Process of Choreography

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The subject of this post has been incredibly elusive to me for many years. How do I choreograph? create from scratch? How do I ensure the movement is mine, and completely mine? How do I best portray what I have set out to portray? Will I be able to justify the chosen subject? Will it look pretentious? What will have a beginning, middle and end? Should there be a narrative? Should it be completely metaphorical?

These are questions I never have the answers to. Every time I set out to create something new, I get stuck at the content itself. It’s suffice to say that I do not have a defined, well carved out process. I have an idea, a feeling, a thought – and I begin to create movement around it. The idea is the core, and everything else extends from it. I have read and still continue to read many books on choreography, hoping that one of them will shed some light on my own process and enlighten me a little. Although they have been of great help in terms of learning and picking up new tools – my process hasn’t really changed much. It’s organic and inspired by gut. I could be lying in bed at night, trying to drift off to sleep, when an idea will strike and I will immediately start creating movement.

I try to keep creating and analyzing separate. When my mind is creating, I let it create. Where is it picking up the vocabulary?  Is the movement in sync with the idea? Will there be music? Am I falling into my comfort zone? Quite honestly, I don’t know. I dwell in the idea for a very, very long time before I decide to act on it. I have to feel as inspired and motivated to work on it as I was when it first struck me. If I don’t, I know that’s not going to be my next piece of work. A few years back, I would impulsively act on every single idea and try to materialize it into a full bodied piece. But now I have realized that every idea is not worth putting sweat and blood into. Sometimes its fleeting and lacks context, but can still feel powerful. So while my mind still creates movement and still tries to find a beginning, middle and end – I have learnt how to let it go.

What is extremely strange is that while my process is organic in my mind, I like to be quite prepared before I enter the studio to engage with dancers. I cannot proceed further if I don’t have a skeleton, an outline or prototype ready. When I allow myself to work on an idea, I let my mind wander as far and wide as possible, picking up things from various sources – people, objects, animals, sounds and feelings. Its like being a highly absorbent sponge – taking in information through all senses. Once I feel I have saturated my mind, the only filter I use to either keep or discard the material is – does it feel right?

Perhaps its not a very rational, scientific filter. A lot of choreographers have a logical, progressive set of questions to filter out material and finally to keep only that which works for the choreography. But for me, somehow this is the only way it works. If it feels right, if my gut says it works, I keep it. Once during a residency, I was asked why I decided to keep a particular movement, I said, “I don’t know. It felt right”

Imagery and visualization help me a lot to get engrossed in the world of the piece. I try to connect it with an image, sound or feeling. It has to be happening somewhere. It has to have a specific fabric. If I am creating a piece about anxiety, I have to put myself in places where it gets triggered most – whether mentally or physically. The fabric comes from soaking in all images that in some way, make the idea clearer. It’s like collage of pictures melting and merging to form one piece of art.

Most of the times when I begin to work on the piece with dancers, I have clarity. I know what I want, I know what I want it to look like. Perhaps that makes me inflexible, but that’s why I give myself enough time and bandwidth to inhabit the idea for so long before I begin work. I tried approaching of my pieces with uncertainty, letting improvisation take the forefront – and I wasn’t very happy. Maybe one needs to trust oneself enough to take that leap of faith, and I consider improvisation to be that leap of faith. Choreographers and artists throughout history who have used it to not just create, but create some of the most dynamic works, have been courageous, from Merce Cunningham to Trisha Brown. When I try to rely solely on improvisation, I fall flat on face because I cannot tap into any bank of vocabulary.

I still feel like I have a long way to go in terms of refining my process. Its still very raw and incomplete, but I can say that I try to learn everyday, not just in the studio but from everything and everyone. I am currently ready a book by Daniel Nagrin, in which he makes a brilliant point, one that I will retain for a very long time – “dance” is not just about danc”ing”, its about everything to which one can attach “ing”. Imagine how limitless the scope then becomes!

 

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What is Contemporary Dance?

..Honestly, it sounds like a fairly simple question. We have watched and experienced contemporary dance enough times to form a visual of it. It is loosely used all around us and has been given a rather permanent face thanks to the reality shows – jumps, tricks, turns, pointed feet and sorrow. The moment a sad/romantic song comes on, you know its going to be contemporary dance. But what exactly is the form about?

The Green Table - C

(The Green Table: Kurt Jooss)

It developed during the mid to late 20th century as a natural evolution of modern dance and the need to incorporate elements from different dance styles across the world. Because it employs aspects of technique from jazz, modern and ballet – it is often seen as being limited to only that. However, contemporary is not actually a fixed or structured form of dance, its boundaries are far reaching and malleable. It allows current influences and cultural developments to become a part of it’s expression. Its doors are open to the influence of all dance styles across the world.

