Sunday, March 5, 2017

The Word is a Double-Edged Sword ~ Interview with Nav the Poet

The performance at Amarillo College. Nav center, my boyfriend right next to him on the left. Me--half hidden behind said boyfriend.

About a month ago Amarillo College had the privilege of having Navpreet Sachdev, aka "Nav the Poet", perform. I was so glad that I agreed to go when my boyfriend Jaciel asked me--and of course the Thai food was a bonus. He shared some of how he got started, the unique challenges he faces as a "brown man with a beard". Nav definitely has a sense of humor! He spoke about his time with depression (which I really related to) and when he shared his poem on it, it felt like he was speaking my language. I got up the nerve to approach him after the performance and gave him a hug, and asked if I could interview him, because it would be criminal just to keep him to myself! And rest assured there's a LOT of happy, funny poems in his repertoire too. He blends everything in a unique way. He's a funny, insightful Sikh man from New York and we all were definitely blessed to have him!

  Now to the interview:

  Thank you for the kind words. By the way, I've checked out your blog and I'm so excited to learn you're also a Star Wars and Once Upon A Time fan like me! I'm not caught up with this season of OUAT though so I had to quickly stop reading your article once I realized I'd be diving into spoilers. Your article on Han Solo's death was fascinating and you make some interesting points. I'll be commenting soon with my own perspective since I disagree to an extent. Anyway, here are the answers to your questions. And yes, feel free to ask any follow-up questions if any come to mind from my responses. I appreciate this very much!

Getting Started/Biggest Influence:
  Looking back to when I was younger, I always had this sense of creativity in me. I used to write silly love poems for this one girl I was really into in high school and I would always randomly rhyme, to the point where it would irritate my family. But, I really started getting into writing in 2011. As it appears happens for most artists, my writing came about from dealing with the end of my first relationship. That's a whole story on its own, but basically, I fell into a depression and a total disregard for life. I really just didn't care about this existence, to be blunt. So, after having attempted various forms of dealing with the pain and suffering, both positive and negative outlets, I picked up a pen and started writing. And the only answer I have to what compelled me to pick up a pen is God. What's most interesting is that I wasn't really into my faith until I discovered my writing. I used to attend temple all the time when I was younger and do prayer but it was all hollow. At one point after the break-up, I actually turned away from the faith. But, as I discovered this passion for poetry, I rediscovered my faith and it has become my biggest influence for my writing. In case you don't know, I follow the Sikh faith. It's a fairly young religion in comparison to most others. It started in the 1400's in India and has since grown to have about 24 million followers worldwide. The reason it has been such an influence on me is because, throughout the history of my people, we've faced adversity, oppression, and struggle. And yet, we've always persevered and worked through. Whether during the earlier years, the 1980's where a government-run attack attempted to wipe out the population of Sikhs in India, or as recent as the past decade where anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant sentiments have made their way onto my people. And what keeps me going and gives me the willingness to write is this belief that we have to protect and serve others and fight injustice wherever it may be. In fact, a Sikh is supposed to carry a small dagger on them at all times. The idea being that a Sikh can always be ready to help and fight if need be. So, these beliefs have helped me shape my pen into a dagger, fighting injustice with my words rather than a weapon.  

How has your poetry influenced your life since then?
  Well, it's changed my life around completely. And it has had positive impacts on various aspects of my life. As stated previously, I didn't think much of this existence. And as an adolescent, I was filled with so much anger, frustration, and pain. I dealt with a decent amount of harassment and bullying in middle and high school. I was ostracized by various groups of peers because of my interests and hobbies. But, when I found poetry, I began to see a whole new perspective to life. My main issue when I was younger was that I felt my voice was always being suppressed. I'm not one to be incredibly loud so when I'm in groups, I do my best to voice my opinion but it gets overshadowed by the more vocal people. However, with poetry, I was able to express my thoughts and feelings without fear of judgment or more importantly, not being heard. Once I found this outlet, I began to heal many of the emotional wounds that existed. And once I found my voice, I found the strength to make my voice heard. What I love most about poetry is that it's taught me to be more open and understanding. It has allowed me to be more willing to listen to disagreeing viewpoints and consider other perspectives and ideas. Along with this, it has made me more open about myself. As shown through my work, I don't shy away from my struggles, be it prejudice or mental health. I make a conscious choice every day to be who I am without hiding any part of me because I want people to connect with me; I don't want them to accept me for who makes them feel comfortable. I don't wear my heart on my sleeve, but carry it in my hand and give it to each person I encounter. And honestly, it makes a huge difference in how you interact with people and treat them. My poetry has taught me to show love to everyone, believe in the best of humanity, and work to create a better world. 

First Milestone?
  Well, in the 6 years I've been performing, I've done plenty of cool shows and been in front of some large audiences. However, I feel that my first milestone was only last year in 2016 when I got my first real bookings. I was booked for six shows in three different states. And while I've been performing for years now, getting booked was validation that everything I had done up to that point was worth the struggle. The late nights writing, the constant rehearsing at home, the dozens upon dozens of open mics I performed at to hone my craft and the need to believe in myself because most others don't show that support had all proven itself to be worthwhile when those schools decided to book me to perform at their campuses. I love what I do but to know that others appreciate the work I do so much that they are willing to pay me to do what I love means everything. And it's a reaffirmation that what I'm doing is something important and with purpose. And this isn't to take away some of the other awesome things I've done throughout the years. It's just on a personal level, I felt like I hadn't achieved much until those first bookings. 

First performance? Any funny stories?
  My first performance was back in December 2011. I actually had two performances the same week, both with an audience of about 250-300 people. One was an event by my religious community and one was a college event. This is something most people who know me now don't believe, but I used to be an incredibly shy kid. And when I started performing, it was incredibly difficult for me. So, for both shows, I was so incredibly nervous because I didn't know if I'd perform well and if people would even enjoy my work. Fortunately, they both went well and it set me on this path that I'm on now. One funny thing is how bad my performances were. And people are kind because it was my first performance but seeing how I perform now and then watching videos of these old performances, which I still have, make me cringe haha!

What are your plans for the future?
  Honestly, my journey has just begun so I'm planning on continuing with pursuing this career for quite some time. I'm still in the infancy of this, so I'm just working on growing it until I'm traveling to various campuses all year long, connecting with people from all around the country and the world. I do want to expand what I do and hopefully give workshops and facilitate discussions on the ideas of diversity and labels to help create a better understanding of the people around us. The political climate is severely tense currently and I feel that if more people sat down and had honest discussions with each other on these issues that didn't devolve into yelling and insulting the other side, we can really make a difference in our communities. At the end of the day, we're all humans. We all think, breathe, eat, sleep and love; we're also prone to ignorance, misunderstanding, and mistakes. All of that is the beauty of being human. None of us are perfect, so we're always developing into a better version of ourselves today than the one yesterday. And I wish to be a catalyst for that growth.

  It was a great treat to be able to interview you, Nav. Thanks for the opportunity. Can't wait to see more of your work in the future! If you guys want to get in touch with Nav, follow him on Facebook, Twitter, Soundcloud, and Instagram.

  And lastly, here's a little treat for the dancer in all of us. Thanks Nav. ;)

  ~Elora Carmen Shore 

 If you want to hear more or keep in touch, follow Pendragon on facebook and bloglovin.

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