Emotion-filled voices, rhythmic finger-snapping, and enthusiastic clapping greeted us when we entered Yellow Lights Media at Shahpur Jat on Sunday. The snug space with painted yellow walls seemed somewhat perfect for the fourth edition of #NoShame, an annual poetry and storytelling event hosted by The Modern Poets (TMP)—a Delhi-based literature collective.
The focus, this afternoon, was on the many ways in which one is shamed during their lifetime. Keeping to the theme, a dozen people presented their personal experiences of shaming by reciting original poems and stories. “Our idea is to present a mirror to society through different forms of literature,” shared Mohit Mudita Dwivedi, founder, TMP. Speaking about the unique theme of this event, Dwivedi added, “All of us have faced shaming in some way. However, no one has the courage to speak about it. Such events give people the opportunity to share their experiences without any judgement.”
A judgement-free world
The bilingual event—performers here had the opportunity to recite their compositions either in English or Hindi—was hosted by radio jockey Aashish Jha. Although the theme was profound, the intimate setting made room for ample jokes from both the host and the participants making it a rather light-hearted afternoon gathering.
Among the participants was Prachi Kissagoi who narrated an experience she had at a conference in Bengaluru. Performing in her mother tongue, Hindi, Prachi made use of the art of storytelling popularised by Indian writer Munshi Premchand to share about a time when she was shamed for being “too Hindustani”. Speaking about how many of her co-scholars had considered her “dumb” (sic) just because she liked wearing ethnic ensembles and preferred speaking in Hindi, Prachi questioned, “Why is it that you are only considered scholarly when you change yourself according to the West?”
Revisiting and slamming shame
Among the many performers, voice-over artist Mohammad Bhasir’s poem Tawaif shed light on the uncalled-for shaming of sex workers; Sarahana Sharma spoke about menstruation in her poem I bleed impure; and Shashikant Singh emphasised the importance of LGBTQIA+ rights in his Hindi poem, which was dedicated to one of his close friends who passed away last year. Talking about how this event gives participants such as Anmol Arora—who has Vitiligo—a stage to express their thoughts, Dwivedi pointed out, “For people like Anmol, it is quite difficult to find a platform to speak about her issues. Here we try to break those barriers.”
Varanasi-based theatre practitioner, Manvi Pandey presented her experiences of being a girl with dark skin. In a sarcastic and empowering piece on colourism titled Chal Jhooti, Pandey dedicated the poem to those people from her childhood who made her feel insignificant and unattractive just because of the colour of her skin. “There are times when we write about something extremely vulnerable and face the challenge of deciding where we can present such emotions. Not everyone is comfortable listening to such pieces. It is great that there are platforms like TMP that help bring these emotions out to the world,” concluded Pandey.