Turning the pages of the Spoken Word World
'Degree over dreams' or 'degree FOR your dreams?'
I have a superpower!
It doesn’t work on everyone, but so far it works on the majority of the people I meet every now and then.
It’s not time travel or telekinesis or anything cool like that, rather my superpower (almost a curse) is that I can make people raise their eyebrows, create rivers of confusion on their forehead because whenever they ask me, “what do you do for a living?” I tell them that I’m a Spoken Word Poet and the reaction is something I would like to change for sure.
I remember telling my parents that I want to pursue law during the last semester of my high school. No, not because of the fact that I could never lose an argument with my teachers or was someone who went to sleep dreaming about becoming a lawyer or a judge or anything related to that field. No, nothing like that. I said I want to do law simply because it sounded like the more respectable, approvable, somewhat affordable and acceptable thing to say instead of telling them that I want to be an artist because in truth I didn’t have the courage to be one. You see, there is this sense of shame, guilt and this over bearing feeling of being a burden you feel on the ones you love when you choose a creative pursuit; when you deviate from a timeline that’s been normalized for everyone because not all professions get the respect they deserve. But somehow along the way I found the courage, took a leap of faith and there’s been no looking back ever since.
It’s been more than two years that I’ve been a full-time artist now and I’m proud to tell you that I have won seven national poetry slams of my country and have had some glorious features including creating a Spoken Word video for UNICEF’s 75th anniversary, collaborating with UNICEF South Asia on a poem and performing for one of the biggest performance arts platforms in my country including Tape a Tale and Spill Poetry. The journey so far has been something I’m still searching a word for in the dictionary, but what I can tell you for sure is that the spoken word scene is India is booming, beautiful and magical yet, it’s failing, ugly and treacherous.
The opportunities in this field are still somewhat limited due to lack of awareness about the art form and for me personally one of the biggest hindrances has been the lack of opportunities to perform live. Regardless of how many slams one wins or not, it does not guarantee respect or acceptance or any future features in this commercial world of celebrating the numbers one has on social media instead of just their art.
And so after all this time and seven slams later, it was definitely getting tougher for me to survive as an artist, I was constantly competing to just let my art breathe and that took a toll on me. Somewhere down the line all the competing became unhealthy because art should just be and I did not have the luxury to stop because all I had was just one live stage performance video to show for in my résumé. And every budding artist needs momentum, more features that lead to more results, not just for themselves but to prove to their own family that this is possible. But sadly it just wouldn’t happen for me regardless of how hard I tried. I found myself always waiting, fighting for a chance just to be able to perform on a stage and so one day I decided to hit pause and did the next best thing.
If I was not going to get a stage any time sooner, I decided to turn my own room, the forest near my house, the riverside, empty fields, my favourite café, every corner of my town into my own stage. No more waiting. And that’s the best advice I could part to anyone out there. “Start creating.”
I created a five episodic poetry series titled, ‘Words Heal Words Bleed’ that I directed, wrote, produced, starred in and edited all on my phone in an app. Yes! On my phone! I didn’t even have a professional microphone, still don’t, I simply recorded my audios in the inbuilt phone recorder. Rather the finale of the series ended up being the top 20 poetry short films on ‘Shorted India standing its ground in front of films made by major video production houses starring mega stars like Ayushmann Khurrana and more. I’m not telling you all this to get an applause out of you but to awaken you to create and not wait in the world of Spoken Word. As we no longer need to depend on high budget or fancy tools to make something worthwhile. With fine vision and understanding of your art, it’s possible. The technology is at your fingertips. Creating this series led me to work as a video editor, audio editor, content creator and so much more. Taking this one step abled me to reach a level where I can single handedly produce one of a kind poetry videos and cannot just survive but thrive as an artist with an independent control over my art. So what are you waiting for?
Today hundreds of youth out there will graduate from high school studying a stream they didn’t want to, this year hundreds of youth will graduate from colleges with degrees they didn’t really want to, diplomas pressurized to pursue by circumstances, fear and lack of knowledge thereof because what their heart truly desires is something society deems a hobby because once again not every profession is respected the same way. I know this, because I’ve been there.
We need to stop choosing a degree over dreams, rather we should be focusing and creating an environment where one can choose a degree FOR their dreams and I know that’s not a luxury everyone can afford but the least we can do is open not just our minds but our hearts for there is scope in every profession, in every stream, nothing can stop you if you chose to live your dream.
For dreams are nothing but reality, only if you let them be.
From one artist for another,