No support for artists?

I have been talking about this for quite some time now. There is absolutely no support infrastructure for budding artists and companies. If an artist wants to put up a show, the biggest challenge they face is to gather an audience. They can somehow manage to find a space to rehearse, other artists to collaborate with and look after other logistics. But what does one do when it comes to attracting audiences who would be interested in consuming their art? There is of course the most obvious issue – the social one. We in India, simply don’t have a culture where audiences are interested in paying for art (of any kind) Our mindset is still stuck at… arts mein kya rakha hai. Engineering karo. Mind you, there is a huge difference between arts and entertainment. Unfortunately in our country the two are always used interchangeably. We simply do not think that dance, theatre and/or any kind of performing arts is worthy of our money. We would rather pay to watch Bigg Boss on television.

It will take a lot of time for this kind of mentality to change. It requires a revolution. Some people are constantly making efforts to change it, and will continue to do so. However there are certain other issues too that contribute to the lack of development or betterment of our Industry – one of them being lack of support from the corporate sector. A platform like BookMyShow, that holds monopoly over ticketing, offers absolutely no support to small outfits who are trying to organize events independently. We recently organized our event, and decided to tie up with BMS for ticketing because of their huge market. Obviously, we agreed to their terms in regard to the commission. But it doesn’t end there. They also charge a “convenience fee” or “Internet handling” fee which is to be paid by the end user during the booking process. Basically, they earn revenue from the organizer as well as the customer. Now, as per the information released by RBI (thanks to an RTI filed by Vijay Gopal), this internet handling fees is, infact, not legal (falls in the grey areas) and is in violation of MDR regulations. This charge needs to be paid by the merchant to the bank, and not the user (Trust me, as a business we pay it too) but organizations like BookMyShow make the users pay it.

This aside, we also wanted to do some extra marketing in collaboration with them – for which they said their minimum package was for Rs. 25,000 – in which they would merely promote a facebook post and it would run until the budget exhausts. No featured posts. No mention in the newsletter. I respectfully declined because, quite frankly, we just didn’t have the money and running a promotional campaign on facebook is something we could have done ourselves too.

Basically, (a) their additional charges are a deterrent for audiences to come watch live shows, (b) organizers think a hundred times before buying their promotional packages because they’re so damn expensive and (c) organizers also have to pay them a share of the ticket sales revenue as commission. Oh, and if its a free event, you have to pay them a fixed amount per seat because they don’t host events for free on their website.

All in all, not a very good deal for smaller outfits. Profit to door ki baat hai, aise toh costs bhi cover nahi hongi. And absolutely NO guarantee that a minimum number of tickets will definitely be sold. You could do all this and still be performing in an empty auditorium.

Other big corporate houses do have CSR, but they only offer their schemes to NGOs or companies, not to individuals. Its very difficult then, as an individual, to get any kind of support from these organizations for any venture. So many artists in our country are suffering everyday, working for a measly amount of Rs. 1200 for a 12-hour shoot. They end up scrounging for work in places they don’t want to – wedding choreographies, corporate events, school events, ad shoots etc. Some of these dancers are extremely well-trained and have invested years in their training. Yet, they end up struggling for a very long time.

What we need is a massive overhaul in the overall social outlook and corporate social responsibility. We need more support from the government and society as a whole to flourish. Performing arts is in India’s fabric, let’s not let it die.

Skeletons in the closet

We all have our demons that we battle with, every single day. This battle takes away a fair share of energy and mental peace. We live in times where it seems everyone is at unrest. Everyone is struggling with too many things humanely possible to handle. But somehow we do. Every single day.

I have been dealing with anxiety since I was a kid, been taking medication for almost 8 years now. I was also recently diagnosed with Borderline personality disorder – an illness that is debilitating and draining at the same time. Needless to say, I live with a lot of weight on my chest every single day. This weight doesn’t just come from my illness and anxiety though – it comes from certain bad decisions that have stayed with me like ghosts under my pillow. Their shadow follows me around everywhere, never letting me forget the error of my ways.