People often confuse modern dance with contemporary. Afterall, both advocate that the origin of movement should be organic and real, and less about aesthetic quality or showcasing of technical prowess (like ballet). The difference between the two lies in the history. Modern dance originated in the early 1900s with Isadora Duncan, who wanted to rebel against the strict structures and irrelevance of ballet. Other iconic figures like Martha Graham joined in with their fierce stand against the form and fueled their performances with raw energy and passion. Over the years, modern dance grew as more and more dancers subscribed to the freedom it offered.

Modern dance, however, is an amalgamation of different schools of choreography and style, each with it’s own set of principles. Graham, Cunningham, Dunham, Horton etc – all developed their own unique style. Contemporary dance, while owing it’s roots to modern dance, isn’t really that definitive. In my opinion, ‘contemporary’ isn’t really a dance style but rather a never-ending wave of evolution and transformation that allows dance to change, grow and remain relevant.

This doesn’t, ofcourse, mean that any dance form can be termed as contemporary. One cannot mix hip hop with salsa and call it contemporary. As mentioned before, it does owe its roots to ballet and modern. Certain concepts like contact-release, floor work, fall-recovery and improvisation are employed by contemporary dancers all over the world. Lets just say it may not be definitive, but it does have a frame of reference.

It is still new in the Indian conscience, and not surprisingly, most people are confused about what it means. We have come to associate it with something like this:

While this is entertaining to watch and can be considered a part of contemporary dance, that is not just what it is. We have come to associate contemporary with tricks and flexibility, which is closer to gymnastics than the dance form. Thanks to it’s imperfect and elastic nature, contemporary dance is a sponge for the current happenings, cultural and political developments and social changes. It reflects the state of the “now”. Basically, it is a very relevant form of dance.

In the end, though, the beauty of contemporary dance lies in the freedom it offers to each individual to be interpreted differently. Every contemporary dancer has a different definition and experience of the dance form, and best part is that not a single one of them is wrong.

 

Doggo Love

As far back as I can remember, I have loved dogs. I had a friend as a kid who introduced me to their loving world and I have been in love ever since. We used to sit together and dream about becoming veterinary doctors when we grew up, so that we could be surrounded by dogs all day long. On my 12th birthday, she gifted me the most adorable labrador puppy. We named her liza. She became everyone’s favorite from the moment she stepped foot in the house. I was happy beyond measure.

However as a kid I hardly knew anything about pet care, and unfortunately neither did my family. She was kept chained more than she should have, was not given the kind of food that she needed and didn’t get the attention and love she deserved. I moved away and went to a boarding school soon after we got her, so I could never completely be there with her. When she died, she was in severe depression. Nobody knew what exactly was wrong with her. I really, truly wish I could have done something. It will be one of my life’s regrets. She deserved so much more.

Fortunately, I am now grown and much more aware. I have 3 indie dogs that my DH (dear husband) and I adopted in 2017. They’re the life and soul of our house. When we adopted Brownie, we didn’t know how to go about taking care of her. Luckily for us we live in an era where we have a vastly resourceful tool at our disposal – internet. We read up endlessly and watched a million videos on canine behavior, well-being, health, training, diet etc. We were quite spooked initially because brownie didn’t seem to be settling in and kept wanting to go out. We considered letting her go back to the streets many times, simply because we couldn’t see her in agony. But we got a lot of support from online communities, where everyone advised us to give her more time.

 

Slowly, after a few hits-and-misses, she started recognizing our home as her home. She started to enjoy being in our presence (especially since it was laden with a lot of cuddling) and not to mention – our extremely comfy bed which she now fully occupies without any shame.

Once we got the hang of it and started to understand finer details of canine behavior, we felt confident enough to bring in more furry friends for our family. Over a period of 2 months, we got 2 more indie pups home! (I know, it can seem like a bit of an obsession, but its not. Really.) They’re name lizzie and bubbles. The most fascinating thing is that all three of them have different temperaments. Brownie is extremely territorial, alert and vigilant. She lived on the streets for almost 2.5 years and needless to say it made her extremely tough. She doesn’t trust easily but is fiercely loyal once she does. Lizzie is cautious and easily spooked. She had an abusive childhood, remnants of which are visible through her behavior. Despite that, she loves cuddling and especially tummy rubs. Bubbles on the other hand, is the complete opposite. She is not wary of anything and will swallow a wasp if it interests her enough. She runs after anything and everything and is curious all the time. Her energy never seems to run out, and that makes sure we get our fair share of exercise too.

