On March 10, 2017, a Women’s day special video titled-“A Brown Girl’s Guide to Gender” by Aranya Johar got uploaded by unerase poetry and today it has 6 and a half lakh views.We did a small interview session with Aranya Johar to know her stand on various issues.
Aranya Johar is a person who wants to change the way people think about various topics like marital rape, gender discrimination etc. and wants each and everyone to talk about it and also accepts that the society will be open to it and listen and help those who need it.
You read your poem like you were frustrated about all those events you mentioned in it, but this was because you observed something or you yourself faced something so bad that while you were saying it you were actually bringing out your irritation??
In the words of Aranya Johar –“I never had anything so drastic but I know so many people who really had bad experiences. For example, if a girl is molested you could tell her ‘oh! It could be worst’ but the truth is molestation in itself is so bad. So the fact that you think that it is consolation that you always hate is not the way we should be dealing with it. I was not really frustrated I was helpless actually and I feel really hopeful after the video.”
At an age of 14 you read a poem at a bar and today you had to say it without reading. What difference do you feel in these two situations?
Aranya Johar: “Actually I wrote more conventionally because I felt poetry was only a certain way and the rhyming scheme was only acceptable but once you break out from the idea and you try writing your own way you realize literature and art are literally yours and taken however you want. My creative limits have been broadened because I have broken from that system but I have to think more about the audience when I am performing now because I am performing for larger audiences now compared to earlier. So I have to see what they will be more perceptive to and what they will absorb”.
You are the curator of Blind Poetry Session and the co-curator of Throwback Thursday but which one do you consider more or look forward to?
Aranya Johar: Throwback Thursday –“If I was a budding poet and I saw these amazing poets and I would compare my work my content with them I would say that –‘oh my god! There is no way I’m ever going to get Sara K. level’ but once you perform your first piece, you will feel motivated to reach Sara K. level. When we had this event everyone came and performed in very weird, small pieces and then there were wonderful current people but people could see the growth. If you feel you don’t write well it’s ok because you will progress as an artist.”
Blind poetry- “It is like a therapy, moreover a group therapy. Whenever a performer comes up it is very personal because people can perform without the connotation that people will come and talk to them afterward. A person is free to talk all about self-harming, incidents like the death of their father, cancer scare etc. It is a safe place to present one’s views. People who are trying art, ones who are still writing choose it as a platform and there are a lot of first-time performers”.
Your say on pseudo-feminism?
Aranya Johar: “The reason why men and women don’t believe in feminism is because the true meaning of feminism hasn’t seeped through us yet. People think feminism is the only empowerment of women but feminism is equality and equity, that is, filling up where we lack. With women where we lack we are trying to fill up with the assistant of men and where men lack we are trying to fill up. For example in the Indian constitution, there is no act of sexual harassment at the workplace for men and there are feminists who are trying to save that. They are also trying to spread awareness about fake rape allegations but every time there is a rape allegation there should be some amount of evidence or truth to it because why should a male suffer just because a woman says it. If it is through will, complete justice should be given but if it’s fake from girls, they should be given some jail time or some kind of punishment for it.”
Your video has both positive and negative comments. What is Aranya Johar’s say on cyber-bullying?
Aranya Johar: “A lot of People who didn’t understand my piece properly felt that I was against men but in my piece I do say that-‘ I see men in this room reaching out for help realizing the bane of the womb’, I see men trying to help and no it is not an all men thing and when I say things like those people who understand my piece should comment that actually, she meant she knows men who are trying to help and that it is not an all men thing and it was great that people were speaking for me. I never like not even for once I have to justify myself. I felt so great because I was in a place where people were respecting me and care about my piece that they were willing to type out long messages just because they want to get my point across.
Apart from those people who disagree with the piece, I realize that there is certain amount of freedom of opinion to that but if they are going to disagree on my piece they should comment on what way I can make it better because at the end of the day we all are trying to grow up as artists and just saying that you don’t like it won’t help, instead one could have elaborated or written more clearly so that next time I can work more on it and grow”.
There was a hashtag trending #notallmen, what is your opinion about that. Do you think trending such hashtags diverts the whole effort made by people bringing such crimes in the light?
Aranya Johar: “I do feel hashtag is prevailing and important thing right now because I feel that a lot of us can do stereotype a whole gender based on the popular means that comes up. I feel that all of us say all men are perverts’ ‘all men are sex driven’ ‘all men are reaching women’ which is not true and very honestly I’m sure there are girls who do the same. It is wrong to blame a whole gender because of the wrong giving of a few.”
She perfectly explains it with an example-“if I go on stage and I am in a room with like 50 men and I say that every man is a rapist when there are only 3-4 of them. But it is definitely going to enrage all the rest and if these are the 47 men who are trying to help me on stage from getting better and protecting me from those 3 men, I see no reason why we should not appreciate.”
Any event or incident of failure that made you end your life or motivated you to live your life to the fullest?
Aranya Johar: In the words of Miss Johar-“Everyone goes through a phase where they don’t know how they will solve problems. There may be exam stress, relationship problems or family problems but sometimes you just feel that there is no efficient way to make a deal with it apart from actively not dealing with it.
It is important how people use an outlet for stress. Some people self-harm, some people smoke, some burn themselves, and all of these things are not good because you are exploiting yourself in the process. The opposite ways could be maybe you can try writing, try dancing, exercise and lot of other positive outlets.
I was really stressed in 9th and 10th and it affected me emotionally but luckily I have a kind of family, I can go up and talk to. When I said I was stressed about exams my mom would tell me academics is not the only thing in life, if it happens, if you fail in the exam nothing can change the biggest scheme of plan . Even if it does, it will make things a bit tougher but we should be able to manage it.”
So one should talk about suicide more and we should make it a motive to help others with it. She was able to talk one of her friends out of it and that is really a good thing.
How safe do you consider yourself in Mumbai? What is the time limit set by your parents for you to come home and is it same as that for your brother?
Aranya Johar: “There is no restriction as to what time we are coming home it just matters how we are getting home.
I am an independent child and none of my parents is a restricted type but if it gets late they call me and ask where I am and how will I come home? If I am coming by Ola or Uber and I have the facility, they will not be stressed and if I am with my friends they don’t stress about it much. But if I come home by myself they come to pick me up. And as mentioned in my piece-I ask my male friend to drop me home because his privilege will protect mine’. Because my mom tells me that have a male friend who can drop you because if I am with a male there is a higher chance that I will be safer than if I am by myself.”
Where do you see yourself 4 years from now?
Aranya Johar: “I want to pursue English, somewhere in advertisement, mass media which I have not decided yet, but English for sure because I have a keen interest in it. I will do poetry on the other hand because I use poetry as an outlet and I always want to keep writing something I am doing since I was a child. It is the only kind of expression I know”.
What message do you have for people out there who love or don’t love listening to your poems?
Aranya Johar: “Whether you like my poem or you don’t like my poem that is completely up to you but all I want is that people speak about the issues I have written. Whether it’s depression, anxiety, suicide or even the gender issues I mentioned, I just want people to talk about them.
If you don’t like my piece its fine but if you read something I have talked about like rape, go start a conversation and go talk to someone because I feel if we can start at youth level we can reach a level where we can actually change the way these things are. We can actually get an act which can protect men from sexual harassment, an act to protect women from marital rape and that can only happen if we talk about it. “
Talking to Aranya Johar made me realize that all we need to do is start with small steps, break the stereotype and build a place for oneself where women are not scared to walk free, men are not scared to help and people are not scared to say it. If each one of us can do something on our part we can easily reach a level where things will not be easy but it will be easy enough to solve with everyone’s help.
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