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

Advertisements

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?

 

Singapore it is..

lasalle_new_city_campus_interior

So after a lot of deliberation and sleepless nights, I have finally decided – Singapore is going to be the country where I will go for my BA (Hons) in Dance. LASALLE was one of my dream universities a few years ago. I remember citing it as the place I would like to study further in after finishing a pre-professional course in a school in Denmark, but I never got the visa for Denmark and a lot of my plans went haywire. Anyhow, I applied this year again and luckily, with a good portfolio and an interview given on a sleepless night + 5 cups of coffee – I got in.

I loved Singapore when I visited it last time. It’s a melting pot of so many different cultures and people from a range of backgrounds. Everyone gets absorbed into it’s fast-growing economy and rapidly progressing culture. I had no trouble fitting in (except for the one time that I took the wrong metro route and got insanely lost – I had to walk mad distance) and people were welcoming and happy. It’s a beautiful place, with places like Clarke Quay, Marina Bay, Botanical Gardens, Singapore Zoo and my absolute favorite – Universal Studios! *heart eyes* I swear I can never get enough of that place. Who knew a day wasn’t going to be enough to explore the humongous place. I could live with those minions forever. Thankfully enough, Singapore has an entire neighborhood for Indians called “Little India”, that has shops that play tamil/telugu/malyalam music on the regular and has plenty of reasonably priced Indian restaurants. So if I ever feel homesick, I can always go there and lovingly look at desis bargaining for $1. Sigh.

More than it’s touristy attractions though, I’m really excited about this new chapter in my life. It’s going to be a tough 3 years (starting this july)- dance training is never a breeze through. I’m basically married to dance for the next 3 years. I will live and breathe for it. It really makes me reminisce about all the years that I relentlessly put into my training. But I’m still nowhere close to where I want to be, so I have to keep pushing ahead with an even stronger conviction. Its not just a journey toward becoming a professional dancer or choreographer, it’s journey of self-discovery. There are plenty dancers in the world – much more talented than me. Then what exactly makes me stand out?

What makes me stand out is me. There may be a lot of dancers in the world but there is only one me and that’s what needs to come out through my art as well. I have to be true to who I really am and put that into my movement. That movement will be mine, and mine only. If it deserves applause, it might get that too. But regardless of that, I’ll still have contributed to my field in a different way and that’s what matters. I feel very strongly about dancers who are constantly striving hard to “fit in”. Art is a very subjective field, if we wanted to be forced into templates we would have chosen MBA. So why conform to what everyone thinks a dancer should be like? I tried to fit in for a very long time too. But thankfully, I realized that will never work out for me. I will end up a failure no matter how many times I try. I’m weird and will always be. So now I have decided to be a weird dancer #SuccessAdvice

I have a lot of ideas that I want to work on in the long run, and hopefully these 3 years will take me a step closer to that. Vibgyor is my dream child and I want it to go places – there is so much I want to do under the banner. It’s scary and overwhelming at the same time. I try not to think about the flip side too much, that it’ll all come crashing down and I won’t even be able to achieve 1% of what I want to. This is a choice I have made for myself and I won’t have anyone to put the blame on. I will own both the success and the failure.

I don’t care much about monetary success or fame. I never have. I, for one, am very clear about my priorities in life and one would have to dig right down to the core of the earth to find out if it’s even on my list. People who run after monetary success are the unhappiest people in the world, because their net achievement is zero. Trust me folks, there will always be someone who has better bank balance, a better house or better curtains. That shit never ends. But I do care about one thing – putting my ideas out in the world. I chose to channel them through dance, and all I want is to be able to do that well in my life. That’s success for me. A wise man once said “Promote your idea, not your name. It will follow” (Just kidding, it’s my original line)

I’m excited and terrified at the same time. I don’t know if I’m going to do well or absolutely suck. But I do know one thing – I’m not giving up anytime soon.

#Relentless.