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A Man of Many Words—Sitting Down with Amandeep Singh Khayal

On the 7th of November, the third day of TechTatva 2020, the MIT Post got the chance to talk to Amandeep Singh Khayal, a well-known Hindi poet, and storyteller whose beautiful way with words has made him a regular at spoken poetry and open mic events with his videos uploaded on various Youtube channels and his Instagram account. He talked about his journey from pursuing engineering to writing, the distinction between slam poetry and normal poetry and where he gets his inspiration from.  

How did your journey to becoming a writer and poet begin?

I remember in my childhood there used to be an elocution event every year, and I used to look forward to going up on stage and performing my favourite poems. Then in the 7th or 8th grade, I started writing my own poems and realised it was a beautiful way to express your emotions in a few words and communicate them to the world which they would then interpret in their own way. After joining college and after encountering so many new experiences, I realised that your capabilities are much more than the limits of your mind.

How has your engineering college impacted your journey?

My engineering college is a huge reason why I am here today. It gave me the exposure as it was in college that I began to attend open mic sessions and spoken poetry events and gradually built my confidence to perform some of my own poetry on stage.  College gives one innumerable opportunities like trying out theatre, anchoring, the behind the scenes effort behind organising any event which could help hone my skills in public speaking. College taught me to be fearless and get out of my comfort zone to overcome challenges and grow in life. I realised that what is common in these events is that you either write or document your experience and present it to the world. This was the time I started focusing seriously on writing. I found it to be immensely satisfying. Earlier I used to write poems as fillers for when I would host an event, or I would recite iconic lines written by famous poets that I admired. Later on, I started performing my own writings which included poetry, stories or satire in open mic sessions and got motivation from the audience’s overwhelming support. I am very thankful that things worked out, and I continued on this journey.

Where do you get inspiration for each of your poems from? Who is your favourite poet? 

There are so many people, not just poets who inspire me daily. All the people whose writings I have read inspire me. I am constantly on the lookout for inspiration not just from writers or poets but any artistes. If I have to name any particular poet, then it is undoubtedly the legend- Late Rahat Indori Sir. I clearly remember I heard a Shayari of his in the 7th grade-

Roz taaron ko numaish mei khalal padta hai

Chand paagal hai andhere mei nikal padta hai

Unki yaad aayi hai zara aahista suno 

Dhadkano se ibadat mei khalal padta hai”

There is no specific time or place as such to find inspiration.  The everyday lives of people and the situations they encounter inspire me. Just the other day, I was visiting my friend on a motorcycle, and the dust swirling behind a truck made me remember a very famous Punjabi saying—“Mitti Pao”, which in Punjabi means ‘to bury’ or to end all hard feelings. At that moment I decided to work on it and write a poem.  I get inspiration from my surroundings which I can incorporate in my writings.

What is the difference between normal poetry and slam poetry?

Slam poetry is basically in the form of a debate. Generally, a group of people come together and take up any topic related to a social dilemma or about the ills in our society like women empowerment, for example. Then you are given a definite time period to write about it and perform it in front of an audience. It is a proper competition with judges, and you are evaluated following a standard pattern. At the end of the slam, a winner is declared. It is not a new type of poetry, but it has recently gained steam in our country.

Do you ever receive any negative or hateful comments? If so, how do you cope with it?

Yes, I have gotten quite a few hate comments, especially on my Instagram posts. I usually take constructive criticism in my stride so I can work on improving my poetry, but some comments are just written with the sole intention to hate. That’s why I take such comments with a grain of salt. Just recently, I had posted a photo with my friend on Instagram wishing him, and I remember someone commented that they disliked my poetry and found it very repetitive even though there was no relation to the picture. I just sent them a Diljit Dosanjh song in return. They were so confused. (Laughs) A valuable lesson I have realised over the years is that at the end of the day you cannot please everyone, so focus on your art.

Do you prefer reading literature or writing it?

Honestly, I can’t compare them as both are equally important to me. Some writers write pieces which are meant to be read more than recited or enacted on stage. Theek Tumhare Peeche—a collection of short stories by Manav Kaul cannot be fully appreciated on simply narrating it as each story of 20 to 30 pages needs to be properly read to understand it better. Similarly, when you hear Javed Akhtar reciting his poetry or his ghazals, it is more impactful than just reading it. Ultimately, it all depends on the type of literature you are reading whether it be ghazals which are better heard compared to stories which are more interesting when you read it.

What are your thoughts on the current generation gradually losing interest from Hindi literature?

I am sorry, but I don’t quite agree with this statement as I have noticed that the current generation is quite connected to Hindi literature and are reading it but not in a direct way. They are getting to know about it through the medium of movies and TV shows. Take the web series of Sacred Games or even Paatal Lok for example, a major part of its plot, themes and even episode titles are derived or inspired from Indian mythology. So I believe that today’s youth is connected to it but through different measures in a more modern form. Sometimes, even I write in the Roman language so that my thoughts reach to more number of people and I guess that is how the world works. Change is the only constant on earth, and whenever anything comes up in a new way, there will be some people who will oppose it. Classics like the writings of Mir and Ghalib are incomparable and can not be replicated. Each new generation is writing in their own way for the future generations to read and interpret in their own way.

What advice would you like to give the younger generation who are inclined towards poetry/storytelling?

I want to tell them to keep in mind that whatever you write, it should be honest and come from within. Remember to write for yourself, not for others. Also, whatever you are writing, don’t forget to crosscheck basic grammar and spelling mistakes because sometimes I do make quite a few spelling mistakes in my writing. Lastly, read as much as you can, whether it be books, poetry, movie dialogues or even advertising boards on the street. Read anything that interests you in expanding your vocabulary and brushing up on your skills. In the long run, you will realise how all that you have read will be reflected beautifully in your writing.  Lastly, even if you are studying in a field that doesn’t interest you,  always be on the lookout of avenues to hone and showcase your talent, which you will surely find.

What are your plans for the future?

I still see a very long road ahead of me, where I have no clue what to do or where I’ll go, and I don’t have any footprints to follow. So I am just searching, I’m confused, and I’m happy that I’m confused. You never know what life holds for you, so try not to stress out so much. Nobody has their life planned out, and that’s partly what makes it interesting and full of possibilities. Keep faith in yourself.

Featured Image Credits: Youtube