What kind of Muslim am I?
Am I Shia or Sunni,
Khoja or Bohri?
Am I rural or urban,
Rebel or Sufi?
This is how poet Hussain Haidry opened his spoken word poetry session with a poem titled Hindustani Musalman in the video below.
Haidry’s carefully crafted words narrate small, parallel stories that come together to form a bigger picture of what it’s like to be a Muslim in India.
His take on stereotypes brings in a fresh perspective needed at a time when negative connotations of being associated with terrorism prevail in many parts of the world.
“Dangon mein bhadakta shola mein, kurte par khoon ka dhabba mein (I’m the ember burning in riots, I’m the bloodstain on the clothes),“ recites Haidry to emphasise how he has been subjected to Islamophobia. Still, he ends with optimism:
“Mujhe ek nazar se dekh tu, mere ek nahi sau chehrey hai
Sau rang ke hai kirdaar mere, sau kalam se likhi kahaani hoon
Mai jitna Musalmaan hoon, mai utna Hindustani hoon.”
(“Take a look at me, I have not one face but a hundred, I play a hundred roles, I am a story written with a hundred pens, I am as much an Indian as I am a Muslim.”)
There’s a burgeoning population of young adults choosing spoken word poetry to express stories – personal feelings, funny thoughts, social issues – from reality.
Haidry’s piece comes from Kommune’s The Storyteller, a platform founded by performers Roshan Abbas, Ankur Tiwari and Gaurav Kapur.
Here is a video of a performance by poet Shamir Reuben, whose viral piece, Everything’s Fine, explores why he cannot tell his friend what is really bothering him.