I Am Here To Break Our Shackles

Prankur Chaturvedi, for The Mumbai Art Collective

It liberates me, it does. Whenever I go up on stage and recite a poem, I thank the almighty for giving me an opportunity to say what I have to in a form that attracts so many people, that makes them think, that makes me realize the power of words.

I started my journey with poetry because I felt trapped in a corporate setup where people dedicated a few hours daily to bitch and crib about the bosses, the processes, the set up and everything else. I didn’t want to do that. I did not belong there. I wanted to run away after office. “But where to go?” That was the question sowing seeds in my head. I have been writing for years and one day I decided that it was time to show my work to the world.

In talking about the corporate trap, I realized that it is the smallest of the traps we have around us. There are so many bigger shackles and barriers which our society has created. I always wanted to go the unconventional way and poetry helped me to take that path. I still remember the first time I went up on stage and recited “Aaina aur Asliyat(The Mirror and Reality). It was about a mirror telling you to stop pretending and do instead what you feel like doing. In my eyes, the people who were sitting in the audience and clapping were like a mirror to me. In that moment , I found myself. It was like a conversation between me and my inner self. It looked like we were meeting for the first time on that stage. Clearly a turning point in my life, it was magical.

Through Poetry, my aim is to challenge and break those shackles, barriers and beliefs that snatch our humanity away from us. I intend to make people think, and I believe that artists in general and poets in particular are the game changers. Poets are an indispensable force, and no society can stay rational, logical, affectionate and emotional without an artist.

Everyone follows a pattern while reciting or performing poems on stage and everyone has their own unique style, and that makes all poetry special. There are no rules, there are no boundaries, there are no expectations, and there are no fears. Out of those 100 words, there will be at least 10 words which will make everyone think and say ‘waah!’, and that applause, encouragement and motivation which you will get on stage will set the tone right for you.

I also have a pattern which I follow in most of my poems. I recite my poems in the form of a conversation between two people. These two people can be anyone, from the real world or from an ideal world. People may or may not connect with them. However, I make sure that people connect with the thoughts of these two characters. I try to give people hope through my poems and believe that change is on its way.

Questioning the authorities for their wrongdoings through poetry has always been a poet’s weapon. Be it Manto or any other poet, this community has always shown a mirror to the authorities and the society at large.

Recently, one of my poetry videos got banned. We had to put it down because threats were being issued. It was titled “Saala Anti National Element.” The whole intent of my poem is summarized in the first paragraph:

“Mujhe Deshbhakt na kaho, mai sawaal puchta hun,
Aur un sawaalon ki aad me, kuch jawaab dhundta hun,
Sawaal puchna maksad nahi mera, bas jawaab dhundne ka zariya hai,
Sahi aur galat ko pehchaane ka, mera ek nazariya hai,
Mujhe Deshbhakt na kaho, mai sawaal puchta hun!”

This did not deter me, instead it only made my belief strong in what I am doing. Your words and expression cannot depend on the reactions of others. It is always the other way round. May be what Manto said still holds true. “Mai apni aankhein band kar bhi lun, par apne zameer ka kya karun

After every performance, I wait for a second to see the reaction on the faces of my audience, those emotional faces seeking answers. I love that part. I realize the importance of each and every reaction and keep it with myself to cherish it forever.

I have found my “sukoon” in those faces.

Na manzil ka pata hai, na raaste ki parwaah hai,
Sukoon ki Talaash me bas nikal pada hun,
Chalta hun, girta hun, phir uthke chal padta hun,
Sach kahun toh udne ki chah bhi rakhta hun,
Jisko Sarhadein na rok paayen,
Mai vo azaad Parinda hun !

Prankur’s work can be found on Facebook here.

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