Meet the 16-year-old whose poem on marital rape has gone viral
City boy Simar Singh can give you a complex. At 16, he has a viral spoken word performance video to his credit. And, he is the founder of a platform that supports the art form.HT48HRS_Special Updated: May 11, 2017 21:07 IST
‘So many families have asked women not to speak about this harassment. So many FIRs have never even had the option of being filed. So many young boys have been taught this crime as a ritual.’
These are lines from The Legal Rapist, a spoken word poem about martial rape, which went viral last month. Given the sensitive nature of the subject, we were a little taken aback to learn that the author of the piece, Simar Singh, is only 16. A 12th grade humanities student at RN Podar School (Bandra), he has been performing on stage since May 2016.
“I wrote The Legal Rapist in 30-odd minutes at The Poetry Tournament at Tuning Fork. We were given a prompt of two opposing emotions to be incorporated into our poem. I had recently read about marital rape, so I wrote about it because I really was affected by the subject,” he says.
Social justice warrior
Singh identifies as a feminist and says he has been working towards gender equality in his own little ways since he was a child. “Maybe because I was always taught that we are all equal,” he says.
The Legal Rapist was appreciated for highlighting a topic that affects a significant section of society and for calling out the stigma against it. However, Singh also faced some disapproval for penning it in first person narrative, thus speaking on behalf of women. “I was just confused by the fact that some people weren’t happy that someone could say someone else’s story. By that logic, most art in the world is redundant and offensive. Spoken word poetry is a progressive art form. The fewer the limitations, the more progressive it stays,” he says.
And sure, going viral brings popularity, but, it also invites trolls. Singh too received more than just praise and contrastive criticism. “I was hurt by a few comments which bad-mouthed me as a person. However, I take it all in a positive way. It was a learning experience for me to be more careful about the narratives I pick up as an artist,” he says.
Dedicated to a cause
Singh might be only 16, but he has strong opinions, and a vision. Two months ago, he founded UnErase Poetry, a platform that supports spoken word poets. All of their events have been held at Tuning Fork so far, and, remarkably, those that have been uploaded on its YouTube channel have gone viral.“As a format, spoken word poetry is still new and largely unknown to the masses in India. Such a platform is essential for its growth. It’s high time poetry coming from the notebooks of 15- to 50- year-olds talks about various issues and helps shape opinion,” he says.
Singh has been writing poetry since he was nine. His first poem, about living in the jungle, was called the Banyan Tree. “It’s one of my favourites because I rhymed boy with toy, tree with he, and old with gold, without caring if it made sense. It came straight from my heart and made me happy. I guess my work still reflects that to an extent,” he says.
And it’s not just writing either. Singh is interested many creative art forms. He has tried his hand at stand-up comedy and also made short films. “I made my first short when I was 13. Most of my work is character-centric,” he says. Going ahead, Singh is interested in studying a number of courses in college but hasn’t made up his mind yet. As for his choice of profession, he simply says, “It’s a secret.”