Maria Qamar’s great dictionary of aunties
Trust No Aunty is the debut book of Pakistani-Canadian pop artist Maria Qamar, of Hatecopy fame. “My art actually isn’t based around the aunty — it focuses on the life of the desi girl growing up in the West, and learning to deal with obstacles that come with being a child of two cultures — one traditional and the other adopted,” she explains. “Aunties play a part in the growing up process,” says the 26-year-old artist and author, who has 112k followers on Instagram for her Hatecopy handle, which she started in February 2015. In an interview, she speaks about the importance of humour, comedians she admires, and what she would like to write on next.
Tell us about your book. What can fans expect from Trust No Aunty?
I treated Trust No Aunty as my personal journal. I included everything from career advice to culinary secrets that helped me survive college (when Maggi noodles wasn’t around). I put in things that I wish was available to me when I was growing up, things that helped to reinforce a sense of identity, while discussing colourism and other serious issues in our community. It’s a light read, but a necessary one.
Any particular satirists or comedians hailing from South Asian diaspora whom you admire and look to as inspirations?
I grew up watching JusReign flourish. That was my go-to guy when I needed a laugh. Mindy Kaling, Hasan Minaj and Hari Kondabolu are also my heroes. I love them all and cheer them on from the sidelines like family. It’s comforting to know that we can find time to laugh in times like these, especially in North America.
In the times that we live in today, how important is humour, to cope with the daily struggles of a diaspora community?
Comedy is therapy for me. I’ve struggled with depression for the majority of my life, so I always say there is no humour without tragedy. It’s a way for me to take care of my mental health and try to look at serious situations from a different lens.
The conversation around issues faced by South Asian communities in the West has mostly been directed by male comics. Is there a need to focus more on the female experience as well?
There is always a need for diversity in the arts. It wouldn’t be interesting without it. Female experiences and experiences of other marginalised groups are always necessary to create a worthwhile conversation. Listening to jokes from the same tired male perspective is boring. I’m not joking when I say women will save the world.
What is your take on the various shapes that the feminist movement is taking? And what do you feel about art as a medium of protest?
To think that we have to live our lives constantly trying to prove our worth to the other half of the planet is wild to me. I use my art to voice my political opinions all the time, it’s an extension of who I am. Some people write, some dance or sing, I draw. I’m a feminist and I actively support the equality of femmes and queer folks in communities of colour.
Since social media has played an important role for you, how do you feel writing and literature is changing with respect to the internet?
I am consistently impressed by girls and boys in the generation below me and how quick they are to grasp concepts most adults struggle with. Technology has helped us by leaps and bounds when it comes to progress in the world of arts. We have kids running their own print magazines and digital publications. It makes me proud to say I have been a part of many of them.
Any other books on the cards? What do you wish to write about next?
Aside from art, I am obsessed with food. I am hoping to write a cookbook for desis like me, recipes that I’ve mastered since college and ones I’ve inherited from my mother and aunties. If you have any doubts about my cooking skill, check the recipe section in Trust No Aunty.
What does your current reading wishlist include? What was the last book you read?
Not much going on in my wishlist except for old comic books. My last read was Ms. Marvel of course! My good acquaintance Rupi Kaur is out with a new book as well, which I’d love to get my hands on. She’s a gem.
Simon & Schuster India, Rs. 599.