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

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The socio-economic polarization of Delhi

Delhi can be defined as many things, but heterogeneous is not one of them. It is a city whose rapidly rising mall culture contrasts heavily with it’s stark realities at the ground level. A major garbage dump can easily exist outside the long stretch of big wig structures like Select city walk and Max Hospital. A 5 star hotel can co-exist with a slum area. A pedestrian could wait for an auto to stop while ten BMWs zoom past him.

In a nutshell, Delhi is a city that essentially has two faces – The one that is rich, glamorous and swanky and the one that is poor, inadequate and unorganized. These two faces define the way things are run in this city. They dictate the terms that will eventually be levied on everyone. Unfortunately the ones who suffer the most in this tussle between the extremely rich and the extremely poor are the middle class people. They slog away for years in 9-6 jobs, pay their bills and taxes, pay for their children’s education, invest in policies, take loans and dream of living a comfortable and stress free life one day. That ‘one day’ however, never really arrives owing to the fact that the middle class is one sector that no one gives a shit about.

The extremely rich people are the ones dwelling in places like Sainik Farms, Paschim Vihar, Panchsheel, Vasant Kunj, GK so on and so forth. They have enough money to rent Honey Singh for an hour to sing at their daughter’s wedding, enough money to arrange a luncheon with a high ranking government official, enough money to buy their children seats in coveted institutions and enough money to drain down the pipe and still be left with enough to feed the entire city of Ramnagar. They have strong connections with all the right people. They can exert influence in places where a common man can only dream of getting past the peon. Say a tender floated by MCD or PWD, open to all on paper, offers an opportunity to relatively smaller units as well. But in reality, someone sitting in a chair worth 1 lac just needs to send a bottle of whisky, a complimentary mobile phone and a few sugar coated promises to nab the tender and shove everyone else out of the way even before someone can think of bidding. The reason why the line ‘Tu jaanta nahi mera baap kaun hai’ is so famously abused in Delhi is because it actually is true. The only way one can get out of tight spots is if he/she has the right connections. A rich dude from a rich family can break traffic laws, drive under influence and eve tease openly without the fear of bearing any consequences. Why? Because ‘consequences’ are not for someone whose dad has coffee with the Commissioner ever week.

On the flip side are the poor people who constitute the daily wage workers, domestic help, autorickshaw wallahs etc. Their one and only funda is – ‘Strength in numbers’. They are united by their status and their ambition to get as many free benefits as possible. They use their unity to exert influence in workplaces to get their way, and their status as a sympathy card to get out of situations. Say you dismiss a worker in an Industrial area like Okhla without further pay, the next thing you know, about 50 other workers are standing right outside your office demanding why this happened and threatening you with everything from labour court notices to local gunda connections. Their threats may be real or empty, but strong enough to get the job done. A local lady who works as a cook only needs to tear her dupatta and cry rape before an official case is registered against you. All for what? A few extra bucks.

Their unity is also a great vote bank for local MLAs who rely on them for local help. They do petty jobs for them in return for solidarity and support. This is why you could be running a smart IT business and still fall prey to their tricks.

What’s being sandwiched in all this is the middle class, who simply cannot see beyond their monthly stressors like roti, kapda, makaan. They’re the ones who get ripped off by autowallahs and sidelined by Audi owners. They’re the ones who can stroll around in Select Citywalk and yet manage to buy nothing. They’re the ones who are qualified enough to get a good seat in a good institution but get squashed either by reservation or by the wealthy son of a wealthy father. There is no politician who finds the middle class issues strong enough to create a mudda, no godfather who is willing to stand up for the never ending struggle of the 9-6 worker, no NGO that is invested in supporting the paper thin lives of the middle class man, rearing to fall apart at the slightest touch.

In conclusion? If you want to lead a good life in Delhi, you must either be very rich or very poor. If you’re one of the middle class, then you’re pretty much doomed to lead a life of misery throughout.

Caste and Religion Politics: Is the power of voting any power at all?

We all know the famous tag line that is often associated with Indian politics – “You don’t cast your vote, you vote for your caste”. India is a culturally rich country. We have an array of religions, languages and cultures. Not to mention that the caste system has existed for centuries. Yet the vision of our leaders at the time of Independence was secularism. Our diversity should be our strength, not our weakness. But over the course of time politics became more about winning and less about public service, and our diversity became a tool for the politicians to pit us against each other.

Religion

Indian politics was easily about three things – Religion, caste and regionalism. Each National party had different candidates that appealed to all three vote banks. During the Congress led government (since 2004), the then marginalized and ghettoized Muslims were a major vote bank for them. When Manmohan Singh became Prime Minister, he appointed the Sachaar committee to collect data about the state of the average Muslim in India, who was shockingly underrepresented in the BJP led government. During the tenure of Congress, more Muslim MPs were elected and brought to the forefront. Thus Congress established a strong relationship with the Muslims. This, however, was not a new development as the Congress has been accused of harbouring a soft corner for the Muslims ever since the times of Nehru, followed by Indira Gandhi.

The BJP, on the other hand, has always been very vocal about its Hindutva ideologies. It’s many affiliations like the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (with it’s militant wing – The Bajrang Dal) are a testament to the fact. It’s history regarding it’s involvement in the demolition of Babri Masjid in 1992 and then the Gujarat riots in 2002 is still very unclear and murky. Both the acts have still not been punished in the court of law. Under BJP’s tenure, Hindu majoritarianism took precedence over other minority groups. The Christians in Orissa were heavily attacked by the Bajrang Dal in 2008. When they retaliated, the Bajrang Dal reacted with even more violence, forcing people to flee from their villages. It was declared that only the refugees who converted to Hinduism would be allowed back in their villages.