 

It angers and frustrates me to no end when I read about abuse and neglect towards indie dogs on a daily basis. People are obsessed with breed because its a status symbol; they want only pedigree dogs like german shepherds, labradors, beagles, golden retrievers, pugs etc. For some twisted reason, they think that their dog’s breed validates their social status. What about dogs that belong to the country you were born and bred in? Why so much love for foreign breeds and so much neglect towards Indian breeds? Because they occupy the streets? Because they’re the ones you shoo away or throw stones at when they run after you?

Indie dogs can be just as well trained, handsome and attractive if they’re taken care of properly. They’re fiercely loyal and won’t ever let you feel like you’re alone. Our breed-obsession is taken full advantage of by breeders who buy pedigree dogs only to breed more dogs that are then sold at a very high price. These breeders keep their dogs in horrible conditions and raise them only for one purpose. I personally know people who have gone to great lengths to purchase a pure breed puppy. Think of what you’re enabling next time you dream about getting a pure breed.

These dogs have filled our lives with love, joy and warmth. We now look forward to coming back home so much more, because we know that the moment we enter the house, we will be greeted with jumps, licks and wagging tails. If you’re someone who loves and wants dogs as much as us, please – adopt don’t shop. Your furry friend will thankyou forever for it.

Choreographic fables

My very first creation as a choreographer was titled “Earthworm”. I am not sure why I decided to call it that – maybe I was just trying to stand out. But it was the first name that popped up in my head. Earthworm is the only choreography through which I have not tried to say anything in particular. It is simply a collection of movements and arrangement of movements that I found fascinating. At that time, I was deeply inspired by Ohad Naharin’s “Virus” and his choice of music. I considered that piece as my bible for the project and asked all my dancers to watch it repeatedly.

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I was also influenced a lot by Sharon Eyal’s “Killer pig” and her use of canon, repetition and different directions to create an impact. Her movements were small, subtle and very powerful. We had learnt a part of her repertoire when I was in Italy in 2015 and Killer Pig was one of them. I don’t ever remember being so confused in a dance class before. Even though the movement wasn’t very difficult, their arrangement was. The combination was so primitive and internalized, and it was repeated by the dancers many times throughout the choreography. Every time I start to get too overwhelmed by the process of choreography, I watch this piece and remind myself to keep it simple. It works best.

I tried to incorporate tools such as repetition and reverse as an experiment. At that time I was unsure of what would work. I also didn’t give much thought to the message that I was trying to put across. Later during one of the performances, I was asked – “What were you trying to say?” and I honestly didn’t know what to say. Now, I feel like the piece was just a physical representation of the chaos that exists within my head.

As a choreographer, I like to approach my pieces with a lot of clarity. I know what I want from A-Z. If I start with an open ended approach, I often get confused and am left feeling overwhelmed by the magnitude of ideas. Improvisation, though a widely used method to create movement, has never really yielded good ideas for me. At least so far, movement comes to me first as a thought and then gets translated physically. Perhaps this approach comes from me being a control freak, but it has worked for me so far. I once tried to initiate a piece without any clarity; I led the dancers into a space of structured improvisation to see if it generated some fitting ideas. There were some workable things that came out of it but mostly I discarded it all.

Choreography is a strange process. It simply cannot be forced. There are people who say creativity is a craft and becomes better with practice. While I agree with the argument, I also think that it applies more to the process of movement creation rather than the ‘getting the idea’ bit. That still is a mystery. Sometimes an idea is so explosive that you just know what needs to be done in order to materialize it, and sometimes it is just a feeling that needs to be explored as much as possible. There is one, fixed way to approach it. There is no one way that works for everyone or even all ideas. For me, it seems like I am constantly inventing and re-inventing my methods.

As a choreographer, I will always be a learner.

Feeling roadblocked as an artist?

Lately, I’ve been feeling extremely frustrated and upset. But it isn’t a feeling I am not familiar with. As an artist, I have gone through this phase many times. It never gets easier or better though, and I always end up throwing a tantrum and shedding tears while slumped against the bathroom wall.

I feel roadblocked when, despite having ideas, I cannot find a way to materialize them. I  think about my idea, write about it, talk about it, dream about it – but I can’t make it a reality because there are so many variables that I can’t control. It’s extremely frustrating when you can see your destination, but cannot find the means to wade through the blockages along the path. I struggle with finding the right dancers, fixing a suitable schedule, making sure I have all the equipment for the final product etc. But most of all, I struggle with finding an audience for my work. I simply don’t know where to take my work.

