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Saturday, Sep 21, 2019

Viral video on refugees by Mumbai-based poets is inspired by personal experience

City-based poet Ankita Shah’s spoken word poem on refugees has gone viral. She draws from her own childhood experience of moving to Mumbai from Nepal.

art-and-culture Updated: Apr 28, 2017 17:13 IST
Nidhi Choksi
Nidhi Choksi
Ramneek Singh and Ankita Shah perform Go Back To Your Own Country
Ramneek Singh and Ankita Shah perform Go Back To Your Own Country


What happens when the place you call home is taken away from you? What does it feel like if to start all over again in an unknown land? Go Back To Your Own Country, a bilingual spoken word poem in Hindi and English, performed by poets Ankita Shah and Ramneek Singh, questions how we treat refugees.

In less than a fortnight, a video of their performance, uploaded by UnErase Poetry (a community that promotes performance poetry), has clocked 64k views on Facebook.

To write this poem and understand the plight of refugees, Shah and Singh relied on past incidents when they were made to feel unwelcome. “I was bullied when I was in school because I looked different and came from Nepal,” says 24-year-old Shah.

Singh, too, had similar experiences of name-calling, as a Sikh born in Jammu. He is known for his activist poetry in Hindustani about conflict, oppression and current affairs.

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

The duo met at an event by The Poetry Club (TPC), which Shah co-founded in 2013. The original idea of the TPC was to find like-minded poets who could offer each other feedback. Today, Shah makes sure poets get paid for performing at events.“We need that kind of self-respect. We can’t be writing and performing for free because we put in a lot of effort to create art,” she says.

Shah works as a tax consultant at Ernst & Young, and spends her weekends organising poetry gatherings and performing at open mics and slams. “I have put in my papers and now plan to work in a more creative environment,” she says.

Shah at an event by The Poetry Circle
Shah at an event by The Poetry Circle ( Photo courtesy: Nikhil B )

She has been writing since her college days. Back then, she often penned poems about love and heartbreak, as teenagers are wont to. But soon, she moved on to writing about issues such as honour killing and racial discrimination. Today, Shah switches between short-form poetry about family, loss and death, and long-form spoken word poems that are based on social issues such as gender discrimination.

Going ahead, she, along with The Poetry Club, plan to organise poetry workshops and take them to schools and colleges. On the writing front, she’s in the process of collaborating with Singh again. This time, for a series of love poems.

First Published: Apr 27, 2017 00:00 IST