She Paints Her Poetry in the Colours of Fire and Feminism

By Ananya Jain

With a platform that offers both global reach and a safe space, more young Indian women are writing uninhibitedly on Instagram, without fear of judgment, unafraid to take on real issues even if it means courting controversy. This story is part of our series on the ‘Poets of Instagram’.

HARNIDH KAUR
Instagram.com/harnidhk

i don’t know how to write this poem.
it turns into a distress alert every time i
put a word after the other. i write of spring
days and how the city i’m in is meeting
cherry blossoms soon and it ends up reading
like the obituary of a winter with no name.

Harnidh Kaur attributes her inclination towards poetry to her parents: while her mum was a professor of literature, her father always encouraged her to spend her money on experiences, such as reading, art and music. Later on, it proved to be a healthy channel of expression and helped her deal with depression and even anger management. In her words, poetry gave her ‘power’.

Born in a tiny Maharashtrian district called Bhandara, self-proclaimed ‘shaukeen’ (epicure) has spent most of her life shuttling between Delhi and Mumbai, and continues to do so. She pursued her undergraduate degree in history at Lady Shri Ram College, Delhi, and did her Master’s in public policy at St. Xavier’s, Mumbai.

The 23-year-old currently works as a policy analyst with non profits, focusing on urban sanitation, providing basic resources to marginalised communities.

harnidh kaur 3.jpg
Photo: Instagram

She speaks highly of Instagram, where she has over 20,000 followers, and believes that social media has led to the rise of new voices and democratised the freedom of expression. The fact is that social media has taught us empathy, connected people, and helped us reach out, she says.

Harnidh often makes unselfconscious statements along with her poetry on Instagram and during her slam performances – from Manipal to Washington DC – inviting attention to the fact that she’s a ‘raging feminist’ and a plus-sized woman belonging to the minority Sikh community.

Yet, though most people still don’t take Harnidh’s job as a policy analyst seriously when they find out that she writes poetry (“On Tinder, men are just like, wow, you’re a poet, will you write poetry about me?”), the social-media world is taking her seriously enough.

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Harnidh (far left) at Facebook’s Safety Summit

She was invited to be a panelist for Facebook’s Global Safety Summit earlier this year along with five other young social-media icons from around the world to talk about how “teens and technology are changing the world”. And she will be representing India as a delegate at the G(irls)20 Conference in Argentina in October this year.

While Harnidh is grateful to social media for the opportunities it has created, she also encourages young writers to never let ‘likes’ or comments suppress or discourage them. “What sells the most isn’t always the best. I could give you a list of key words – collarbones, smoke – and you would surely go viral, but is that what you really want?”

Instead she encourages budding poets to write, to hone their skills, practice and realise that their words matter, that their voices could someday be part of a more important history.

This is part two of our series on ‘Poets of Instagram’ first published in the August issue of eShe magazineRead part one here.

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