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HaikuJAM is bridging the gap between India and Pakistan through poetry

Prakriti Kargeti
12th Aug 2017
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HaikuJAM's mission is to realise a more meaningful universe, by helping you say the things that you would never have said with the people you would never have met.

HaikuJAM live session at Oxford Bookstore, Delhi. Courtesy HaikuJAM. Photo by Deepak Goswami.

Poetry without borders

HaikuJAM is an app where people around the world write poems together. It is available on Google Play and Apple App Store and the way it works is beautiful: write a line and send it out to the world. Someone somewhere will pick it up and continue your jam. The final result is a three-line poem written by three people.For instance:

Is it caffeine or you
which keeps me awake at night and
that I’m addicted to
HaikuJAM live session at Oxford Bookstore, Delhi. Courtesy HaikuJAM. Photo by Deepak Goswami.

This haiku is titled ‘Coffee With You’. It is a collaborative haiku by Umang, Darshan, and Meet

According to Forbes, HaikuJAM is "the product you didn't know had been missing from your life". It was also named in the "50 Best Creative Apps" globally by The Guardian.The New York Times chose HaikuJAM amongst the world's top three apps to "jump-start creative thinking and spark new ideas". HaikuJAM is led by a young, international and deeply inspired team that recently relocated from London to Mumbai. HaikuJAM's mission is to realise a more meaningful universe, by helping you say the things that you would never have said with the people you would never have met.

Diana Babei, the community manager, shares, “You can write with strangers or in ‘circles’ (groups) of friends and new people you meet in the community. It’s now also possible to chat in circles and have conversations around the jams.”

Idea over a cup of tea

The founding members are Dhrupad Karwa (25 years), Neer Sharma (25 years) and Andrew Leung (26 years), who all met at University College London (UCL) whilst studying Economics.

Dhrupad had the idea while he was at the university and dived full-time into HaikuJAM upon graduation. Neer and Andrew worked as investment bankers, in Mergers & Acquisitions at Rothschild and Debt Capital Markets at Royal Bank of Scotland respectively, before leaving to join HaikuJAM full-time in 2015. The founders have all moved to Mumbai from London, and the team has grown to 13 people.

L to R: Andrew Leung, Dhrupad Karwa, Neer Sharma, Co-founders of HaikuJAM.

Dhrupad, Co-founder and CEO, shares an anecdote, “The idea was actually born in a London teashop. That summer, I had just shut down a startup in the energy sector and, being one of the founders, I was feeling pretty low… So, to cheer myself up, my best friend and I went for a cup of tea at one of my favourite places. Now on a whim, as we waited for the cups of LapsangSouchong (a deliciously smoky Chinese tea) to arrive, I took out my journal and wrote the first line of a haiku poem, and asked my friend to write the next line. I then wrote the third and final line. This continued for two hours and it was an inspirational experience! It was fascinating to see how the thoughts evolved from one person to the next, and by the end of the session, I had this immense urge to write with people from all walks of life, from all around the world… This urge led to HaikuJAM!”

Bringing India and Pakistan together

To mark the 70th anniversary of India and Pakistan’s independence, collaborative poetry app HaikuJAM will engage the two nations and the rest of the world in a week-long programme of digital poetry-writing sessions. From 10th until 16th August 2017, the app invites anyone who feels passionate about the topic of independence to express their views in three-line poems written amongthree different people.

“Building on the enriching conversations which took place in the app over the India and Pakistan Independence Days this year,HaikuJAM hopes to broaden its scope of engagement by inspiring users to write poems around a compelling range of sub-themes: the relations with the British Raj, the complexities of the 1947 partition, the contemporary state of Indian and Pakistani society, the efficacy of sport as a peacemaking tool, and much more”, says Dhrupad.

HaikuJAM live session at Oxford Bookstore, Delhi. Courtesy HaikuJAM. Photo by Deepak Goswami.

In addition, HaikuJAM will create a special group or “circle” in the app for the Indian Armed Forces to discuss the value of peace and human life, as well as a think tank-style “circle” for Indian and Pakistani millennials to envision what the future for both countries could look like.

On 18 August, Dhrupad will travel to the historic city of Lucknow to discuss the findings of the millennial think tank “circle” with 2,000 students at Lucknow Public College of Professional Studies. He will share the story of HaikuJAM and run a live collaborative poetry “JAM session” through the app. Dhrupad says, “HaikuJAM is a space for creative discourse, expression and the sharing of perspectives. This campaign brings together both Pakistani and Indian millennials, as well as members of the Indian Armed Forces, through the tradition of poetry, of which both countries have a rich heritage. It is a powerful opportunity to bring to the surface the thoughts and emotions surrounding these historic days, and we are inspired to witness the conversations that manifest.”


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Even outside of this particular context, HaikuJAM brings nations together every single moment: the app has been downloaded in over 120 countries, and a line is published every second; when this happens, people unknown to one another, congregate over thoughts and emotions, regardless of ethnicity or circumstance. Dhrupad reasons, “In a world that sometimes feels increasingly divided or politically polarised, a sense of belonging is needed more than ever before. HaikuJAM helps people realise what can be achieved by collaborating and working together, rather than against each other.”

HaikuJAM live session at Oxford Bookstore, Delhi. Courtesy HaikuJAM. Photo by Deepak Goswami.

Looking ahead

“We’re constantly working hard to help people from different countries with different stories gather over a shared perspective,” says Dhrupad.

He further adds, “Over the next 12 months, we want to develop a more sophisticated insights engine, to better understand the constantly evolving trove of words, perspectives and emotions that are entering into our system. What’s fascinating about the thoughts which jammers share around topics, is that they are incredibly instinct-driven: we’re not conducting surveys or questionnaires, where people are forced to think consciously and rationally, often around matters that require more feeling-driven responses. We strongly believe that it’s our responsibility to ‘mine for meaning’, not only to improve the experience for jammers, but also to share these learnings with the world, as they might inspire curiosity, introspection and empathy, all in all leading to a more meaningful universe.”

The organisation has already started working with different communities and organisations to deliver insights around a variety of topics, as well as diving into the plurality of thoughts around phenomena which are relevant to the society.


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