Reblogged – women of India

Photographer Arka Dutta is the Edge of Humanity Magazine contributor of this social documentary photography. From his project ‘Eve Was Framed‘. To see Arka’s projects and photographs click on any image. In my country, India, I have seen religious notions that have often ingrained a sense of powerlessness in the […]

via Faith In India & The Women’s Role From Childhood To Death — Edge of Humanity Magazine

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Dusting Off The Moon

It’s come around so quickly! I’m honoured and delighted to be bringing the show out of its dormancy for another performance as part of York’s International Women’s Week celebrations. (All info here on this Facebook event)

My host is the redoubtable Rose Drew, a fine poet in her own right and a tireless activist for all kinds of right-thinking issues. This will be my venue, Briar House, so there should be some good vibes in the room from all the healing that takes place there during the week. Of necessity, it will be the ‘unplugged’ version of the show as we are without lighting rig and my percussionist is currently on tour with the Unthanks. Tsk.

Also in very exciting news, a former audience member has been using my Monsoon poem with her Year 4 pupils as a way into talking about both literacy and the properties of water! She started by using the pamphlet of my poems that she bought, and then found me online performing the poem as a finalist in the BBC UK Slam last summer. The kids have loved it, have been writing their own water poems, and now they want me to go to Sheffield and work with them for a day! I shall let you know how I get on…

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Fun With Flyers

After my tour finished in June, I was left with a fairly huge stack of leftover flyers. They’re too beautiful to throw away, so I’ve been occasionally and randomly using them as backdrops for collages – here’s a selection so far:

ThinkTheUnthinkable  RoadToTheMoon

NowImGoingSomewhereOnMyOwn  DeadlyFlamingoes

EatYouYES  GooseStorm

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Monsoon Is The Hit Single

I wonder how long I can ride on the popularity of this particular poem? I wrote it after talking to the lovely Martin Douglas about tabla rhythms and the vocalisations practitioners use to learn set rhythmic sequences. The noises suggested words, particularly the ‘tereketeh tan tan tan’ made me think ‘terracotta pan pan pan’, and just like that a rain-inspired sound poem was conceived. Now it’s my go-to piece, the one everyone loves…

The one I used as my opening number for the BBC Slam heats. Then I got through to the finals, so I used it again. Then I got through to the final round in the finals – but didn’t win. Darn. Still, not bad going for my first ever slam, and the extra bonus is that the BBC filmed it all, so you can watch it here.

All in all, a respectable Free Fringe. It’s hard to get a build-up of audiences in just a five-day run, but I averaged 10 per show and that’s not at all bad. Plus I made enough money in my bucket to eat, cover my train fare and even catch three ‘real’ shows on the paid Fringe. But that’s it now – I’ve done that show two years in a row, albeit with development and changes in the interim, now I have to get writing a new one!

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Return To The Fringe

Don’t compare yourself to others. Don’t compare this year to last year. You should have worn walking boots, not baseball boots.

These are the things I’m saying in my head like a mantra on an endless loop as I stomp the wet, windy streets of Edinburgh, looking for likely punters to tempt towards my show. Yesterday I found three of them just sat in the bar upstairs, which was a great technique but not one I feel I can rely on every day.

Not much else to report – I may save it all up for a reflective blog at the end of the week; nine people in the first show is fairly good for a nonentity like me. Ten pounds in the bucket is less flattering. Let’s see how it goes. All I need is enough loose change for a curry a day, it’s nithering up here.

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So, Learn Much?

It’s been just over a month since I finished my little regional tour, and I’ve been putting off this blog, telling myself I had to pay my team and do my Arts Council report first…lies. Truth is, first I was knackered and then I was sort of depressed. BUT! Today I have finally made my donation to Wateraid from the chapbook profits – £150, thank you all very much indeed if you bought one. And I thought I’d mention a couple of things I learned from this whole shebang.

1. I love starting things, hate finishing them – hence no ‘final blog’ for over a month.

2. Producers are much under-rated human beings, but are in fact worth their own body-weight in authentic Italian gelato, and next time I tour a show I will GET FUNDING FOR ONE.

3. Some venues are bloody marvellous at promotion. Some are chocolate teapots.

4. Making a show is even more fun than performing it, the contentment of the creative process is a wholesome low-GI slow-release version of the sugar-spike happiness you get after performing.

5. The smell of fear-sweat is unlike any other sweat I have ever produced, and is capable of beaming out columns of stink from my armpits like olfactory light sabres.

So there you have it!

