Open Mic, by definition, is an event where groups of people come together and talk about anything, or showcase their talents to an audience, allowing everyone to learn from each other and share whatever they want to with everyone else. During such events, the floor is always open to members within the audience, allowing them to speak about certain topics through either a performance or by talking normally.
Back in 2016, when I went to my first Open Mic, I was very excited as this had been started by the ‘Girls at Dhabas’ and was known as a feminist open mic. I didn’t know what to expect — I just had a vague understanding of what it would entail. Just hearing the term ‘feminist’ was enough for me, considering I was very interested in discussions regarding gender inequality and issues such as sexual harassment and sexism.
When I went there, I was very pleased to see a large turnout; it was kind of reassuring that there are people in our society who think and feel strongly about taboo topics such as harassment, child sexual abuse, menstruation, domestic violence, etc.
As such, open mic events provide an important platform for voices of dissent. It helped that the moderator of the event made it clear at the very beginning that that was a “safe space;” that is, whatever anyone said there would be listened to and appreciated. The house rule was that everyone was entitled to free speech, and regardless of whether we agreed with each other or not, we had to respect each other’s opinions.
For some people who have no one else to talk to, events like these where they are surrounded by those like them, who understand and can relate to them, must be comforting.
There are some aspects of open mic events that I believe could be improved. For instance, they need to be made more inclusive. Although an effort is duly made to try and include as many people as possible by sending out invites on open Facebook groups. Also, despite being free-of-cost events, they still end up attracting only a particular kind of audience — at many subsequent events that I attended, I have noticed the same faces over and over. This might be because they only attract people from a certain class — the upper middle, educated professionals — and age, with members in their late teens to early thirties.
In my opinion, it doesn’t serve the purpose to exclude the rest of the groups of the society, because then you are only reaching out to a small minority. So, try as we might to convince ourselves that because so many of us are actively participating in such events and thinking of the varied topics, we are already progressing into a more equal society, the fact is that these are still so few of us, existing separately in our cocoons that we have created around ourselves.
Nonetheless, you can’t deny that open mics are a great addition to the culture of Lahore, especially for the thinking, reasoning youth. For a city where social events rarely move away from food, these are a refreshing alternative and allow us to change the way we see and perceive things.