When I get an idea for a project, it’s like a freshly lit fire. The more I dwell on it, the bigger it becomes. My reason for investing all my creative energies in this idea is simple: I am passionate about it and I want to see it materialize. But unfortunately, that alone is not enough for an artist to survive. We need an audience to subscribe to our work and consequently some remuneration. What does an artist do when he/she don’t get that? They quit.

Most of us have come close enough to the point of tipping over before mustering the will power to take a step back. But there’s no denying that it gets tough more often than not. I’ve seen a lot of artists trying to juggle their full-time job and passion, hoping to find a break through in the latter so that they can quit their jobs. But that never really happens. In the times we live in, financial security is an unavoidable need. Our country, unfortunately, cannot provide artists that security. Artists fizzle out without reaching their maximum potential because there is not enough infrastructure, opportunities and revenue to support them. We have reached a stage where artists are doing work for free, just to keep themselves alive in the industry. I don’t think it is possible for us to see a worse time than this for our community. The performing arts are dying.

Performing arts in our country are mostly supported by the Ministry of Culture, that has set up various bodies across the country to support the arts: The sangeet natak academy, Indian council for cultural relations and seven zonal cultural centers to support the arts in their respective zones. But most of their funds go in the upkeep of the existing state infrastructure, which hardly leaves any funds for the promotion and welfare of artists. Their grants and schemes offer meager amounts and are hardly enough to sustain an artist for a few days, leave alone an entire month. As a matter of fact, the Ministry of culture does not even utilize 100% of it’s allocated budget because of it’s refusal to modernize it’s procedures and become more accessible to newer, upcoming artists.

Other avenues such as private corporations, do not feel the need to include promotion of the arts in their CSR programs because of it’s low ROI. Given that the audience for performing arts is shrinking, they have an even lesser incentive to invest in them. Most of the private bigwigs are moving towards cinema because of it’s massive outreach and profits. Even when they do fund festivals, they promote performances by well-known artists to attract audiences and media attention. I personally have gone through a similar experience where my dancers and I went all the way to Bombay to put up our piece – “Earthworm”, with a lot of hopes and expectations. However, the limelight was hogged by a famous performer who was specially called in to give a concluding performance. We ended up being just one of a 15 odd performers on the list. The show belonged to someone else.

There are bilateral agencies, funded by foreign governments and private funds, such as the British council, Goethe institute, Swedish council etc that are slowly gaining momentum across the performing arts landscape. They support and promote cross-cultural exchange of artists, ideas and performances. Some of them even support performances within India, but their outreach is extremely limited and hence their support is availed only by a select few individuals or organizations. The Gati dance forum is one such example of an organization supported by these agencies. Foundations such as Tata trusts have been offering support to the performing arts for the last 15 years, but they too, hardly have any visibility and only a select few artists are even aware that they exist.

Overall, I probably know more about some random app, which is of no use to me that recently released on google play store, than I know about these agencies, trusts and foundations that offer grants for performance making and sharing. Unless one sits down to dig information out of their websites, no one really knows they exist. There is not a single database that covers all the grant providing schemes and/or sponsors in our country, so that an artist can conveniently apply for one. 

Why don’t these agencies, trusts and foundations make themselves well-known and accessible to artists? Why are they repeatedly supporting the same artists/organizations (tata trust has been funding attakkalari for 15 years)? Why is an effort not being made on their part to market their presence more so that more and more upcoming artists can realize their potential?

We have arrived at dismal junction in the history of performing arts in our country where artists have started to refer to themselves as being a part of the “entertainment industry”. Well trained dancers are turning towards ad shoots, corporate shows, weddings and school performances to earn their livelihood. These are platforms where they’re treated like expendable commodities and are not compensated fairly. Nothing is streamlined or well-regulated in the industry, which leads to a lot of abuse and exploitation. Due to lack of work and money, artists don’t bother to follow professional channels of communication and go along with verbal word, which leads people to not take them seriously.

Most of the artists are freelancers as there is hardly any company that can afford to have artists on regular payroll. They survive on a project-to-project basis and more often than not undervalue themselves. There is no body that regulates and ensures the welfare of these freelancers. There is no where they can go in case of exploitation. Subscribers of bollywood dance are increasing both domestically and internationally, leaving no room for other forms like Indian classical, ballet, contemporary and folk. Even ICCR is now sponsoring bollywood extravaganzas to be performed overseas. Experimental artists who want to work on new and original ideas are practically abandoned. Their ideas won’t sell without commercialization.

As I said before, I don’t think the performing arts industry and specifically dance can see a greater low than this. People with new and original ideas are slowly diminishing, and no one cares.

