When I started this series, I wasn’t very sure of what kind of men I am supposed to interview. You must have heard about the phrase “man-up” being used so frequently, I often wonder in what context the word “man” is being used. What it really says about how society views masculinity as a whole. Being born and raised in the 21st century, it is pretty confusing to get the right answer to this “What does it mean to be a man?” or what is the true meaning of the term “man-up”.
In Conversation with Varun Pande
“My last conventional education degree was an MBA after which I’ve applied for a learning license in life. I’ve juggled with bodybuilding, a banking job, my food delivery startup and now in Mumbai, I’m a working actor, voice-over artist, a model, a fitness enthusiast and a poet. Currently, the artist in me is trying to fuse together all these life experiences into a unique way of storytelling. Recent highlights include a new found love for travelling and fusing chakra dhyana meditation with Freud’s psychoanalytic theory of ego. I’m the only child of two amazing parents that live in Lucknow along with my dog – Boss.”
I don’t remember exactly how I came across his Instagram profile but I thank my stars that I did. A total stranger whom I have known and observed on Instagram from the past 10 months. His post was so rhythmic, a distinctive style which is a gifted quality. Our general conversations were and still are like peeling the onion skin.
“I started writing in class 3. I wrote my first poem around that time and my then English teacher Mrs Anju Wal really motivated me to write more. My English teacher in class 12th- Mrs Nalini Garg, really opened me up to my style of poetry and told me that in the coming years I should be ready to evolve it as well. I think that is the writing zone I’m currently operating in. I think objects and their spatial bearing really inspire me. Also, wordplay is my go-to warm fuzzy cottage in the hills. I used to get high on a rhyming scheme earlier but I’ve evolved into rhyming thoughts than words. I sometimes still do a quick stitch of alliteration. Words are a silent diet of which I want to be a connoisseur. I wish my words can someday make people realize their inner beauty and provoke them to be kinder to themselves. “
He reminded me why I started this series. I wanted to bring forward that a man’s power resides in his inborn values, his sense of balance in life, his intellect, his ability to hold his own identity in any situation, A man is allowed to feel, to emote, to cry, to love. A man is just another human, and like everything living he can be both strong as well as vulnerable. His story and ideology unfolded other than writing all that he wants to explore in the future.
“I want to have a fitness family around me. I’m starting work on that very soon. I want to be able to perform moving roles in cinema. I’m slowly working on coming out with the anthology of my poems and quotes. I want to explore the possibility of writing travel tales or poems. My long term goals include a creative residency for budding artists along with an animal shelter and a gymnasium. I wish to be able to do philanthropy and/or sponsorships for athletes and specially-abled people. I want to explore poetry through physical movement and flow. I regard my body as the oldest poem that I’ve been composing and I want to come out with self-taught fluid flow. I want to be able to solve a deep-rooted problem that affects our society (still need to specify) I also want to explore being a 100metre sprinter and participating in an international Duathlon.”
Inspiring, isn’t it? Fitness and poem two very opposite side of a coin. We assume that it isn’t possible but he proved me wrong. I assumed that people who are into fitness bodybuilding they wouldn’t know how to emote. As their outer approach is so strong that we often miss seeing the softer or emotional side. This is what we usually do, we assume and I have also done that.
Varun unknowingly taught me this, not to assume! I have been inspired by him in many ways ever since then. What does it take to inspire someone?
Even though we all struggle and it was a time that he spoke about his –
“My struggles have always been with visibility and getting to know the right kind of people for my work. I’m slowly trying to recognize, engage and build a network of people who have a common frequency. I never knew where to put my work out or how to package myself as a brand.”
You appear to be very optimistic and positive but we all have our bad days especially the situation we are in. How do you cope up with such days? “A generic answer to this could be working out and eating healthy. But I think I’ll say balance. This balance encompasses discipline, moderation and a conscious diet (mental, visual and nutrition) I always conduct a reality check before sleeping and getting up. I express silent gratitude for things like waking up, being able to breathe, body movement, food in the fridge and a roof on the head. For me, these are universal things from which we construct our own mini universes. I always devote some time to do child like activities which could range from talking in gibberish to dancing on random songs. Also, I always try to be near animals and observe their behavior. It gives me a fresh point of view every time.“
His answers have been a breath of fresh air. As if I was watching the sunset on the beach and someone reciting them to me. Just like in poetry, words are entangled to form images and ideas that might be too complex or abstract or too dreamy to be described directly. “I think the need of the hour is to culture ourselves better. Mind you, it’s got nothing to do with education. I’ve always believed that art is a solution to most of our difficult transactions. I would urge everyone to take up art or befriend it. Any form, any genre, but let art embrace you and hence all of us. Let art be the next friendly virus.”
Art and kindness are what it is. I would want everyone to unlearn what it means to be a man in our society and find a definition that allows us to be happy, to be human. We must engage, encourage and embrace the full authentic truth of who we are and who we want to be. Inspiration is a word that holds value while putting this together. Varun, Not only have you reminded me that there is a lot of good in this world, but you are also constructively pushing people around you to reach new heights in life.
Instagram artist handle: @varun.pande
Instagram fitness handle: @Gymmafiya