In between worksheets and presentations, a writer always resided within spoken word artist Ramya Pandyan. The pen has been her pal since she was a child and in 2004, she began putting out her thoughts on the web under the pseudonym IdeaSmith. Since then she has been indulging in wordplay, having even taken over the stage to perform poetry for over three years. Her works mostly reflect the struggles of being a woman in an unforgiving societal and corporate environment. She loves Mumbai and she hopes to put her love forth for the city with her verses at the Free Verse Sessions, scheduled to be held on July 28th, 2018.
Radio City Freedom caught up with her for a quick chat.
Was poetry instinctive to you or was it habitual reading and writing that encouraged you?
Ramya: I began writing at a very early age, almost as soon as I could read. So I can't distinguish between these two. I've explored every form of writing that I could and am still trying to push my creative boundaries. I also have a background in music. The recent interest in performed poetry/spoken word, allowed me to bring these two experiences together - the stage and my love of words. I read every day, constantly examining how people use words and language. I also write a lot, almost every day, sometimes publicly but often editing, rewriting and drafting. Poetry is like any other art form - it needs riyaaz and nurturing and I do as much of it as I can.
How do you personally prefer poetry? As a medium of expression or as an effort to start a dialogue on pressing issues?
Ramya: It is both these for me. Whatever be the subject of my work - Mumbai, love, current affairs - I'm expressing how I feel about these things and where I stand. I feel very strongly that every human being, regardless of gender, religion, sexuality, economic background, or body type/ability deserves respect and consideration. So my poetry must address how I feel about these. It is personal and it is political, both at once.
Why do you think that literature and poetry does not find the support and credibility it deserves?
Ramya: The humanities and arts do not find a place in our system. Through our growing years, we are pushed to focus on specific things that are assumed to be 'job-worthy'. This means, there is very little room for most people to explore their interest in art, culture, language and even say, sports. This goes well into adulthood, where people assume entertainment must look a certain way (Bollywood films in multiplex theatres, parties with alcohol and loud noises). Most people who read, grew up in families that taught them to appreciate literature.
Anybody who comes to a poetry gathering has either been lucky enough to grow up with cultural influences or has to overcome their programming and make the effort to learn. A lot of people tell me that they 'do not understand' poetry because they assume it will be full of big words that make no sense to them. I try to keep my poetry/performances accessible and simple because what is the point of saying something that no one understands? These days poetry is seen as cool so a lot more people flock to poetry performances. I hope this will open many more minds to literature and poetry.
Spoken word artists and poets from your fraternity that you admire?
Ramya: Spoken Word is still very new to Mumbai and we're all exploring the format. So I take my inspiration from anyone who commands audiences well. These could be teachers, orators, leaders, actors and other performers. As a writer, some wordsmiths I've really admired are: Milan Kundera, Richard Bach, JK Rowling, Alexander McCall-Smith, RK Narayan, Mario Puzo, PG Wodehouse and Chuck Palahniuk.
Lastly, five books that you’d recommend to ardent bibliophiles?
Ramya: Here are some books that surprised me (pleasantly):
1. Venus Trines at Midnight - a book of poetry by Linda Goodman
2. Dream Angus - by Alexander McCall-Smith
3. The Sandman - a graphic novel series by Neil Gaiman
4. The Little Prince - by Antonie St.Exupery
5. The Green Mile - Stephen King
Catch Ramya performing live at the Free Verse Sessions, this Saturday at Todi Mill Social. Click here for event details.