By: Somya Lakhani and Curtis Mayfield
On a cold January night, away from the clutter and noise of Hauz Khas Village, a poetry session ensued at The Toddy Shop.
While David Guetta blared outside, inside, a poetry troupe called Mildly Offensive Content (MOC) spoke about growing up, moving houses and cities, falling in love and Peshawar, among other things. These five college students — Mayanka Mukherji, Ankita Naik, Nilanjana Bhattacharjee, Ira Anjali Anwar and Ragini Lalit — held a houseful audience captive for 90 minutes with the spoken word. Be it a tiny venue like this one or at the India Habitat Centre, over the last two years, MOC has been gathering a following in the city.
The crew, which comprises Delhi University students, brings forth their personal stories, opinions and ideas through their poems.
Background music, carefully rehearsed delivery and hand gestures punctuate their sessions. While Mukherji talks about living in a family with two cultures, four languages and a dog, Naik narrated her tale of changing addresses every few years. Anwar reminisced about her six-year-old self, while Bhattacharjee read a moving piece about the gruesome Peshawar school massacre last month, called Have you left the building?
“The whole point of this is to create a dialogue with the audience even if it’s a conflicting one. Our poems are highly political, but we’re not politically correct,” says Bhattacharjee. This line of thought is in fact evident in Mukherji’s poem on the Gujarat riots, where she questions the present Prime Minister’s alleged role, without taking his name. Before she begins, Mukherji adds a disclaimer about how her mother, who was seated in the audience, is uncomfortable with the poem.
Regular performers at the Potbelly Café in Shahpur Jat, the troupe tries to include a guest poet every time. And this time it was Rhea Lopez who read out a hilarious poem called My Textual Relationship, which summarises 21st century bonds based on WhatsApp messages and emoticons. One of our favourites was Lalit’s poem about a Kathak guru, and his artform.
On January 13, the girls perform at Bakheda, Said-ul-Ajaib, and have several other acts lined up in coming months. But things weren’t always this easy, and the struggles of a young new group didn’t escape them. “There was a time when the number of performers on stage outnumbered the audience,” says Mukherji.