I am from the small city of Patna. As a 19-year-old, I have a lot of jest and enthusiasm. About a week ago, an event notification popped up on my Facebook news feed. An open mic was happening at a restaurant which was a 15-minute walk from my home. It was to be held on July 14, a Saturday. After desperately pleading with my sister to join me (she refused repeatedly), I decided to go alone. I was working on this day, so I reached the venue an hour late. But being my usual shy self, I stood outside the venue for 15 minutes, trying to gather the courage to go inside. In the next five minutes after I managed to get in, I was sitting in a room full of men. Other than me, there were two middle-aged women, who were both participants. My discomfort was visible.
Another five minutes passed by and one of the organisers asked if I was a participant as well. I said I wasn’t one. Soon, I began to notice the gazes coming my way. Not only because I was a girl, but because I was on my own. I had dared to tread into a very male environment alone, but it made me feel good and liberated. I understood that the ‘comedians’ or comics as they were called there, were actually prepared to face an all-male audience. The jokes were old-fashioned and sexist ( ’cause sexism and mental health are topics of comedy to the Indian audiences). The style at which they were being performed felt even more redundant. I was intrigued by some bits of spoken-word poetry, although, I am not a huge fan of poetry in general. Most of the poems revolved around getting over past relationships.
No, I am not criticising the efforts of these budding comic and poets. I just didn’t find it absolutely hilarious that someone had to take a dump outside the bathroom door as their hostel didn’t have enough bathrooms, or that an ‘idiotic’ wife demanded a water tanker from her husband when there was no water at home. The parody in the latter was really in bad taste because this man who can’t even make himself a cup of tea felt he had the right to criticise his wife for asking him to arrange for water.
Having said that, some beautiful short poems did touch my heart in the way they were written and recited. There was also this really funny anecdote about a boy wanting to wear pads because he thought they made girls score more in exams. At the end of the performances, a group photo was taken and then the evening was over.
By the end of the show, I felt ecstatic to be there. I’m sure I hadn’t fit in, but I was okay standing out. I do wish to see some more women performing at the venue and some intelligent, feminist content as well. I myself don’t have the gumption to perform because I am quite bad at speaking up and I have stage fright as well. I will look forward to the hosting of the next stand up which I can visit and witness a diversity in both content and audiences.