I need to find this girl. Can anyone help?” wrote writer-editor Meenu Namit on Facebook, along with a video. It had a girl reciting poetry and in a way trying to understand and find love in this modern age. She recites, with an acoustic guitar in the background: iPhone X ke zamaane mein, Nokia 3810 dhoondh rahi hoon/ Soya milk coffee ke zamaane mein, ek adrak waali chai dhoondh rahi hoon… High speed broadband ke zamaane mein, dial-up connection dhoondh rahi hoon… Main 2019 mein 1999 dhoondh rahi hoon.
This girl in the video is writer-performer Priya Malik, who takes us back in the day and makes us realise how the world has moved on. Shot in Bandra’s Cuckoo Club, in collaboration with Spill Poetry, the video was first released in May this year, but it got viral only a few days ago. “It received over three million views. And now I’m getting messages from all over the world, including Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Canada.”
The piece, 2019 mein 1999, had its humble beginning with a ‘steel ki thaali’. Mumbai-based Malik had specially bought one because she was tired of eating in glass crockery. She prepared some dal-chawal and raita and posted a photograph of the meal on Instagram with the caption ‘Main 2019 mein 1999 dhundh rahi hun’. “It resonated with people so much that I thought I could develop this caption into poetry,” she says, “I think nostalgia is something everyone craves for. Everyone wants to slow down and when they remember their childhood, it’s a more pure form of memory. Hum sabko chahiye hota hai woh purana comfort and this is why we go back home,” says Malik, who hails from Dehradun.
Soon the pace increases, and we hear her say: Jisse mere swatantrata par kabu nahi, dil mein jagah banani ho, and see Malik do what she does best — voice her feminist self and call out patriarchy in a subtle and powerful manner. In her previous videos, she has responded to the misogynistic comments made by cricketer Hardik Pandya, and supported campaigns such as Free the Nipple, International Female Orgasm Day and World Breastfeeding Week, with her poetry.
Malik was introduced to spoken word poetry in Australia, where she taught English in a high school, after she participated at the Australian Poetry Slam. She first came into the public eye after participating in Big Brother in Australia in 2014 and Bigg Boss in India in 2015. She has collaborated with artist collectives such as Kommune, UnErase Poetry and Spill Poetry, and has acted in the TV show Nazar. She will soon be seen in the film Sheer Qorma, a queer love story with Swara Bhaskar, Divya Dutta and Shabana Azmi.