Research: http://www.ey.com/Publication/vwLUAssets/ey-creative-arts-in-india/$FILE/ey-creative-arts-in-india.pdf

Nestaway – Stay Away

I had rented an apartment with Nestaway back in February this year, only because of their tall promises about helping bachelors find homes easily. At first, it all seemed perfect because of their swift response and action time. I found a place and was told it would be “fully furnished”, that I would be provided with facilities such as gas cylinder, washing machine etc and that they would get it cleaned up and everything would be bright & shiny before my move-in.

Seemed quite the offer. Reality, however, was quite different.

First of all, the so-called ‘clean up’ included a one time lousy attempt at dusting the place in broad strokes. Even after they had supposedly ‘cleaned-up’, it was horribly dirty. I had to run an extensive cleaning operation of my own to make the place look remotely livable. Despite my efforts, the rotting sofa set, dining table, switchboards, TV table, coffee table, kitchen walls, balconies, kitchen drawers, stove, chimney (literally broken) – all remained the same. Dirty, dusty and not important enough to be given a fuck about by Nestaway. I was promised that there would be a gas cylinder and a washing machine before I moved in, but neither of them was there. I had to order food (including tea and coffee) from outside for days before I went ahead and simply arranged a cylinder myself. I also had to pay the maid extra to wash clothes by hand.

Added to that, was the drain blockage in the kitchen sink, broken toilet seat and a huge bee hive in my room. Suffice to say, I was very comfortable (/not).

I raised lots of service requests from my dashboard. But now it seems they get loads of those from tenants every single day, so they probably make jokes about them over their morning cup of coffee. I followed up as much as I could, and the only thing they really fixed was the toilet seat. Everything else, I had to get done myself and not to mention, pay myself too. And here I thought I wouldn’t have to pay for service requests raised within 7 days of my move in (one of their bogus policies).

After I got everything fixed and functional myself (including the DTH and wifi), fast forward to when other flatmates moved in. Nestaway executives told them that they didn’t have to share the installation fee for DTH and wifi because both these services were provided by them and were included in the rent. Talk about lying through your teeth. Speaking of executives, this company has the most useless, uneducated and uncooperative executives ever. They only respond swiftly until you pay your security amount in full. Post that, all you get to see is a massive middle finger.

When I was discussing the security amount, I asked the executive if it was okay to pay it in two installments over two months, he assured me that it was perfectly fine and it wouldn’t be a problem. So I paid one month’s security and one month’s rent and thought I was good to go (I moved in 5 days before month end). Clearly not.

On 1st of the next month, I got an email from Nestaway saying I needed to pay the rent. I was taken aback and tried to get in touch with their customer support time and again. True to their reputation, they were assholes and didn’t give two farts about my concern. I tried to get in touch with that executive, who told me and I quote – “Pay the rent including the late fee. I will come and return the late fee amount to you in cash because of the inconvenience this confusion has caused”

It would come as no surprise that that cash never came.

Fast forward again to July, when I got an email around the 18th saying that the property was going to be off-boarded so I had to move out. It also said that since it was being off-boarded by Nestaway, the move out charges would be waived off and I would get my security deposit refund within 7 working days. The property was off-boarded on 2nd of August. It has now been one month and 8 days and there is no sign of that refund. I have been diligently following up but their customer support executives always have one thing to say in their robotic voice, “Your refund is with our finance department. You should get it soon”

Now, according to their policy, if you don’t pay rent on time (on or before 5th of every month), a late fee of Rs. 500 will be charged. Post 10th, a late fee of Rs. 200/day will be charged (added to the Rs. 500) until 15th. Post 15th, your booking will be cancelled. So now that you haven’t given me my refund within 7 working days, how much interest will you pay me, Nestaway?

Apparently, they have another bogus program called the ‘3 Days Trial’ program under which, you can decide to cancel your booking within 3 days of your move-in without having to pay the lock-in breach charges, notice period shortfall charges, renovation charges (insert LOL emoji) etc. The ONLY money that you will have to pay is the rent for the number of days since the start of the license date, calculated on a pro-rata basis, move out charges (999 bucks) and cancellation charges (=token amount, which is 25% of the month’s rent. So if your rent is 20k, 25% of that is 5k, which would be your cancellation amount)

Quite an expensive ‘trial’, I must say.

They will deduct this amount from your security deposit and ‘process’ the refund. Rest assured you will never see the face of that money ever again. Ever. It’s gone. Into the chamber of secrets of Nestaway.

If you choose to go ahead with this fraudulent company, you will burn a hole in your pocket paying for things and services they promised to provide. To add to the injury, you will not get your security deposit refund on time, if you get it at all. The only thing you will end up doing is raising endless service tickets, which to all intents and purposes are useless.