Caste

In the 1990’s, the very infamous Mandal commission was established that declared a 27% reservation for all OBCs in the public sector. The upper caste retaliated with strikes and movements, because of which the OBCs were forced to come together in solidarity to protect their common interests. They began voting together and for their own caste, which was marked by Mulayam Singh Yadav’s rise to power in UP and Laloo Prasad Yadav in Bihar. Both these politicians took their politics to the home of a Dalit.

In the beginning of the 2000s, however, the OBC solidarity went down mainly due to the fact that both National Parties, namely – BJP and Congress, conjoined hands with OBC candidates and provided them with representation in relevant areas. In Madhya Pradhesh, all BJP Chief Ministers have been OBCs since 2003. Despite the disintegration of the OBC unity, Bahujan Samaj Party is still on a steady rise.

These facts converge to form one fact – in India, parties don’t manage to get a majority or even enough seats to exert any influence in the Parliament without Identity politics. Since it’s Independence in 1947, Indian politics has always relegated itself to caste or religion politics rather than focusing on real issues like poverty, illiteracy, healthcare, unemployment and crime. It is rather unfortunate that we, as a people, are never moved by the core issues that form the basic infrastructure of any economy, but are rather more invested in differences that, at the end of the day, are someone’s personal choices. ‘Power of voting’ is a powerful right only as long as the people are not manipulated or brainwashed into believing in one particular ideology only because it’s being perpetrated by the leaders of their own caste, religion or state. In that case, this power isn’t any power at all, but rather an illusion that makes us believe we’re voting out of free will.

With the grand sweep by the Aam Aadmi Party in the 2015 Legislative Assembly Elections in Delhi, people are now hoping that AAP will bring about a change in the face of politics and the focus will be on developmental issues. Whether or not it will succeed is a question that will be answered in the next 5 years, but here’s hoping that it doesn’t disappoint us.

Source: Religion, Caste & Politics in India by Christophe Jaffrelote

Do dino ka tamasha yaaron

Because that’s the shelf life of any issue in our country. Actually, I’m still wondering about how the Anti-corruption movement lasted so long. 😐 But I know that rape cases don’t really last for long, because at least 50% of the population is not vulnerable to them(atleast not in our country) and the other half is usually the ones at fault themselves ❗ So really, it’s not such a serious matter after all. I mean if the girls can kaaboo karo their extremely strong and violent urge to indulge in besharam behavior, then surely rapes would go down. Why’re you staring at me? This is Sheila Dixit’s official statement.

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But I know that this hullabaloo will go on for another 3 days, a week at most, and then people will simply forget about it. I feel India as a nation has become immune to violence. We don’t react to terrorism, molestation, domestic violence, child abuse and now rapes. We simply do not react. We have accepted this violence as an ugly reality of our country and seem to be happy as long as it doesn’t affect us personally. I have no idea why those cheesy Bollywood movies depict India as the epitome of love and respect and Indians as the most caring people in the world.

Our government and police are going to continue to do what they do best – slack their asses off and still get their monthly salary. Trust me the last thing they’re going to do before the world ends is take the maximum amount of bribe they possibly can. That’s going to be their achievement. Or maybe they’ll just prefer to die on their precious kursis, because the kursi is the source of their pride, honor and everything else they hold close. They’ll stick their asses to that damn chair and stay there until the Earth explodes or gets struck by a large meteorite. Sometimes I view India as a toilet drain that is clogged with shit to it’s brim. Whoever tries to flush gets some of that shit on his face too. In other words, it’s impossible to clear out all that shit without having it hit the fan and the ceiling first. We’re going to rot like this until the end of time.

The question is, why do men think women are public property? Who gives them the liberty to go out and flash their dicks wherever they want? What kind of sick, twisted and deranged culture are we if we promote superiority of men only because they have their egos between their legs?

When will an Indian mother stop treating her son as her ‘laal’ or ‘kaleje ka tukda’ no matter what he does and start bringing him up to respect women, their body and integrity? When will she stop making him believe that it’s okay to go out and paint the town red by exhibiting his manhood everywhere? When will she stop protecting him while he harasses half the women of the city? When will she start throwing him out of her house if he screws up, instead of handing him her the duppatta to wipe off his nose?

When will Indian men stop being Mama’s boys and actually become men? Right now, they’re all a bunch of desperate losers who bask in the glory of simply being born as men, and that makes them think that they don’t really need to do anything else at all. Paida ho gaye, bahut bada ehsaan kar diya dharti par. This mindset snowballs into something much bigger and culminates in rape at the slightest of rejection. You see, they’re not adept to deal with rejection and especially by a woman. Us kamini ne mujhe mana kiya! Main mard hoon! Kudrat ka chamatkar, bhagwan ka vardaan aur duniya ka sabse shaktishaali insaan! Abhi ise iski aukaat dikhata hoon. And there you have it.

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I am not going to stop stepping out of my house after 8:30. I am not going to cover my ass up with a sack if I don’t want to. I am not going to walk in packs if I want to walk alone. I am not going to take a male friend along just so he can be my bodyguard. I am not going to change so that I can prevent myself from getting raped. If a bunch of barbaric assholes can’t keep their dicks to themselves, and if our government or police cannot do anything about it, then it’s not my fault. Go shove your moral parameters up your ass.

For every innocent girl who is raped, there should be one innocent boy who is publicly castrated with a pair of shears. I suggest that all girls should start carrying a pair with them. Whenever they feel like having a little fun or just letting their hair down they should whip their shears out and chop off some guy’s penis right there. So much fun! Oh god I can only imagine. What an ego boost and power high that would be. Have a few drinks, get into a van full of adventurous girls, pull up next to a random boy, drag him inside and chop his manhood off! FUN!

Why am I saying this? Because the feeling is the same. End of story.

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