The unplugged version of the show will be having a little outing to the PBH Free Fringe in Edinburgh next month – come and see me here:

The Royal Oak (venue 21)
2pm daily from 11th – 15th August

Feel free to shout about it on Facebook.

Hilariously, I will also be appearing in the BBC Slam, having never slammed before – catch the early rounds, I’m bound to crash out early!

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Giving Something Back

In every show I do, there is a moment when I make reference to a dreadful true story of rape and murder. The moment doesn’t last long, the show is not ‘about’ violence against women, but in some sense it is the emotional fulcrum of the whole thing. I didn’t know it when I wrote the piece, but there it is every time, the moment when I am halted in my tracks by my own grief and anger. My audiences have shown great heart and trust by going there with me every time. As the piece developed, I found myself worrying about the ethics of this – exploiting someone else’s horrific experience for the sake of my piddling literary ambitions. At the same time I found myself reading about India as it is today, assaulted almost daily by news accounts of gang-rapes, the murder of young girls, and the appalling comments from prominent male politicians acting as complacent, complicit apologists for rape. I decided that I would have to give something back, and I promised each audience that if they bought the pamphlet of poems from the show then I would donate the proceeds to a rape crisis charity in India. The trouble has been, how to find a suitable charity to which I can donate? There are projects working to support the education, health or economic development of women in India. All worthy, but none specifically looking at sexual violence, and none working across the continent. Mostly they have been small regional organisations with no international provenance. So after some thought, I have decided to donate to Wateraid. This may seem like an odd choice, but I was persuaded by this article in The Guardian which highlights the role poor sanitation plays in the vulnerability of women to attack – most rapes occur when women are looking for dark places where they can go to the toilet in private. Indoor plumbing would save lives. I don’t know whether to rage, or cry. I was glad to hear that the new prime minister in India has pledged not only a ‘no tolerance’ policy against those who commit violence against women, but also an indoor toilet for every household. He has a mammoth task ahead of him, and will need the help of non-profits like Wateraid. I am also very glad to say that thanks to the generosity of my audiences, with two shows to go already I have over £150 ready to donate. You don’t need to see the show or buy my poems to help – just click here.

You can still catch the show at Empty Shop in Durham tomorrow (Thursday 12 June) or at the Customs House in South Shields (Friday 13 June).

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The Whole Of The Moon

I like sitting up top, looking down on things. Today, preparing myself for a quick round of flyering in Durham, I’m up in the mezzanine of the Market Hall. Drinking Earl Grey, seeing how many stalls had huge cuddly toys perched on the edges of their striped awnings like plush gargoyles. Somewhere, someone is playing 80’s tapes – The Waterboys, ‘You Saw The Whole Of The Moon’ – and I’m half-gone back to the Kirklevington Country Club on goth night, underage drunk, cheap hairspray, gin and bitter lemon. Black tights under denim hotpants? I was there the first time, sweetie.

Music brings things back. Riding on the top of the bus on the way to Hampi, dangerous and uncomfortable but exhilarating, the radio blaring out Bolloywood tunes. All you need to do is play me Rangeela Re and I can see chillis drying on rooftops, laid out in careful rectangles, the fresh ones scarlet, fading block by block to rust.

I liked the patterns made by everyday objects and everyday actions in India, I liked the repetition of forms. Even patties of cow dung slapped onto house walls to dry into fuel for burning.

VaranasiCowpats

I still do it – in the Market Hall I get distracted by repeating spools of thread and button boxes on the embroidery stall. I don’t know why, it just pleases me. It pleases me that with the help of my director, I’ve found lots of repeating images, movements and threads within the show. It’s just how I look at the world I suppose, patterns and associations coming around and around. Very soon the tour will be over, that will be the whole of The Moon, and I’ll have to start gleaning life for a new set of images.

buttonsDurham threadspoolsDurham

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And If You Go Home, What Then?

“The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land: it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.” – G.K. Chesterton

I wrote this blog piece a while ago, but I was saving it for the end of the tour. Then on Tuesday I performed at Hexham, and an audience member came to speak to me after the show. She said she was in her fourth year of travelling, looking for ways to stay in the UK, reluctant to return to Australia. One of the lines towards the end of the show had struck a chord with her – “when you look at your possessions and realise they’re only empty bowls”. We talked a little bit about how hard it is to go home, to find a place among people who have (seemingly) stood still while you have changed so profoundly, the feeling of moving along different time-streams. So, for her, I’m posting this now…

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I didn’t know it would be possible to get culture shock coming back home. That the longer I was away, the more thoroughly I waded into another culture (however imperfect my understanding of it), the more difficult it would be to return.

