Aranya Johar shocked us, shook us and inspired us, all in under two minutes
Aranya Johar has the whole world breathing in her thoughts in verse. The 18-year-old went viral with her video — A Brown Girl's Guide to Gender Discrimination, that since its release on YouTube a month ago has seen over 650,900 views. A crusader for feminism, her chosen medium of expression, spoken word poetry, is a refreshing change from tedious Facebook rants. Instead, her bold rhyme schemes strip away the hypocrisy from issues like sexual rights, marital rape and the story of Nirbhaya. With a thread of such heavy themes, the irony is, Aranya isn’t even out of school yet.
Interestingly enough, this Mumbai-based teen is planning a male-centric project next. The co-founder of the performance platform More Than Mics talks college, faking her age and how she plans to make her art a commodity:
At 13, you faked your age at a bar to recite at your first open mic. Do tell us about that story.
My brother introduced me to the open mic scene. For the open mic event I went for I had to sign up online, and the minimum age to sign up was 18. That was the first time I faked my age, and honestly my parents were rather proud that the reason their 13-year-old daughter had to fake her age was to make it to perform at a poetry open mic. My brother and my mother accompanied me and through some way or the other they snuck me in and got me to perform. This happened a few times but by then the bar owners and the organisers knew I came just for the open mic so it got a lot easier. At the end of every performance each poet was given a shot of alcohol, it became a sort of tradition to have my mom take mine.
With so many heavy themes, would you share a little with us on the lighter stuff that you enjoy?
Apart from poetry, I really enjoy hip hop and Korean culture. My interest in Korean culture has given me the opportunity to work with the Korean Consulate. I host events for them often. I really enjoy reading as well and appreciate short fiction, and I do most definitely love pizza.
With all of this craze for your art and message on the web, have you applied to college yet?
I’m still giving my 12th finals, but I’m looking at English and poetry, I want to build on my keen interest for the language while also using poetry as an outlet. Hopefully, to make my art a commodity.
So what next?
Next we have something in store which is male-centric, so I’m excited for that. I also have another piece coming up about millennials and how much I love being one.
For young girls inspired by you all over the country, give us three tips on how not to be a struggling poet, and rock the mic like you do so well.
Believe in your work and let it be as personal as you can make it. There’s no wrong way to write, it’s your creation. And don’t compare yourself to other poets.
The viral video is A Brown Girl’s Guide to Gender Discrimination on UnErase poetry’s YouTube channel.
— Sonali Shenoy