THE POLICY MAKING POET
She's a 23 year old 'raging feminist' who is already well known for her ability to pen down real feelings into norm bending poetry (she has authored 2 books) and for actioning her thoughts as an activist, while voicing them ever so skilfully as an orator. Her sense of purpose towards mitigating the socio-economic bias and levelling the society for women in India along with her ability to successfully communicate with audiences of all ages is absolutely Badass.
In today's exclusive chat with Harnidh, we discuss the why and the how behind her unique brand of activism.
What inspired you to get into Policy making and activism?
I’ve been privileged that I got great exposure, you know?
I went to LSR, which is a hub of political ability and activism, and then I went to Xaviers where Professors are thought leaders and incredible activists in their own right. My education compounded with the fact that my parents are dedicated to many causes, and are people who actually care about the world.
I also strongly believe that if you are aware of what goes on in the world you will automatically try and make it better.
How did you become such a proficient orator?
Let me tell you a story – When I was about 4, in a small district in Maharashtra, I was doing the regular Baba Black sheep, Twinkle Twinkle and one more rhyme on stage, and as the teacher left the stage afterwards, I stood there and went on to sing the National Anthem, even though I was supposed to get off with her.
I’ve always liked speaking and I simply loved the stage!
You know how girls are taught to speak softer? My parents always pushed me to speak louder and encouraged me for public speaking in both school and college, and it just built over time. I still get nervous when I get on stage, and my legs still tremble a little, but I feel that’s the point: If you aren’t a little bit nervous, you might just do a bad job.
Ultimately public speaking just takes practice.
If you’re going to fight the good fight make sure you’re fighting the right fight.
- Harnidh Kaur
How important is awareness to be an activist?
Oh Man! You need to be on top of your game at all times!! You should know what you’re talking about when you’re an activist or even somebody that people look at and up to because you have a responsibility. You done want to say something that might amplify into something else. If your voice matters make it matter in ways that are important. Be aware of the fact that you don’t know everything and reach out to people who have been doing this for longer and ask for help. As an activist you need to have a community and galvanize people.
You are a writer and a speaker. Which one, do you think resonates with people more?
Depends on the audience.
Personally I would prefer to read, because my attention span is very limited for videos. I cannot even watch my own videos!
That being said I know that video content reaches younger people more, so I tend to mash things up to make sure that I'm catering to both the masses- the younger and the older.
Is your approach strategic when it comes to engaging your audience?
When you’re doing what I do, a huge chunk of your time goes into marketing and building a brand, because you can be screaming into a void but that won't change the world.
Does your work ever take a toll on your mental health?
All the time!
There are days when I go back home and give up saying “I can’t/won’t do this anymore”.
This is where the Internet is helpful, because it’s an incredible ray of positivity for me. I’m also very close to my family and friends, and ensure we spend time together which really helps.
I think that if you’re in the social sector and you’re trying to spread awareness or make a difference it's incredibly important to ensure your own structures are in place because if they aren’t, just the enormity of what you’re trying to do can take a toll. Always know when to take a step back and take a deep breath before jumping back into action.
Who are more important, the grassroot level activists or the policy makers?
You can’t do one without the other. Just like you can create laws but no point of those laws without effective implementation and similarly you can have people waiting to implement a good law but without the said good law, what’s the point? The policy structure in its entirety has to move in tandem, which is a huge problem specially in India.
That’s where people like me come in (even though I do minuscule amounts of it I feel), and organisations like Akanksha, who bridge that gap of ground level understanding of what needs to be done and how policies can be formed around it. We work as an ecosystem and so you cannot champion your cause alone.
Who is a Badass Woman in your opinion?
Any woman who tries to push her own personal boundaries to be better or to be more contextualized or aware and any woman who doesn’t back down.
Badass don’t have to be overtly rebellious.
Name some Badass Women who inspire you
My Mother, Karuna Nundy, Swara Bhaskar and so many more!
Words of Wisdom to girls aspiring to bring change to our society, this country and even the world
All of you know what kind of change you want and how you want to bring it about, so the only thing that I can tell you is to take care of yourself. You also matter in the bigger picture, so don’t let your need to change the world care less about you as a person.
It’s easy to be overwhelmed and demotivated, so take some time out for yourself, pace yourself because if you burnout there’s no point of it. We are making a better world for ourselves as well as the future generations of amazing women.
Take a step back and admire what you’ve done so far. We are building a new world and it’s ok to love it even when it’s not perfect.