through unexamined memories Expired emotion We have our first date in the universe of pain Nostalgia is best navigated When you’re playing tour guide

The next time, I become the girls you never said goodbye to I fill in backstories you never completed All those Happy Endings that came with no explanations You pick them out of the debris of your mind and you fit them onto my story I slash the t’s and I dot the i’s with tears until sleep blacks us both out

You try to scrub out our kisses with your toothbrush I fuel paper planes with angry emotion And since neither one works, We become prosthetic people in each other’s amputee lives We navigate the minefield of our mutual pasts Holding hands Your mistakes help blow my memories away

I think of love-hate relationships This is not as romantic as that But lust and disgust live in the same neighborhood And the street corner where they meet is where you and I park.

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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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