Bhavna Chaudhary believes that human touch is essential in today’s society. In the ever-evolving, fast-paced world that functions on technology and digitization, Artist Adda is the one thing that brings people together. A community of poets, musicians, thinkers, dreamers and misfits, the platform brings joy and the feeling of togetherness. SheThePeople.TV sat down with Chaudhary to discuss how Artist Adda became what it is today.

What brought on about the idea to create something like Artist Adda? Was there any particular incident that triggered the idea? 

It was January 2019, and I had just returned from a two-month long solo trip from the US to an empty house. My younger one had moved away for further studies. The elder son had already been out of the country for some years. I had quit my job last year just before leaving and had no clue what I will be doing once I return. All I knew was that it was time to learn, unlearn, grow and evolve. I had also learnt that I was not alone in that situation and while solitude is good being lonely is not.

In this terribly virtual world, real emotions and feelings are fast diminishing. People choose to look at their mobile phone screens rather than each other.

The silence in the house was deafening, and that’s when I realized how important it is to have people around us. In one of those moments of solitary stillness, the idea of having a community of like-minded people came to me and the seed was sown which has now turned into a sweet smelling, blooming and growing tree ever since. 

Why do you think a space like this is needed? What does it manage to achieve? 

In this terribly virtual world, real emotions and feelings are fast diminishing. People choose to look at their mobile phone screens rather than each other. We agree that social media has been able to bring the world closer but it has taken away the human touch from the society. We are fast becoming a detached, indifferent and heartless bunch of humans who seem to be vaguely happy in our fake digital lives. This space aims to get back to the offline community mode. It brings people together for actual communication in the most basic human way – a heart to heart conversation.

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Artist Adda was started as an informal gathering of artists from all genres, languages, forms and backgrounds. This was something that we all grew up attending. It is a baithak of sorts where we enjoyed an evening of togetherness and shared our common interests with each other. An era where we didn’t seek permission before ringing the bell of the neighbour’s home or just walked across the block to meet someone who had newly moved in and offered help in settling them down. Thankfully we found many more people on this journey who are also wanting to be a part of this tribe and wanting to bring back the culture of togetherness.

Tell us about the process of beginning this endeavour – did you face any hardships trying to market it as a serious venture? 

Starting out wasn’t easy. People thought it was just another whim of a menopausal woman dealing with the empty nest syndrome. The concept sounded nothing more than a food and drinks party that went on till the wee hours with occasional songs and poetry thrown in. It took us a while to make most of the attendees understand, what the idea was behind these gatherings. And slowly as the time passed and we diligently organized one adda after the other, on a monthly basis, it started taking shape of the vision I had in mind.

Also, to invite strangers to your home was not easy and practical but at the same time the idea was to turn strangers into friends, community members and ultimately as extended families. So initially we would only have people through invites and references. Also, we made a clear and conscious decision of not having any religious or political discussions during the gatherings. We have a strict open-door policy with no terms and conditions. However, we do not accept and appreciate aggression or imposition of strong opinion of one community member on another. We are here for each other, to help and grow and evolve as individuals.

How would you categorize your demographic? What kinds of people usually seek these spaces? 

As mentioned, we are still working out of our homes or spaces of community members. Currently we are organizing these gatherings once a month in Delhi, Noida, Gurgaon and Mumbai. However we have a 600+ online community members and a lot of them have shown an interest in starting a similar chapter in their cities or towns. Our community members come from the various fields of expressive artistry. They are musicians, singers, dancers, painters, photographers, magicians, poets, storytellers, travellers, bloggers and social cause crusaders. We call ourselves the misfits of the conventional world.

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What is the business model at the moment? 

With this consistent growth, there are two verticals to Artist Adda now. One is the community- free for all to come and express themselves in whichever art form they would like- as passionate people or professionals. There is no charge to attend this gathering however we do seek contributions for venue spaces that can fit about 40 people and food and beverages once a month. This happens every month.

We do wish to retain our tribe of like-minded, conscientious and compassionate people. They encourage the model of art, music, culture, and conversations flowing.

The second is the small scale indoor/outdoor events – by community members like live music, slam poetry, storytelling, rhyming with book reading, stand-up comedy or a magic/illusion/mentalism show. These are commercial events and the cost is based on venue, artists, TGA. The money earned from these events gets divided between the Artists and for the community to sustain and grow and invite more members.

For both these models we are looking for collaborations with Space owners and FMCG companies to present or sponsor our evenings. 

Describe what happens at one of your gatherings – what’s it like and how does it usually go? 

We usually start with the introductions since there are mostly 10-12 new members every month. We ask about their interests, professions and passions to break the ice. Then we start the circle of conversation where we ask each one of us to share express whatever they choose to. In trying to keep the community participatory where everyone needs to be a part and not just a bystander. We urge everyone to open up and feel comfortable and confident enough to share his/her experiences. Members are free to perform or express themselves in any form they choose! Some sing, dance, read poetry or tell a story. We have a magician duo who perform various tricks as a form of expression.

What are your future goals for Artist Adda? Where do you see it going? 

We aim to keep growing at a steady speed and have already started our Mumbai chapter since September 2019. Our next goal is to create and open a commercial space for performing artists from the deep interiors of India. We do wish to retain our tribe of like-minded, conscientious and compassionate people. They encourage the model of art, music, culture, and conversations flowing.

We intend to continue doing the niche events to generate revenue and sustain our artists and the communities. It is also our aim to organize theatre, painting, writing and mental and physical health awareness workshops regularly as our responsible efforts towards the society. We are also in the process of creating a website which will show case the works of our community members. This will also give an online platform for people all across the country.

What is the one learning you have had from this entire experience of creating Artist Adda? 

While personally I have gained tremendous strength and support from this community, I have also learnt that it doesn’t take too much to be a decent and compassionate human being. All we need is a little warmth and love and encouragement to keep us going. With this, success stories are trickling in where members have picked up writing again or revived their interest in music .

Many started taking professional classes. They were able to share their most personal experiences because they felt such warmth and comfort with us. Some of us who were struggling with loneliness and depression have been able to deal with our conditions.

How would you advise someone who wants to create something like this in their own local area? 

You just need a compassionate heart and a sound mind to start something like this. I would love for us to have one such community in every nook and corner of the country where all you need is a space to express yourself, have a conversation and feel the strength of the tribe next to you and never ever feel lonely. Anyone who is keen to join hands with us can write to us. We would be happy to assist with all logistics and community support to start a chapter of Artist Adda in their locality. This includes connecting them to various artists in their vicinity and helping them organize the gatherings with our expertise and skill sets.

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Prapti is an intern at SheThePeople.TV.

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