Arrivals

 

My mother tells me I was grey

when I arrived at the terminal

wearing the thin salwar kemeez

made for me in Bangalore,

where the pink had been cut

perfectly to fit.

 

British skies are as leaden

as a stressed-out heart

stripped of joy and songs,

they are trumpet mutes.

No-one wears pink,

not if they are grown up.

 

People go about their business

without any audible fuss,

no constant grind of abused

brakes or cacophonous horns.

Tarmac is a black magic,

siphoning away sound.

 

But the faces at the wheels

are hardened gargoyles

printed with all passions,

indulged and thwarted.

Fat hangs from their jowls

like shames made flesh.

 

 

 

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My Mentor Asks The Five Hard Questions

As part of developing this show, I sought the advice of a mentor. Hannah Jane Walker is a very experienced touring poet who creates intimate and participatory shows with her writing and performing partner Chris Thorpe. They are currently touring ‘I Wish I Was Lonely’, coming to ARC in Stockton next month – it’s all about solitude in the age of instantaneous mobile communication, and it’s BRILLIANT ( I saw it in Edinburgh last summer).

One of the first things Hannah did as my mentor was to ask me five searching questions about my motivations in making the show. I think they’re excellent questions for anyone to ask themselves as they embark on any creative project, so I thought I’d share them with you, and let you in on some of my answers.

1. What are you doing this for? (and I mean, why you rather than someone else)

Because it’s my story, I was there. There’s an element of self-indulgence, for sure. Could someone else perform this show as written? Yes, why not, it’s scripted, but it’s my questions I’m trying to work out for myself by writing and performing them. I didn’t realize how much I would enjoy making performance poetry when I started this, I honestly didn’t know how powerful and natural and happy I would feel on stage. I totally love doing this, and it wouldn’t be the same if I wrote but didn’t get to perform as well.

If the question is – why take it further than the version already written and tested at Edinburgh? – then it’s because I want to get better at performing and understanding stagecraft. I’m ambitious to be a good writer-performer, and I’m not really interested in performing in pubs etc, I want to be in theatres, exploring the places where spoken word and theatre overlap.

Image

2. What is the reason for this piece of art to exist?

Perhaps I wrote this rather than any other story because I still hadn’t fully processed or even exorcised this part of my past. When I was writing, I had some vague thought that my time in India was one of the few interesting things I’ve done in my life and probably the richest seam to mine for poetry. Maybe I’m trying to recapture the feeling of being adventurous, or validate the whole travelling thing – at last, something concrete and creative has come out of it! I went there with some aspirations as a writer, and soon found I couldn’t maintain any creative discipline. Now I’ve written some of the things I should have been writing there and then, had I been able to.

3. What are you asking of yourself and your audience or participants?

I am asking myself – what happened out there? Why did you lose yourself so thoroughly – and,or, why didn’t you lose yourself completely? You were on the edge of madness for extended periods, you felt it, you saw it in others – why didn’t you go all the way? You were close to extreme physical danger several times, and you weren’t always operating on the basis of rational, logical self-preservation, so how did you instinctively turn away from danger? Who were you in those moments? What is the essential structure of your personality, is it something you created over there or something pre-existing within you that was uncovered by travelling?

I am asking OF myself – to keep it together enough to uncover some of those questions?

Of the audience – I’m asking them to give two hoots about me, I suppose, and about the other people I mention. I’m asking them to imagine another culture, imagine the effects of culture shock, ask themselves what is essential to their own sense of identity – am I? Mostly I feel like I’m just asking them to stick with me while I try to work it out…

4. How do you want their world to change?

I’d like them to come out of it valuing self-examination. Ritual and mindfulness is very much part of this, a route towards it. Personally, I came to believe in self-examination years before I even heard of mindfulness; then mindfulness became something I was trying so my self-examination could be clear. Then, I was using it to overcome the pain that comes with self-examination, a way to self-acceptance. And now mindfulness is just an end in itself, with the understanding that it makes everything easier – awareness of and compassion towards self and others. Hah! I’d like all of us, myself included, to come out as practicing Buddhists!

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5. What is the question at the heart of this piece?

How do we make ourselves? How far is it possible, necessary, desirable to go in order to examine and understand who we are? (emotional/psychological/spiritual distance = geographical distance)

And – then what? (this isn’t answered – this is why it hangs – this is the same as ‘going home’)

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