Cipun Mishra recently met an elderly man on the stairs of Blossom Book House, Bengaluru’s famous second-hand bookshop. The 24-year-old began asking the man a few questions, mostly personal. His favourite word. His earliest memory. Details about his partner. Mishra had with him an old-school, red, Rover 6000 DeLuxe typewriter, on which he typed the old man a heartfelt poem.
Next week, the old man came back—this time, just to chat with Mishra. The poem had touched his heart. Mishra found out that the old man had lost his wife. And the poem reminded him of something he had loved and lost.
Mishra, a spoken word poet, finds such experiences enriching and humbling. He, along with several friends type poems for strangers on the stairs of Blossom every Saturday from 4 to 7 PM. He calls himself a “busking poet”.
Mishra, who was born and brought up in Odisha and now works at Quikr in Bangalore, started performing poetry at college: the Kalinga Institute of Industrial Technology in Bhubaneswar. He was particularly inspired by the English ghazals of Agha Shahid Ali; other favourites include Jayanta Mahapatra, Phil Kaye, Rudy Francisco, Andrea Gibson, and Dave McAlinden.
He claims he also started the culture of street performance in that city. “Sometimes strangers pay me back in pastries, sometimes books and sometimes cash,” Mishra told me. “It can be 20 rupees or 500 rupees.”
He began participating in Banglore Busking last December (#blrbusking on Instagram). “It is instant gratification,” he said. “I have never met the person before. I ask him or her some questions. And when I hand them their poem—the smile on their faces is what is most gratifying to me.”
“If a person is having a terrible time or having a bad day, a poem lights up their day,” Mishra added. “I am able to do that.” He likes that he gets to “connect with some beautiful human beings. There is so much to learn. Every Saturday, I bring back home so many stories.”
Recently, Mishra and poet Rahul Kondi went on a non-stop 24-hour busking tour in the city. “We stopped at various places—airport, cafes, highways, metro stations, a few restaurants—to write poems for strangers. We were super tired after that,” he laughed. It was Kondi’s birthday, and they wanted to celebrate by doing something they loved. Mishra has also toured other cities, including Hyderabad, Bhubaneswar, Cuttack, and Sambalpur.
“Busking is 70 per cent rejection and 30 per cent acceptance,” Mishra said. But the good encounters outweigh the bad ones. Once, an Italian couple found him at Blossom and approached him. Mishra typed them a poem. “They handed me a book of poems in Italian that they had brought with them from Italy,” he said. “These are the kind of experiences that I love.” He added that something about the click-clack of the typewriter is soothing to him.
And to the people who come back—like the elderly man he had met. “Poetry is powerful,” Mishra said. “Some stories have such depth that you are unable to forget them.”
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