I have been reading up on their social media accounts ever since I moved out and all their accounts are full of nothing but complaints and abuses. They have cheated countless people, who are now left with no option but to hound their social media with complaints. But to no avail, obviously.  If there was ever an epitome of not giving a duck – Nestaway would be it. It’s really inspiring how consistent they are in copy/pasting the same response to every person – “Hi [Insert name], we apologize for the inconveniences caused. Please inbox us your registered contact details. We’ll help you”.

They literally say this to every single person who posts a complaint. And then nothing happens. I find it hard to believe that this company is not just still afloat, but is managing to get funding round after round after round. They’re raking in money left right and center and leaving a trail of angry customers behind.

If you’re considering renting a place with Nestaway, DON’T. Kindly read their FAQ before taking any step: https://faq.nestaway.com/docs/faq-center.

If you’re currently a tenant in one of the Nestaway homes, well, good luck.

For people who have moved out – can we plan a class action suit?

 

Consumer is an abusive king

When the consumer movement came to the shores of India, it brought radical change with it. Businesses were asked to be more accountable and furnish all necessary information, false advertising was discouraged and consumer courts and forums were set up. All this happened to protect the consumer from being fooled by businesses. Slowly, ‘consumer is king’ came to be the byline for the market and the scenario slowly changed from being business oriented to consumer oriented. A business could no longer do whatever the hell they wanted.

Now, the concept has gotten stronger than ever with all businesses catering to needs of the customer/client at any cost. The abuse has now flipped and customers are the ones throwing their weight around. They have too many options and industries ready to kiss their feet.

The one industry that suffers the most because of this is the small businesses within the service industry – everyone from small cafes, restaurants, tour guides, teachers, salons, beauticians, designers, editors to carpenters, electricians, plumbers, painters, cleaning services etc. Owning a business in one of these fields automatically makes you liable to greet the client with your head bowed and voice fearful. If you so much as disagree with the client, you are screwed. They will either shout at you or not pay your money or both. Because most of these people work as freelancers, there is simply nothing they can do.

I had recently called a beautician home through urbanclap. She was a sweet young girl who was very careful about what she said, how she behaved, where she kept her equipment etc. She did not dare step out of line for even a minute, else she would be risking a bad review or a complaint. I asked her if she enjoyed working in this field and if urbanclap treated her well – her answer to both was no. She said there was simply no respect in this field and people treated her like shit all the time. She said that once she had gone to a lady’s home for a pedicure. After she was done, that lady refused to let her throw the dirty water in her bathroom. She asked her to go and drain it down the pipe from the terrace. So this girl had to carry the equipment all the way to the terrace to drain the water down the pipe.

Listening to her story infuriated every muscle in my body. This was outright abuse. But the question here is – who has enable people like that lady to treat service providers like this? Let us take urbanclap’s platform in consideration – they make their money from the service providers, not the customers. It is free for the customer to raise a request for a service, but the service providers have to pay to send in their proposal to that customer. You either have to purchase credits to apply or you need to pay them their cut before you go to a customers house to provide them the service (lest you vanish). And YET, it is only the customer who can review the service provider. What kind of nonsense is that?!?

So the customer can behave in whatever way he/she may please, but the service provider has to be respectful and accommodating of their wishes all the time, because if you are not – you will end up getting slammed with a horrible review and consequently less business.

One more category that suffers a lot in our country is Artists. As a dancer, I am aware of how much my fellow artists struggle to make a living. I have spoken to a lot of dancers about the existing abuse within and outside the industry and surprisingly a lot of them have had the same concerns – pay the artists what they deserve, treat them and their time with respect, don’t expect them to always dance to your tunes. But despite so many of us having the same concerns, nothing really is changing. I hear so many incidents of artists being abused every single day – most of them involving lack of payment. They are also taken for quite a ride with lots of promises but then are harassed or let down or refused at the last moment. They are always told that they are ‘replaceable’ and ‘disposable’ and that the client will just find someone else if it doesn’t work out.

Platforms like urbanclap only serve to enable this behavior as there is simply no way service providers can broadcast their concerns and experiences on the platform. So they lower their prices and try to be as tolerant of the client’s bullshit as possible. And it’s getting worse day by day. Artists are doing 12 hours shoots for a meager amount of Rs. 2000. They are taking up huge choreography projects for peanuts. Designers are designing for 500 bucks. Writers are writing for 200 bucks. Editors are editing for free.

Is there any end to this? At this rate, a day will come when we literally will be washing the client’s feet with nothing in return.

