In a country like India, the media and the citizens derive their right to free speech and expression guaranteed under Article 19 (1)(a) of the Constitution of India. But despite this privilege, our society is often notorious for being judgemental, patriarchal and backward. Our justice system is considered flawed, government is branded corrupt - our lives are dusted with an existentialist vein which is: what is the purpose of life?
But then we see a light to the end of the tunnel.
It is the pen. The pen, which is told to be mightier than the sword, is our closest friend that can help us endeavour to find meaning in a meaningless society like ours. While the latter is an instrument for destruction, the former is an instrument to vent our destruction. But the pen is only mightier because it is the least violent, yet best alternative to 'kill' the demons that reside in a world like ours. Gripping the small, sleek vessel; we are at our most vulnerable yet our most powerful stage. It's a strange - but comforting - paradox isn't it?
Today, us Indians have sought refuge in the everyday spoken word, more specifically slam poetry, stand-up comedy and rap.
Slam poetry is spoken form of poetry that is verbally performed, that follows no set of guidelines in the manner of which the poem should be performed. Most notably in English and Hindi, slam poetry usually aims to 'slam' or severely criticise society in one way or another. This leaves an impressionable dent on minds because of the message it preaches. Words, spilling out like an overflowing sink, are where the only comeuppance to rapists, abusers, paedophiles and the heart-breakers are received. Even though it has been borrowed from the West, it has gained recognition in our society for being raw, unique to every individual and connecting oneself to another's poem. It is increasingly seen and shared on social media platforms such as Instagram (sometimes accompanied by a drawing or sketch) or performed in college fests around India.
Button Poetry and UnErase Poetry are some good YouTube channels to watch if you want to see more on spoken word slam poetry.
Rap is defined as "a musical form of vocal delivery that incorporates "rhyme, rhythmic speech, and street vernacular". But it is different from slam poetry because it goes in a beat, almost like a song but with no tune. Lyrically heavy and dynamic, every word needs to be in sync with the beat or else it loses its flow. Street rap evolved in India especially in the slums, where most of today's well-known rappers are from, such as DIVINE. Street rap boomed in Mumbai, where it is characterised by the use of slangs, and aggressively speaking out on the problems of society such as unemployment, capitalism etc. This also attempts to 'slam' society through improvisation and still leaving others foot-tapping to the concomitant beat.
The critically acclaimed and commercially successful movie "Gully Boy" beautifully depicts the life of an aspiring rapper -played by Ranveer Singh- and how he navigates his disenfranchised youth to make his dreams a reality.
Stand-up comedy is like a breath of fresh air, making you feel addicted to it and wishing for more soon after. That is exactly what comedy does to you - it makes you laugh away the terrors of life because at the end of the day, our life itself a joke! Entertainment is slowly changing in India, and stand-up comedy caters towards the younger generation, more so because entertainment usually means televisions being clogged by nonsensical soaps. Stand-up comedians literally 'stand up' when they perform, and at the same time 'slam ' society by cracking jokes that capture the real scenario of politics, Bollywood and our Indian households. To be able to make others laugh is a tremendous skill, which requires hours of effort and contemplation to put together a perfectly satirical script that seems impromptu. It is a spokesperson for the Gen Z generation, leaving us heave a sigh of relief knowing there are others who go through the same experiences, or at least, share the similar opinions.
You can watch AIB or EIC or TVF or Kenny Sebastian, Atul Khatri, Abhishek Upmanyu, Rahul Subramanian on YouTube for stand-up comedy content.
So, if you're under tremendous burdens or pressure, don't hesitate to pick up the pen and write your heart's content away. It doesn't have to follow a form, pattern or structure. Pen is mightier than the sword, they say.