EXCL: 'To reflect the duality of humanity,' artist Alok Menon on why he weaves poetry with comedy

The Indo-American comedian, poet, and fashion icon recently performed at Indiranagar Social in Bengaluru
Photo from Alok Menon's show in Bengaluru
Photo from Alok Menon's show in Bengaluru

Known globally for their flamboyant sense of fashion and unapologetic comedy style, artist and public speaker Alok V Menon came to Indiranagar Social on December 23 for a special show. On a stage dominated by toxic masculinity and transphobia, Menon makes sure that the queer community is seen and respected.

Before continuing their tour to Goa, Mumbai, Imphal, and Delhi, Alok, in conversation with Indulge, discussed the role of poetry and comedy in their journey, their work during the pandemic, and much more.

You are known to weave poetry with comedy. Tell us a little more about this blend of two art forms and how it has helped you put your message across.

Often, people write about my work as if I'm just trying to humanise trans people. I'd like to think that I'm actually trying to humanise everyone. In my show, I weave poetry and comedy to reflect the duality of humanity. To insist that we have to embrace all parts of ourselves, not just the convenient and comfortable ones.

In 2020, when the world shut down, artists came to rescue us from monotony and the virus scare. How did the pandemic influence your work?

For the first time in a long time, I had to sit down in one place. And in that stillness, I had to confront so many difficult feelings that I had been trying to distract myself from. And so I returned to poetry, my most loyal companion, and I composed my latest collection of poems.

As an American artiste with Indian roots, can you describe your interaction with the Indian LGBTQ+ community?

My first poetry show was at a little cafe in Bengaluru more than a decade ago. Growing up in the diaspora, I had been made to feel as if being queer and Indian were incompatible. I had come to India to connect with LGBTQ+ communities and my experiences here fundamentally changed my life and gave me the courage and conviction to embrace my authenticity and my artistry. Coming back to share my art here always feels meaningful and grounding. I witnessed very little representation of Indian LGBTQ+ people in media and entertainment as a young person. So now, it feels special to play my part in showing people that they are worthy.

You actively talk about trans rights and body positivity in your work. Other than that, what are the other themes you want to touch with your performances?

These past few years I've been really invested in learning about trauma; how it manifests in our bodies, families, and communities, and how to heal from it. Art has been central to my own healing journey, providing the space for me to work through difficult emotions and envisioning the kind of life I want to create for myself. Through my art practice, I have learnt that compassion is one of the most effective strategies to heal from trauma.

Growing up in a society that prioritises how we should 'be' over how we actually 'are', makes all of us feel like we have to adhere to strict gender norms in order to be loved, which takes an incredible toll. Trans people tend to show the world that love is about becoming yourself.

Be it fashion, poetry, writing, or activism, you have been tirelessly working all around the world to create a difference. What is next in store for you?

I have so many ideas for the future of my art career, but I believe that rest is a critical part of any creative endeavour. I have been on a world tour for over seven months and I'm excited to take a break for a while in the new year to regroup.

Edited by: Muskan Khullar (muskankhullar@newindianexpress.com)

Related Stories

No stories found.