I am trying to run my own studio and I have listed it on different platforms. Let me just say this loud and clear – most of the leads I get from these platforms are useless. These people are assholes. They are A grade assholes. They shell out all kinds bullshit and expect you to take it in. From the lady who expected classes everyday for 20 days at her home, to the guy who thought 2.4K was too much for 12 sessions, to the girl who said she raised a request by ‘mistake’ – you are all assholes.

I think its time that we collectively as an industry, and I mean all small business owners within the service industry, start saying no to such people until their options dry out. Refuse to dance to their tunes. Refuse to take their bullshit. If someone doesn’t let you throw THEIR dirty water in their washroom, throw it in their room and walk out. If someone expects you to perform everyday at an hourly rate of 200 bucks, show them the middle finger and leave. Start saying no.

It is the responsibility of platforms like urbanclap to ensure that the professionals working with them are treated justly. You are making money off us. Have some courtesy. It is high time that the tables are turned and WE start demanding some accountability. We are not puppets and we will not be pushed around by the customers. We demand respect as professionals and expect to be treated fairly within the professional capacity.

Start saying NO.

Dear Indian Parents, why so entitled?

Now this is something I feel I need to talk about, especially in the context of our society. I haven’t written in a while and my writing skill has become quite rusty, but I have been feeling extremely confused, hurt and misguided lately and I needed to vent. So, coming to the question I am trying to pose – Dear Indian parents, why are you so entitled? Why do you think that you are entitled to your kid’s love, respect, obedience, compliance and support? Why do you think that your kid, in some way, is obligated to make you happy?

Because you went through pain to have them? Because you invested time, money, emotions and energy into raising them? Because you made sacrifices and compromises? Because you fought with others to keep them happy and safe? Because you put their well-being above your own? So now that they’re a little grown up and have a mind of their own, you expect something in return for everything you did? Wait. Was this arrangement supposed to work in this investment-ROI like fashion? Why wasn’t I told?

Before addressing the core issue here (which is extremely unhealthy and screwed up) I would like to pose another question – Why do people decide to have kids? Is it because you are already in a happy place in life, and feel emotionally, mentally and financially secure and strong enough to be able to share love with another human being without expecting anything in return or is it because you’re extremely unhappy with your life and feel that a kid will make it better? or because you’re lonely? or because you’re too bored in life and want a ‘project’ to work on? or because you can’t stand your spouse and want a reason to stay in the marriage? or because you are concerned about your old-age? or because you want someone else to fulfill your incomplete dreams? or because you want to fill a void in your life?

What is it?

I truly feel that people don’t decide to become ‘parents’ for the right reasons, especially in our country. Even if we exclude the people who are pressurized into having a child, the remaining percentage don’t have very healthy reasons either. That is where the dysfunction begins and keeps spiraling out of control. If you decide to have kids for any reason other than unconditionally sharing love and raising a healthy human being who will be (and should be) independent enough to make his/her own choices, then you my friend, have a problem. You are invariably going to download all your problems, issues and sorrows onto your kid and expect him/her to somehow a) either give you a solution or b) be the solution.

There are so many parents who tell themselves – we will not end up being like our parents. Well, bullshit. You are your parents plus more issues. It is so difficult to dissociate ourselves from our parents’ identity and personality in our culture – it takes a lot of awareness and almost an entire lifetime’s work to achieve that. Why? Because most of us are brought up within enmeshed relationships. Boundaries? What are those? Our parents have a right to know and interfere in everything. Free will? What’s that? I can only go out with friends that my parents like and marry the love of my life as long as my parents approve. Questioning parents’ decisions, opinions and beliefs? Prepare for a crash landing, kids. That’s never going to fly.

We’re never taught to be individuals with our own separate set of beliefs, opinions and principles. We’re always an extension of our parents. Any form of disagreement is seen as disrespect. (Because ‘respect’ is gulping down your opinion and putting your parents’ happiness above your own) Respect is a concept that only works one way, because parents will never respect our choices and decisions. And if those choices fall way beyond their radar of “what’s ok” – then you’re officially a rotten kid and have given them so much pain you should die in a pool of guilt. In short, the term ‘Indian parents’ should officially be synonymous with ‘insecure’. They’re so insecure about themselves that they cannot stand their kid being too different, or else – a question is raised on everything they did based on their belief system so far in their life, and they cannot be in that uncomfortable position of accepting that they might have been wrong at some point. (The horror)

You see, part of being a secure and mature human being is the ability to empathize and accept your mistakes when you make them (everyone does). In my understanding, Indian parents are neither. But the blame isn’t just theirs, it’s a dysfunction that has been passed down generations.

