This semester South Asian Students’ Alliance (SASA) is teaming up with Queer Coalition of Vassar College (QCVC) for its Queering South Asia series, bringing the stylish Indian comedian as seen on Showtime, Vidur Kapur, to the Vassar stage. The event will take place this Friday in Taylor 203 at 7 p.m.
Kapur’s online biography describes both a transformed and culturally aware comedian. “Having exhausted himself and others by faking it all his life as a good son living according to the expectations of his conservative family in India, a nerdy graduate of the London School of Economics, a buttoned up corporate, a flaming gay fashionista in NYC, and an angry brown person horrified by being mistaken as a terrorist,” the statement reads.
“He finally decided to overcome his neuroses, contradictions and demonic fears, to become a brutally honest stand up comedian who is not afraid of speaking the truth and putting himself on the line.”
This daring attitude is precisely what SASA along with QCVC just reckoned with in its Queering series, making Kapur an excellent choice and a source of profound inspiration this spring. According to Manrose Singh, Vice President of SASA, being both South Asian and Queer is a particularly challenging identity to take on.
“It’s a topic that’s rarely explored because you have the problem of being a double minority. You’re South Asian and on top of that you’re queer. You’re faced with multiple issues and its a very complex thing. We just wanted to see if we could delve into the surface a little and break the ice,” Singh said.
The complexity of identifying as both Queer and South Asian stems a lot from South Asia’s traditional cultural climate which contains a deep-seeded history of rigid social constructions and systemic oppression. Homosexuality was only recently legalized in several South Asian countries, including India which legalized it in 2009.
This, however, does not include homosexual marriage, and so there still remains a significant level of intolerance around the subject. “Parents if you came out to them, their first response would be to shun you,” Singh commented.
Last semester, in relation to the series, a film was screened for the community that dealt with how South Asians confronted their sexuality to their parents to huge success. There was an incredible turnout for the film and talkback with Associate Professor of Film Mia Mask and Professor of Anthropology Martha Kaplan, who is also involved in the Film department.
“We explored how interview and film can be used as a medium of teasing through such ideas and questions,” explained Alisha Cherian co-president of SASA.
The talkback contained the perspectives of people from a variety of backgrounds and sexual identities who could speak to the ways in which their identities shaped their everyday lives.
“My parents moved to New York City when I was 6. We lived in a very prominent Indian neighborhood in Queens. My parents, the three of us came by ourselves and we chose to live in a place where we could communicate easily with people from our own culture. I think just in general, growing up in New York City, I’m really aware of race. We all strive to live in that perfect world where race isn’t really seen, but I’ve found that I’m always aware of it,” Singh reflected.
Comedy has proven to be a successful way for Vidur Kapur to explore the intersections and implications of sexuality and race. Exactly a year before Kapur’s upcoming performance, Vassar was graced with the presence of the well-known female comedian Vijai Nathan.
Nathan, a female Indian comedian, is also a rarity in the South Asian community, and the performance that she gave last spring is what kicked off the discussion of queer identity in South Asian society.
“I think it was really important for us to have an Indian female comedian because she represents two demographics that aren’t as strongly represented in comedy, first being that she’s female and comedy is still quite dominated by males and there’s definitely still a stigma with female comedians. Second being that she is from the South Asian community, you don’t see many South Asians especially those who were raised in this country going into the fields of entertainment, so she represents a very unique perspective in what she does,” said Saumya Bhutani, SASA co-president.
Nathan poked fun at what it meant to be a woman in South Asia and how it was to grow up South Asian in America. She particularly emphasized her female identity. Her comedy spoke to how the experience of a woman can be significantly different in terms of how parents in South Asia treat their daughters and how they expect them to grow up and behave in society.
“It is a very traditional society, and especially for the daughters. South Asian immigrants tend to encourage their children to go into math and science related fields. It’s cool to see someone breaking the mold and doing it successfully,” Bhutani explained.
Vidur Kapur adds yet another unique and subversive personality to the mix in this interrogation of identity, and SASA hopes that Friday will represent a productive night of identity examination, where the complex issues of sexuality, gender and race are pushed even further.
“He’s super talented and absolutely hilarious, so it’s educational, exploratory, and entertaining,” said Cherian.
Kapur has performed in both South Asia and America so he has had experience in both settings.
“Intersectionality is something we all have to deal with, whether it’s intersectionality of disenfranchised or privileged identities. And, when we engage with our own and learn from others’ own experiences with intersectionality, that just makes us all a stronger community,” Cherian concluded.
AT PRESS TIME members of The Miscellany News were informed that the comedy show has been CANCELED due to a personal commitment by Kapur. At this time, it is uncertain whether his visit will be rescheduled.