Road to Insta(nt) fame

Deccan Chronicle.  | Pooja Salvi

Sunday Chronicle, shelf life

Hugely popular Insta poet Nikita Gill gets published with a collection of poems that explore identity, empowerment, femininity.

Nikita Gill

For Nikita Gill, the earliest memory of a poem that touched her heart was reading Robert Frost’s Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening. Despite it being a part of the curriculum, Nikita recalls that reading the poem didn’t feel mandatory at all. “The poem awakened so many emotions inside me. I felt hope, strength and courage — it was enthralling that the words on a piece of paper could inspire all those feelings inside me,” she recalls.  It was also then that she realised that every person interprets art and literature differently. “It was also amazing to learn how everyone in the class interpreted the poem differently — that there was no right or wrong way to interpret a poem,” she smiles. Could it be that this was what prompted the now-renowned poet to pick the pen and jot down her first poem? Perhaps. 

Today, with over 2,42,000 followers on Instagram alone, Nikita is one of the most popular poets worldwide. Her work usually follows a template and a certain ‘sad girl’ narrative, and is lapped up by followers all around the world.  But the writer is quick to dismiss the narrative style as an accusation. “I think almost all poetry can fit the ‘sad girl’ narrative. It’s not an accusation, because a lot of poetry comes from a place of great pain,” she says as she lists several poets whose work stemmed from the emotion — Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, Emily Dickinson all wrote about sadness at several points of their careers. “But this does not reduce their body of work to simply ‘sad girl’ poetry. A lot of Insta poetry is also very motivational and inspiring. To put it all under that umbrella reduces both its meaning and the work of artists and poets out there putting great joy and happiness into writing too,” she hits back.

Wild Embers: Poems of rebellion, fire and beauty by Nikita gill Rs 374, pp 160 Orion

Nikita took to writing when she was only 12 years old. Taking inspiration from the real life story of her two grandfathers — both of who retired as lieutenant generals from the Sikh regiment — Nikita wrote a non-fiction story about one of her grandfathers as a young man in Kashmir. It was here that Nikita decided to not look back. “Writing became a way for me to cope, exist and understand the world around me,” recalls Nikita.  Wild Embers, Nikita’s upcoming book, has already struck a chord with her followers from around the world. The poetry collection’s sleeve describes it as “rewritten fairytale heroines, goddess wisdom and poetry that burns with revolution, this collection is an explosion of feminity, empowerment and personal growth.” 

A British-Indian writer and poet from the south of England, Nikita rose to fame when she started uploading her work on the photo sharing application Instagram. But even before traditional publishing houses published Nikita’s work, she began self-publishing over the Internet. Instagram poetry has seen a boom since the photo-sharing app was launched. Even as the app gave birth to a plethora of poets worldwide, Nikita says the art form has certain restrictions. She points out that the tag of being an Insta poet comes with certain connotations that aren’t entirely true. “Many people believe that as an Insta poet, our writing is frivolous,” she says, adding that the platform, however, is a stepping-stone to tradition publishing.

“Some exceedingly talented writers have platforms on Instagram — it’s a good way to start a conversation about your work. And the more a writer’s work is read, the higher the demand and this helps bypass the gates of traditional publishing.” Nikita admits that if not for a poet, she’d be working in special needs. “It’s a fulfilling and rewarding job and it creates an environment which is both wonderful and strong and teaches you a great many things,” she signs off.