Coming to the core issue – if you think your kids owe you anything in return for your love and care, then you have issues that need to be dealt with before assuming that you deserve to be parents. Love, respect and care are mutual emotions that should be given unconditionally without expecting anything in return. If you are going to guilt trip your kids about your sacrifices and financial investments – Don’t be a parent. If you’re going to use the victim card to get what you want – Don’t be a parent. If you’re going to expect your kid to support you emotionally – Don’t be a parent. If you’re going to shove your beliefs and opinions down his/her throat – Don’t be a parent. If you have a problem accepting your kid as a separate individual who will have different opinions – Don’t be a parent. If you cannot accept the fact that your kid will not always agree with you – Don’t be a parent. When you bring a child into this world, he/she needs you and depends on you for physical, mental and emotional well being and continues to need you until he/she becomes an adult. You do not, and should not, need or depend upon your kid for any of those.

You don’t have the emotional bandwidth or maturity to be a parent. Please deal with your issues first. Also, if you do your parenting right – your kid will shower you with unconditional love and support, without you having to ask for it. A child’s first impression of the world is his/her parents. If you have truly loved your child without emotionally fucking him/her up – he/she will always stand with you and before you. Try it.

A kid’s love is a precious gift. It’s not your right. You chose to have a child and bring another human being into this world. If you’re putting your best foot forward to take care of him/her, it’s not a favor or a debt the kid has to repay later. If you have problems, they’re your responsibility, not your kids’. In US, if you put undue pressure on your kids or raise them in unhealthy households, the social security services will come and take your kid away. They have an accountability system in place. Raise your kid in a healthy environment or lose your right to be parents. Unfortunately in India, just having given birth to a child is enough criteria to qualify to be a parent. You can do whatever the fuck you want with that child. Because maa ke charnon mein swarg hota hai.

If a kid is being abused emotionally and physically in a house, there is absolutely nowhere he/she can go to seek safety and protection. We just have to wing it. And the number of kids being raised in abusive and unhealthy homes in our country is shocking. What is even more shocking is that most of them don’t even know they’re being abused.

I may not be a human child’s parent, but I am a pet parent to a wonderful and amazing dog called Brownie, who I adopted out of my own free will. It is my responsibility to make sure that she receives care, love and a safe environment. I didn’t do it because I wanted a watch dog or because I was lonely. I did it because her being there truly made me happy. Sometimes I have to put up with messy situations, she poops and pees anywhere, she tears everything apart, she whines for no reason and doesn’t listen to a single command, she demands too much attention, interrupts work and hardly shows any affection in return – I get annoyed sometimes. But I have to remind myself that I signed up for this. If I wanted a picture perfect dog who would sit when I asked her to sit, stand when I asked her to stand, mingled only with the dogs I liked and showed affection to me all the time – I would just sit and watch Scooby Doo on TV.

Even after 4 or 5 years, if I give her too much stress or take away her sense of safety, she will either show me aggression (biting) or simply run away, and I wouldn’t be able to do a single thing. She felt threatened and left to preserve herself. Is she obligated to stick with me despite the stress and abuse, just because I took care of her for so long?

NO.

I am just glad that I have a dog who will bite me if I cross her boundaries, as compared to a human child who will continue to suffer in silence thinking it’s okay just because I’m a parent. Nothing scares me more.

 

Found a gem!

So I was watching Sultan the other day and one thing that really stuck with me, other than some truly heartfelt scenes, was this song:

First thing that I thought of, immediately afterwards was – I hope this is an actual song in the album and not just background score. It is such a beautifully composed and an even more beautifully written song. Vishal Shekhar deliver these silent gems and unfortunately they are forgotten amidst the crowd pleasers. Even though I like Jag ghoomeya as well from this album, this song is by far and without any doubt the best song I’ve heard in ages. It’s bittersweet in a melancholic way and the way it has been placed in the movie can bring tears to anybody’s eyes.

Compared to Ae Dil Hai Mushkil’s Bulleya, which is great in it’s own right (especially the lyrics by Amitabh Bhattacharya) this one is no doubt better. It is more subtle and hits all the right chords in terms of emotions. And Papon’s voice is magic. I have no idea why Arijit Singh is such a hot property with singers like Papon around. Remember Moh Moh Ke Dhaage?

Wish songs like these got their due!

Granted l Dance Film

I had been toying with the idea of this piece for a while, ever since I saw a poster of a short dance film contest. Inspiration to create something always hits me like a running train. Then I just have to do something about it. I’m so happy to have managed to finish this film in 15 days and for it to have come out the way it did. I truly believe dance films is a virtually limitless form of expression. You can reach out globally and present your work to n number of people.