Certain situations become so messy and complicated that they render your ability to differentiate between right and wrong completely useless. You feel numb, almost like an inanimate item being flung around without truly understanding what’s happening. It’s only once the dust settles that you realize what the storm destroyed in it’s wake. What can you do then? Besides looking around and lamenting at the fact that things went wrong? How do you undo a bad decision?

This is very hard to write about, but I need to start acknowledging what has happened so that I can find ways to overcome it. Also because – hiding and living under a rock does no good when you’re trying to deal with the ramifications of something. It’s best to face your fears, actions (good or bad), feelings and thoughts head on. Fearing them will only make the burden worse.

It’s hard living with this burden. After years of mulling over it and thinking about what to do, I finally decided to do something to undo that bad decision. Will it work? I don’t know. I am not sure. But I will go to bed every night knowing that I tried to retrace my steps and fix it. If there is a silver lining, it it this – I don’t stop fighting for the right thing until the right thing is done. It has been long overdue. If I want to shed some of the weight off my chest, I will have to make sure the right thing is done.

I will keep trying.

Random ramblings

Here I am, sitting in one of the expensive-for-no-reason DB trains, travelling from Berlin to Amsterdam and tapping my fingers on the keypad thinking about what to write. I am normally very bad at coming up with good topics to write about. My thoughts are too scattered and open-ended to come up with a concrete idea. My mind jumps from one topic to the other in a matter of seconds, and all the content that I thought of for the previous topic(s) is immediately lost. So I think it’s better for me to write a running commentary.

Trains journeys are the best metaphor for life. Just like a train ride, life meanders through different terrains and stops in one place for some time. People come and go in your life throughout it’s course, people come and go throughout the course of a train ride too. None of them are permanent, even if you manage to develop a strong bond with them. Everyone leaves at some point or the other. You are only left with your own company.

I often think about what “being content” means. Sometimes I think it’s about chasing your dream to the best of your ability, other times I think it’s about finding that one person who makes you feel like you’re home. But then there are moments of clarity when I realize that maybe it’s about feeling happy when you are with yourself. None of us really love ourselves. We are constantly looking for something, someone to fulfill a void we can’t fill ourselves. It’s not an easy feat. Heck, definitely not for a royally messed up person like me. God knows I have issues that will take several lifetimes for me to fix before I can love myself. I am a loner because that’s my comfort zone; not because I love my own company. If I had to spend an entire evening with my own clone, I would dash for the first exit. True story, I would not date my male counterpart. The two of us would rip eachother’s hair off.

It’s difficult to come to terms with the fact that there is no one who is meant to be by your side forever, especially not in a world that tries to sell us the concept of ‘eternal love’ all the time. Movies like The Notebook make you believe that you will die in your soulmate’s arms in the hospital bed. Who doesn’t want to believe that? It’s the most comforting idea in the world. I want to believe that too. I want to be able to close my eyes and not feel scared. We want another human being for that comfort and security because going through life and all it’s problems all alone is too much to imagine. We just might be capable of it; but the idea still scares the crap out of us.

Does that mean we should all declare celibacy and head to the mountains to meditate? Hell no. I cannot abandon a lot of small comforts for anything. I think maybe what I’m trying to say is that we need to stop trying to find ‘contentment’, because we are just too mortal to find nirvana (unless you’re snort coke) We will always be in a state of unrest. We will always be looking for something, despite not knowing what is truly is. Perhaps learning from the journey is more important than dwelling over the destination, because you don’t know if you will ever get there…or if it will be what you wanted if you do get there.

If you have something that makes you feel happy right now and makes you smile before drifting off to sleep, fight for it. It can be anything – a dream, a person, a job, an idea, a friend, a new recipe or a tv show. Don’t give up before giving it your heart and soul, because you never know when it’s going to slip through your hands. Trading present happiness for an expected future gain is the worst bargain in life. (Not to be confused with ‘not stepping out of your comfort zone’. There is a difference between being comfortable & lazy and truly happy)

Anyone who knows me knows I hustle hard. I never think I’ve done a good enough job. Whether it is doing the dishes or putting up a choreography – I will always be dissatisfied (not satisfied with this post either) But this constant relay makes me happy. It makes me feel like there is one thing I can truly call my own.

And I will fight for it until the day I die.