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The familiar rejection
- Nayana Bhat

May 8, 2017

(This was originally posted on Facebook)

My mobile phone beeps to inform me of the new email I just received. No I am not expecting an email, rather a letter, because they would mean different things. Of course, they mean different things in today's fast world, but that is not what I mean.

I nervously open the email, which cheerily reads: "Honourable dear Ms. Keshava!" Ah, sounds friendly..."Thank you very much," it continues, "for your application for the ABC prize for 2017. The Jury, consisting of X, Y and Z had to choose from N number of applications and unfortunately, we have to inform you that the jury has chosen another application for this prize..."

Oh well...
And coming to think of it, this is not even the first rejection. Or the second. Or the 10th. Well, for this year, maybe the 10th. I am even getting used to the sound of it, let alone getting familiar with it. It often reads the same way, cheerily, and often comes after a long wait and sometimes, indeed, after a long wait, because I suppose it takes time to sort out those that did get accepted after all. "We thank you for your application...," it says. "We were overwhelmed by the number of applications we received this year..." is the new thing since a couple of years. Some even go to the generous extent of saying, "We loved your work. But it doesn't seem to fit into our context this year. We will keep your application in our file and contact you again when we have our next call out." Sometimes, after putting you through a very detailed application process and a month's wait, they say, "If you wish to be considered to be a part of this festival, we request you to pay a fee of xxx amount." Ahh... a nice little touch of surprise there. It is all such a thorough experience.

After about 6 rejections earlier this year, I thought to myself: hey, here is an elaborate experience, which essentially is a part of my life at almost every step of my apparent growth. And I barely share it with anyone. That's not entirely true. People, who see me in flesh and blood, do get to hear about these rejections. But in this lovely little big virtual world of internet, where everyone mostly gets to see the best of the other, I feel I make a fool of myself not often enough. Like my amazing teacher, and the brilliant artiste Katie Duck says, we need to get out there and humiliate ourselves every now and then. She means that in the context of performance, but I digress. I mean, some people who haven't met me or seen me in ages, when they do see me they tend to say, "You seem to be rocking it." Oh yes, why do you say that? "Your Facebook posts seem really exciting..." Oh, yes... wait...

I like my fancy image of being the rocker. I really do. But I rock for reasons other than my Facebook (like, dealing with rejections). So I thought there needs to be a perspective to what I share here. As a matter of fact, more than 50% of my applications for performances, funding support get rejected. Sometimes my classes/workshops get cancelled because there aren't enough participants. Which is actually the reason why sharing those very little bunch of acceptance becomes exciting. But only in that context of multiple rejections. And after all that waiting and getting a 100 Nos and a few Yeses - the work is never really for free. I mean, I pay for it. With my existence, to say the least.

So, I got my nth rejection letter this week. And I bet it will not be the last. I am not complaining, even though I think it was the best translation I could have had for my motivation letter (Thanks to my friend Armin, who translated it into German, because here applications need to be in German). I am not afraid of rejections, because if I was, I wouldn't have put myself through so many of them. It is about the context of it, which is the fairy-tale reality of social media. It is to humanise myself here, it is to state what is, and without certain filters of social acceptability. I think of rejections as an essential part of growing (up), as a catalyst to find your own voice in all the external noise. So there's nothing pitiful about that nor do I think of it as a sign of the worth of my work or anything else.

This brings me to my real question that I have been pondering about since a while - what is it that stops us from doing this, where does the need come to project a fairy-tale life when, actually, our lives are much more than that? This is also a process for me to understand my life in virtual reality, where everything goes so fast, where words and opinions are free, and facts so few. My efforts are towards being authentic and sincere, I have not always managed to do that and thus the effort, and thereby inviting a sense of openness and trust, a sense of solidarity in allowing ourselves the luxury AND the need to be humane. This oxymoron baffles me. As an artiste, I do see this as my responsibility to open this debate, to dig into this question, to create a sense of togetherness in our susceptibilities as people.

Born and raised in India, Nayana is currently based in Salzburg, Austria, where she creates her choreographic works and teaches various classes and workshops. In 2015, Nayana premiered her first independent choreographic production 'A Duet. Ein Solo' co-produced by ARGEkultur. She also engages in clown theatre and was a member of the clown theatre group 'Clownfabrik' for three years. In 2017, Nayana started her artiste collective 'INFLUX - Network for Dance, Theatre and Performance' to continue her engagement with artistic work.

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