Swaroop Shetty, Poi Artist

My Story with flow arts started when I was in 6th grade in Mangalore , I had joined a local gym that taught traditional Indian Martial Arts which included fire spinning mostly with Wooden Staff or Steel Pipes having wound cloth material that would be set on fire . I didn’t have an idea back then that it was called “Flow Arts”. I can vividly recall being good at it and learning a number of moves in a couple of years.

Well after 2 years my family relocated and my association with flow arts ended with focus diverted towards education, career and so on.  I guess most of  us  know  what I am talking about here . Me personally coming from a background where no one in the family tree as far as I know has been associated with any kind of art form .

So, fast forward to 2018,  its been 3 years since I shifted to Bangalore and  on the suggestion of a friend who is into climbing and bouldering , I visited  Cubbon park to meet a community of Slackliners and there after  15 years I saw someone practicing what I later learned to be “Poi”. It was for slacklining that I went there but ironically it was Poi which took my attention. I tried a hand at it and thanks to my past training and muscle memory I realised poi could be my thing. Within a week my friend who was first interested in poi made a DIY poi from her old stockings and some sand  but  it was me who made the maximum use of it . I still recall watching  youtube videos and practicing till wee hours of the morning.

If I have to talk about struggles my main struggle is  with my dislocated shoulder and a torn knee ligament which at times make poi spinning quite painful to the point of stop spinning because poi requires considerable shoulder and leg movement and that too at awkward angles at times which can have adverse affect on one’s shoulder, if one is not careful. Another struggle I would like to mention is while learning a complicated move where even after hours or even  days at it you just cant nail it  and it can be quite frustrating to the point I almost give up with this thought in mind that this it it, my flow journey stops here  that maybe I am not good enough after all. Touchwood It hasn’t happened till now and I can confess it is one of my major fear,so nowadays whenever I face a block I just let  go , smile  and take some time off and continue  spinning and  after a break and suddenly after some hit and miss  i nail it  or it all comes together by itself by some magic, maybe that’s why its called “Flow”. So  as of now the flow is still on.

Being introduced to flow arts my life has changed in a way that I have been introduced to this whole new world of art and talent which I would have never even seen or experienced with my daily 9-5 job and  the usual fun during weekends. Now I would any day spend my time practicing or research any new flow form . I hope you get my gist. There was period of  my life where I was kinda sulked out and going out partying or trying this new restaurant or that didn’t do it for me anymore.I have nothing against it but it just wasn’t me , where within I was yearning for something that I would actually be good at.

I would say performing for a crowd at new years which was a paid gig( I have had 3 paid gigs as of now .. ha ha ) was one of my most memorable moment. The hooting and whistling and the claps does something to ones mind while performing I suppose, I performed way more than what I was paid for for that gig and would had done more if I hadn’t  exhausted myself totally.   All in all it was very humbling and yes I can say that it gave a new power to my practice.

I would like to add that anywhere in the midst of nature brings out the best flow out of me where i lose track of time and I just continue spinning and go with the flow. Its a  feeling that’s hard to describe and one has to experience.

Coming to the evolution of our local audience , Poi still has a very good element of surprise as there is a good chunk of people atleast in India , who haven’t heard about it lest seen anybody perform, so yes when it comes to entertaining it definitely has a plus point but it does also work against it especially when you approach business or organisers for an opportunity to perform as most of them just see it as Spinning lights and not an art form .I would  specially like to mention here that I really wish Business or Festival organisers give local artist preference and atleast pay them even a small amount as a token of appreciation and not ask artists to perform for free which  I have observed after starting to perform in events, not that I wouldn’t but a little monetary appreciation goes a long way in an artist evolving his art apart from the claps of course. Maybe I am wrong maybe an artist life is that of struggle and rejection but its just my 2 cents.

Wrapping up I am grateful to Ashwanth for such an wonderful initiative to shed light on the Artists in our midst and the art form they follow. And I am also grateful  and humbled that I have something to push my self and explore a world out there all thanks to the “Flow Arts”. Life for me would have been seriously amiss if not for it.

Special shoutout to the Bangalore Flow community which has some amazing  talent to whom I also look upto and who have been so generous in heart by lending me their props so many times and guiding me whenever I have had difficulty in  learning new moves. Its these trait which makes me feel I am in the right place and community and inspire to do the same to any new comer.

And last but not the least, Thank you “youtube” without which I wouldnt have been a Poi Spinner. 

May the flow be with us all 

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