On a normal Saturday evening at Antisocial, a dungeon cafe in Khar, Mumbai, an audience comprising of poetry lovers gathered to watch Simar Singh perform his spoken word poem 'The Legal Rapist'. But unlike the other spoken word poems that receive encouragement from the audience through snapping at regular intervals, The Legal Rapist was received with an almost utter and complete silence. A stunned silence.
This was not because people didn't immediately fall in love with the poem. On the contrary, Simar and his performance have garnered national acclaim at this point. The silence was due to the boldness and honesty with which this young boy approached the sensitive topic of marital rape. The silence was one of shock. The silence was from an audience that had been forced to face the reality of marital rape and start thinking about it right there in the cafe.
When Meenal sent me the link to his performance, I replied with just one word - WOW.
"Exactly. How amazing was that?", she said.
And then, we started stalking him.
First, we found his facebook profile that didn't give us much information. Then, we tried to find him on LinkedIn because surely, someone like him must have a college degree and even a full-time job? Such maturity could only come with advancement in age. Again, we found nothing. So we googled his name along with that of the company that promoted his video on social media. A bunch of articles popped up and we were satisfied.
For the next few minutes, we sat in the same stunned silence that I imagine the audience at Antisocial displayed when they first saw Simar perform. Because here are the things we found out about him:
He was 16.
Still in school.
That company that promoted him? UnErase Poetry? Yeah, he founded that a month ago.
He was a theatre performer from the age of three.
He'd made ten short films in the span of two years. But wait, if he's sixteen now, then he must have started at the age of...
He tried his hand at stand up comedy.
Now, his company promotes spoken word poets.
That was quite a lot to take in. We sat there trying to imagine how his family must be feeling about him. His school certainly must be proud to have him as a student. Hopefully, his teachers and friends have been nothing but supportive.
If he were my son, I'd feel...
If he were my brother, I'd say...
If he were my childhood friend, I'd tell him...
If he were my student, I would try to...
But what about him? He's just sixteen. Very mature for a sixteen-year-old but practically still a child. How does he feel about everything he's done? How would he tell his own story?
So we just picked up our phones and called him. We asked him all kinds of questions and got him to tell us everything starting from his childhood and feelings to his values, philosophies and future plans. Guess what, they may not include getting a college degree that his parents will have to pay for.
We also recorded said conversation and put it up on the internet.
If only podcasting were that easy!
We did put up the conversation on the internet, though, but it took a little more than just a phone call - a few mics and headphones, a call between people in three different countries, and an eight-hour long editing process. But we couldn't be happier with the result.
Presenting to you for the first time, Simar Singh, telling his story in his own voice.
We hope you enjoy the show!