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Wednesday, Oct 23, 2019

Meet the spoken word artist whose piece on patriarchy has gone viral

Sudeep Pagedar has been making a difference through his poems since his teenage years.

art-and-culture Updated: Apr 06, 2017 16:32 IST
Manali Shah
Manali Shah
Hindustan Times
Poet Sudeep Pagedar performing The Privileges of a Penis at Tuning Fork.
Poet Sudeep Pagedar performing The Privileges of a Penis at Tuning Fork.

“I’m tired of hiding behind my expansive privilege. It reminds me, throughout, of the times I’ve maintained silence. When I should have spoken out, against patriarchy’s inherent violence.”

These are verses from a spoken word piece, titled The Privileges of a Penis, by Vile Parle-based poet Sudeep Pagedar (28). On March 31, a video of Pagedar performing the piece was uploaded on UnErase Poetry’s (a platform that produces poetry) YouTube channel. It quickly went viral for standing up for women, and taking on slut-shaming and misogyny.

“I wrote this poem at 3.30am after reading a social media post by a friend. She spoke about the sexism she had encountered at a creative event,” Pagedar says. It triggered something in him. He had often seen similar attitudes by fellow male poets. “If I call myself a sensitive poet, it would be unfair on my part to not say anything. I am still uncomfortable calling out sexist behaviour but I prefer to experience that discomfort now,” he says.

READ MORE: Meet the Mumbai-based poet whose piece on gender discrimination has gone viral

Pagedar, who works as a development sector consultant, started writing poetry during school. He even bagged a National Award for Creative Writing, presented by Dr APJ Abdul Kalam. A curious child, he was interested in world politics and social structures. Early on, themes of war and conflict found their way in his writing. He was influenced by Holocaust literature, such as The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank, and Night by Elie Wiesel. His first issue-based poem came after the 9/11 terrorist attack in the US which affected him greatly.

Pagedar performing spoken word poetry at an event.
Pagedar performing spoken word poetry at an event. ( Photo courtesy: Chanda Gauranga )

“As a teenager, I used to be a stuck-up person. I would stand on desks and yell at fellow students. The preachy attitude never worked. I realised the best way to get through to people was to write, and that, too, in simple language,” he says.

Read more: EXCLUSIVE: Poet Lang Leav talks about being an unlikely social media celebrity

His works are simple without being simplistic. Two of his initial poems (written in his mid-teens), Tale of a Sprinter, and Holocaust, are taught at several high schools in the US. They were picked up by teachers after being published on, a website on Holocaust literature and facts. At first glance, both the poems seem to be directly about the Holocaust, but the deeper message is that human aggression and conflict transcends borders and time. “The 2002 Gujarat riots had taken place around the time I wrote the poems,” he says.

Currently, Pagedar is working on a piece on bullying. “I was bullied as a kid, and I have also bullied others. So I’ll show both sides of the coin,” he says.

First Published: Apr 06, 2017 16:31 IST

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