Indian Spoken Word

“I look nothing like my mother,” says Indian poet Nupur Saraswat in her spoken word video Twisted And Mine. “My hair, twisting like a pig’s tail at every end, my hips take too much space on the train, my breasts take too much space on my body. . . . It wasn’t long before I realized my body offended people . . . The girls around me were getting used to being sent home from school for wearing their skirts too short; I got used to being sent home for letting my big, black, curly hair down. The teachers would try to explain that my hair was inappropriate for an educational institution.”

Spoken word is fast becoming the vehicle of choice with which Indian youth express themselves. Frustrated with their political leaders and for years feeling disenfranchised, they use spoken-word poetry to talk about everything from relationships and sexuality to depression and suicide. No subject is off limits.

Shantanu Anand, who founded the Airplane Poetry Movement to help popularize spoken word in India, says it gives young people “a way to share that opinion which is not just a Facebook status or an essay.” Shruthi Mohan, who runs Open Sky, an open mic platform in cities across the country, says it has made “ranting and venting as a form as expression” acceptable.

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