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Childhood Interiority, Poetry, and the Need for Empathetic Connections

Updated: Jun 23

In this post, Muskan Tanwani's poem reflects on the hypocritical conventions of Indian culture towards its women, and Abbas Ali's poem explores the themes of mental health, and the blurry lines between our being and our identity. Both poems articulate the need to look towards a world of empathy and human connections. This piece is the second of a two-series feature, where we collaborated with Slam Out Loud to platform the voices of student performers and their creative expression through the medium of poetry.


Slam Out Loud is a for-mission, non-profit that uses the transformative power of performance and visual arts like poetry, storytelling, visual arts and theatre; to help build Creative Confidence (life) skills like communication, critical thinking and empathy in children from disadvantaged communities.

Their programs include the Jijivisha Fellowship, which places professional artists directly into classrooms, and helps inculcate essential life skills to children from low-income backgrounds through arts-based learning, as well as the much recent Arts for All, which leverages the power of art and low-tech platforms to foster socio-emotional learning and well-being of children during pandemic-induced school closures. To know more about SOL's programs, interventions and to access their freely available learning resources, please visit their website!


Note: Spoken Word Poetry is at its most impactful in performance, and the text below is only meant to accompany the videos of the children performing their work.


What's in a Name?


- By Muskan Tanwani



"The people who are named after flowers never get to bloom/And I, I am named Muskan but when I am forbidden to smile,/it feels like a pure shame/A pure shame that I have a bright smile."


Indian nomenclature

Finding out numerous words from Holy literature

Is just like those beautiful,

But unreal flowers

That are just for display

They named their daughter iccha but never allowed her to wish for education

They call their wife virangana but always forced her to be on her knees

Durga always has to be silent and polite in front of her husband

Kalpana is never allowed to imagine a comfortable life

Prerna is never allowed to express her inspiration

Sapna has to quit her dream to prove the world that she is a good mother

And adarsh is never taught to respect his wife

Saraswati never gets to see a school

It is just making others fool

The people who are named after flowers never get to bloom

And I, I am named Muskan but when I am forbidden to smile,

it feels like a pure shame

A pure shame that I have a bright smile.


Daraarein (दरारे)

- Abbas Ali

"मैं नही जानता तुम पर क्या बीती हैं, कोई हादसा हुआ, या किसी की मौत, कोई नौकरी छूटी या कोई नापसन्द नौकरी मिली, जीवन मुश्किल लगता या मरना आसान, मैं नहीं जानता क्या करते हो तुम महसूस, पर इतना जानता हूं कि कुछ करना बहतर है कुछ न करने से,"


चटके हुए शीशे में खुद को देख समझना मुश्किल होता है कि दरारे शीशे पर है या चेहरे पर,

दरारे जिनमे पानी भरकर तसल्ली दिला देता हूं खुदको के अभी टुटा नही हूं,

पानी ऐसा जिसमे चल रहे होते है कीड़े जो चबा जाते है मेरी खाल, छोड़ जाते है निशान मेरे चेहरे पर,

रास्ता बनाते है अपना मेरे सीने की ओर,

फेफड़ो पे आ चुके है अब निशान,

धड़कने हो चुकी है धीरे,

लगता है जैसे रोज़ थोड़ा थोड़ा कर ख़त्म हो रहा हूँ, धीरे धीरे हो रहा हूँ गायब, जीवन से मुँह फेरने का मन करता है,लगता है जैसे हड्डियां रहीँ है टूट, खून रहा है जम, ज़ुबाँ पे लगा है ताला, बात नही करता किसी से सिवाये किताबो के,

मैंने कहीं पर पढ़ा था के

हम सब उस कपड़े की तरह है जिसके रेशो को पकड़ कर खींचते रहो तो खत्म हो जाता है पूरा कपड़ा बचते है सिर्फ धागे,

