Empathy is essential, believes Ankita Shah, if you want a world without violence. But for empathy, you have to listen first, says the 24-year-old poet.
Except that people are only creating borders everywhere they go.
Shah, who is from Nepal and lives in Mumbai, recently performed one of her slam poetry pieces, Borders, at an UnErase Poetry event at antiSocial in Khar, Mumbai (video above). “We underestimate how similar we all are, especially in the most primal of our emotions,” she told Scroll.in. “My attempt is to convey that very similarity through Borders. It is a summation of all the thoughts, experiences and even stories that wanted the breaking of this notion that we were any different from this ‘other’ we create to feel better about ourselves. The ‘other’ could be from a different caste, country, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or sometimes, simply someone with a different opinion than ours.”
Shah’s poem is a dialogue with the metaphorical and physical borders that people form between themselves and those who are different. It explores the borders – “made of tall cement walls”, “made of armed men”, “made of distorted religion” – that humans have a tendency to create, “like self-proclaimed universes in comfort zones”.
“We’re drawing borders on mind and soul
dropping bombs on ideals we bemoan,
Air raiding people who won’t conform
until they fear even the sight of a shooting star.
We create borders arguing over truth
Unmindful that truth comes from the word ‘free’;
And the last time I checked,
we had more than one kind.
But we aren’t kind enough to listen
to a story that does not resemble us,
Instead we create borders over and over
Like drawing so many lines
that look like horizons stacked up one over the other.”