By Ananya Jain
Ever since Indian-Canadian poet Rupi Kaur burst onto Instagram and then the publishing world with her beautifully tragic poetry four years ago, Instagram poetry has been recognized as a potent tool of expression for the female Indian voice.
With a platform that offers both global reach and a safe space, more young women are writing uninhibitedly, without fear of judgment, unafraid to take on real issues even if it means courting controversy. Today’s #InstaPoets are brutally honest about their truths. This is the first of our two-part series on the ‘Poets of Instagram’.
you used to tell me
i had the kind of face
strangers in the street,
but they couldn’t look at me
a little sad.
things have died in here.
i know people see it all the time.
but my eyes
can look beautiful.
Megha Rao, who terms herself ‘fierce’, was born in Kerala, but spent half her childhood living in Singapore. She completed her post-graduation from the University of Nottingham in UK and now lives with her sisters in Mumbai, where she currently works as the content lead for Terribly Tiny Tales, an app for micro-fiction. This is her first ever full-time job.
But Megha is already a published poet and artist. She has written two works of fiction, which were published in 2015 and 2016, and her poetry often features in online magazines. She has also compiled and edited an anthology of poems, and she’s still only 22.
Megha began writing when she was just six, and recounts how comic books were her first attempt at writing: “I started drawing even before I wrote. But when I made these comic books, I had to fill up the speech bubbles, so I made myself write. It later turned into a hobby. And then an obsession.”
With over 12,000 followers on Instagram and many others on her Tumblr account, she shares that social media helps her reach her target and find people who appreciate her work and share the same love for art and poetry.
While she does call the internet a “dark place”, she believes that it has been good for her. She chooses not to associate with the negative aspects of this platform – such as stalkers and trolls – and instead uses the positives to fuel her personal growth. Rather than making it darker, she says she chooses to “spread the light”.
She sees Frida Kahlo, Sylvia Plath and her mother as her biggest inspirations and appreciates passion in people. She believes writers should be honest and shameless with their art: “If you want to write, you need to get rid of inhibitions. Be brave. Your art deserves that from you.”
REET / ROOHANII
I haven’t written in a while,
I don’t know if I have run out of synonyms
or just you.
All my verses find a way of tracing their steps
back to you
and I am yet not ready to let go.
And I can only hope this poem
doesn’t feel as broken as I do.
Eighteen-year-old Reet was born and raised in Kanpur and is currently studying psychology at Delhi University. Her pen name ‘Roohanii’, meaning ‘soulful’, is the word she associates most with herself. She recalls how she started writing in the second grade when she discovered homophones: she wrote her first poem for her mum.
Her Instagram page, where she posts both English and Hindi poems, is a recent project, and she has already found that words ‘connect people’, makes them realise that they aren’t alone and that someone somewhere feels exactly the same way.
Instagram as a platform has helped her connect with other writers, collaborate with new people and make new friends. However, Reet is worried and wary of the platform becoming slightly pretentious, driven by mostly likes and comments, rather than any real meaning.
The teenager idolises American poet Sarah Kay, the founder and co-director of Project V.O.I.C.E that uses spoken words as an educational and inspirational tool. Reet seeks to add just a touch of beauty to the world, in whatever way she can, and believes writers should be their own judge and write from their hearts.
This is part one of our series on ‘Poets of Instagram’ first published in the August issue of eShe magazine
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