वो धागे होते है हमारी दरारे जिन्हें भरा जा सकता है, दबाया या छुपाया जा सकता है, पर निकाला नही जा सकता, क्योंकि दरारो से बंधी होती है इंसानियत, हमारी रूह, ख्वाब हमारे, हम खुद, जो की निकल आएंगे साथ दरारों के अगर उन्हें खींचा गया,

मैं नही जानता तुम पर क्या बीती हैं, कोई हादसा हुआ, या किसी की मौत, कोई नौकरी छूटी या कोई नापसन्द नौकरी मिली, जीवन मुश्किल लगता या मरना आसान, मैं नहीं जानता क्या करते हो तुम महसूस, पर इतना जानता हूं कि कुछ करना बहतर है कुछ न करने से,

तो अब उन दरारों को भरना शुरू करो,

अम्मी कहती हैं कि पछतावा सबसे ज़्यादा हानिकारक होता है।

तो अगर रास्ते में हैं मुश्किलें, रुकावटें, तो बात करो किसी भरोसेमंद इंसान से जो दिखा सके तुम्हे राह, बता सके तुम्हे तुम्हारी खूबसूरती के बारे में, जो बता सके तुम्हे के नाख़ून है तुम्हारे सफ़ेद, आँखों में है गड्ढे जिनमे भरी है समझदारी, जो तुम्हे वज़न बता सके तुम्हारी सांसो का, दिखा सके तुम्हे तुम्हारा चेहरा ऐसे शीशे में जो की चटका न हो, ताकि बाद में तुम पछताओ नहीं,

क्योंकि अम्मी पछतावे के बारे में जो कहती है वो सच है।


Here is an English translation of the above piece:


I look at myself in a broken mirror

And wonder whether these cracks

are on the mirror or on my face.


These cracks are such that

I fill them with water to reassure myself

that I am not yet broken.

The water is such that

It teems with insects,

Insects that gnaw away at my flesh,

Leaving scars on my face,

Making their way inside my body

Towards my chest

Where

My lungs are marred

My heartbeat is slowing

And I feel like I’m slowly vanishing, slowly finishing

Day by day.


My mind begs me to turn away from life

For my bones are crumbling

My blood turns to ice

My voice gets choked

Because I talk to no one but my books.


I once read somewhere

That we are built like cloth,

A cloth that unravels when pulled at the seams,

Leaving behind nothing but threads

And these threads are like our cracks

Which can be pushed away, hidden away,

But can never be erased

Because these threads make up our humanity,

Our essence, our dreams, our selves,

And they will come apart like those cracks

If they are ever pulled.


I don’t claim to know what you’ve been through.

An accident, a death,

A job lost, a job you don’t love

Whether you think life is hard and death easy,

I don’t claim to know what you feel.


But I do know that doing something is better than nothing.

So fill those cracks.


My mother told me once that

Regret is a dangerous thing.

So if you ever face hardship or hindrance,

Talk to someone you trust

Who can show you the way,

Show you how beautiful you are,

Show you how to unclench your fist

Show you the value of each breath,

Show you the wisdom filled in the bags under your eyes

Show you how truly beautiful you are, in a mirror that is unbroken.


Because my mother was right about regret.


To stay updated on all the fun projects, work, and opportunities at SOL; head over to their Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or LinkedIn handles!

Muskan Tanwani is a young poet who started writing poetry in sixth grade and has since developed a deep connection with the stage. She strongly believes in empathy, excellence, and integrity and feels it is these values that can transform this world into a better place. Muskan has been in SOL programs since the last four years and has performed at platforms across the country, such as the Spoken Fest, UNDP, TedX, and Kids Education Revolution. She has also been on the student leadership panel for Art1st.


Abbas Ali is a Hindustani Poet who tries to speak the truth through his poems. He writes about issues which should be talked about and believes that Poetry is a form of evolution, change and constant improvement. He has been a part of SOL for the last 4 years, and performed at festivals across the country like the Spoken Fest, Kabir Yatra, and KER night. He has also written and performed a rap for UN Women to stop violence against women and has shared his opinions on gender and religion while performing for art collectives.

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