All By Myself: Kaneez Surka | Verve Magazine
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October 19, 2018

All By Myself: Kaneez Surka

Text by Meghna Pant. Photograph by Joshua Navalkar

As a society, we often mistake being alone for being lonely. Women travelling alone must be pathetic. Men eating alone must be sad. We forget that silence isn’t empty but rather full of answers. In the third part of our series comedian Kaneez Surka reveals how escaping from her surroundings is sometimes the best way to find herself

It’s an ancient cautionary tale passed down from generation to generation that it is the dregs of society (the psychopaths, the murderers and the artists) who like to do things alone, only to meet a Dickensian end in a dark, dingy house with cats for company, à la Miss Havisham. We often lose sight of the truth that we can be lonely in a room full of people and conversely not feel lonely when we’re alone. One of India’s top comedians, Kaneez Surka, feels most at home when she’s on stage.

“I know it’s counter-intuitive, but I find my solace in front of people,” she tells me. “The stage is the only place where I’m really in the moment. Within the first five minutes of a performance, I go into a zone that lasts until the end of the show. Everything else becomes white noise for that one hour. I don’t even seek audience validation because I’ve gone so deep into my own head. Like all instruments playing together in perfect symphony, my body, mind and words synchronise. I find my rhythm.”

The comfort is so deep that it helps Surka escape from reality: “My need to put on a performance is very strong. Even if I’m having a bad show or suffering from a bad case of nerves or have a swollen ankle, I’ll forget all my aches and problems. In fact, I find getting off stage depressing!”

So Surka finds herself seeking as many comedy-related projects as possible. Her raison d’être for associating peace with performance stems from her childhood. “I recall how I was playing a nun at my school musical when I was around 13-14 years old. As I was singing my solo, and this may sound lame, I had an out-of-body experience. It was like I’d actually left my body for a few seconds and was looking at myself from the outside. It was a different level of elation. At that instant I knew that this was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life: be on stage.” Art demands the greatest sacrifice from the artist. But when the artist finds a way to elevate herself through art without repression, it creates a space where the body, mind and soul are in sync.

Read Part 1 with Gauri Devidayal here.

Read Part 3 with Teena Singh here.

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