Poetry to exhale

Updated: Apr 13, 2020, 15:53 IST | Phorum Dalal | Mumbai

Actor Arunoday Singh is hopeful that his daily sessions in English will add some positivity in times of isolation

Arunoday Singh
Arunoday Singh

The days of the week have blurred, and we can't make out the difference between weekend and weekdays. Every night, we tune into actor Arunoday Singh's Instagram handle @sufisoul to hear him recite a poem or two in his deep, dramatic voice. From Television by Roald Dahl and Defeat by Kahlil Gibran, to Jalaluddin Rumi's love poems and William Wordsworth's Daffodils, Singh shares his love for poetry with his followers. Each night, he pulls out a gem and presents it to the viewers.

In an email interview, he tells us, "Compared to the real work that our doctors and police are doing to contain the virus, it feels highly futile considering the sacrifices and suffering out there. But it's what I'm able to do and if it helps a little bit it's better than not doing anything at all. It [the state the world finds itself in] doesn't feel good. But it helps keep me focused on something that is positive."

Manav Kaul
Manav Kaul

When the lockdown was announced, Singh took to Instagram to recite poems. The first one was Kindness by Naomi Nye. "The sound is half the magic," he says, explaining that reciting a poem aloud is not restricted to a single rhythm. "Each poem is different; each requires you to find the right cadence for it. I've always liked being read to, or reading aloud since I was a child. I believe words need to be heard more than being silently read," says Singh, who lists Rumi, Leonard Cohen and TS Eliot as some of his favourite poets.

The actor, who grew up in Kodaikanal, Tamil Nadu, says, "I have a wondrously literary mother who instilled in us a great love for reading from a young age. That, coupled with some fantastic teachers and grand books, and it was an easy love affair to start." Although Singh had always nurtured the dream to act, he didn't imagine it would become his primary career. "I've acted for as long as I can remember. One day I started getting paid for it, and the rest led me here," he says. Singh dabbled with writing when he hit puberty; he discovered there was magic, "in the way the wind walked with a pretty girl."

Singh has gone live on his Instagram once before, and viewers threw interesting questions at him: from seeking love advice, to tips on mental health. "It's extremely humbling and a little unnerving when I get asked for life advice and what not. Who went and made me an authority on anything? I barely know how I'm getting through my own life. I'm honoured though and will work hard to stay worthy of this kind of connection and honest relationship with the people that listen to me. I don't plan, and prefer going with what I feel the audience will like to hear that day. I float. I'm not one for strict order," he admits. He has a simple piece of advice when we request him for recommendations: read everything.

Poetry readings

. Follow @a_nation_in_translation for Indian verse gems. Read translations of Indian language poems into English. From Kaifi Azmi, Faiz, to Guru Gobind Singh, the handle is a treasure trove for Indian poetry.

. @sirpatstew is Patrick Stewart's handle where the actor-filmmaker recites one Shakespeare sonnet every day.

. The popular Italian opera singer and song-writer Andrea Angel Bocelli (@adreabocelliofficial) has been invited by the City of Duomo Cathedral of Milan to give a solo performance presenting a message of love, healing and hope to Italy and the world on YouTube.

. Catch actor Manav Kaul's video performances of his writings on @manavkaul.

. Aditya Mishra, a Delhi-based poet (Instagram handle @_dastavez) writes and recites original poems in Hindustani (Hindi and Urdu) as well as classic ghazals and nazms by well-known poets. He is currently working on The Manto Project, an effort to acquaint Gen Z with the works of renowned writer Saadat Hasan Manto.

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