New Delhi: “My name is Swati Sachdeva and I have something personal to tell you all. I am bisexual”, this is how Delhi-based stand-up comedian Swati Sachdeva’s latest video ‘Love Is Love’ begins. Swati goes on to address the radio silence and adds, “Guys, if you had to give this kind of a reaction (silence), I would have talked about my bisexuality at home”. The stand-up comedian further takes a dig at the little knowledge people have about the LGBTQ+ community, “Recently, a person came up to me and said, ‘I support LG TV’. He believed in his slip of tongue.”
In an almost nine-minute-long video uploaded on YouTube, Swati shares multiple personal anecdotes around LGBTQ+ and coming out as a bisexual. Uploaded three weeks ago, the video has already garnered over 8.8 million views. Swati’s first official stand-up bit on YouTube also marks her coming out of the closet. As part of our Pride Month special coverage, Banega Swasth India interviewed Swati to know more about her life experiences and the world of comedy.
Swati first performed as a stand-up comedian in 2017 at Summer House Cafe, Delhi. She says, initially, stand-up comedy was a hobby. It’s the COVID-19 pandemic that gave her more time to write and indulge in the stand-up process. Talking about the idea behind her latest set ‘Love Is Love’, Swati said,
It’s more anecdotal. Just bit by bit, open mics by open mics, I tried different things and I realised this is becoming a proper set. I am very glad that in a way I am able to help the community. I got very nice messages from fellow queers that they were very happy to see something like this and felt motivated. Someone used my video to come out to their family and now there is radio silence at her home. I’m glad it’s hitting the right spot and even straight people are liking it which is the best thing.
Elaborating on her writing process, she said,
I wait for the ideas to arrive. I don’t pressurise my brain to think of something funny. Mostly, it happens anytime during the day. If I find something funny – probably a memory from my life or some weird observation – I just note it down on my phone. Then I sit to write and exaggerate on the thought until and unless it’s really funny.
When asked if she tries to touch upon societal issues through comedy as she did with ‘Love Is Love’, Swati said,
There is no intention to talk about a topic. The intention is to have the best joke for me. Over the years, I have realised that the topic comes later, and your joke comes first. If it’s really funny then you choose the topic. By the time I realised I have a lot of jokes on this particular topic (LGBTQ+), I realised that it’s a good topic and I am doing it right so I picked it up.
The LGBTQ+ Community: ‘We Exist, Accept Us’
Swati believes that in every friend group one can find someone from the LGBTQ+ community. The only difference is that earlier people would hide their gender identity whereas, now, they are vocal about it. She added,
We have always been there. There is no such thing as ‘this is westernised’ or ‘this is influenced’. It’s no one’s choice to be what they are. This is how sexuality works.
In the recent past, one has witnessed increasing representation of the LGBTQ+ in the mainstream. Though it might not be enough, we are making an attempt towards normalising the conversation. Swati believes this will take time as since childhood we have been taught about two genders – male and female. To achieve real change, will take us time, she said.
Urging people to accept others for who they are, Swati gave a very basic example and said,
Let’s say, you are used to seeing your friend wearing spectacles. Since childhood you have seen your friend like that and one day, they decide to get rid of those specs. It will take you time to get used to seeing your friend without a pair of spectacles sitting on their nose. You will feel weird and you will make your friend feel weird about themselves. It’s just an example of how afraid we are of accepting change. Just be open to change and a lot can be achieved out of it.
NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via the Banega Swachh India initiative, which is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. The campaign aims to highlight the inter-dependency of humans and the environment, and of humans on one another with the focus on One Health, One Planet, One Future – Leaving No One Behind. It stresses on the need to take care of, and consider, everyone’s health in India – especially vulnerable communities – the LGBTQ population, indigenous people, India’s different tribes, ethnic and linguistic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants, geographically remote populations, gender and sexual minorities. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign will continue to raise awareness on the same along with focussing on the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children, fight malnutrition, mental wellbeing, self care, science and health, adolescent health & gender awareness. Along with the health of people, the campaign has realised the need to also take care of the health of the eco-system. Our environment is fragile due to human activity, which is not only over-exploiting available resources, but also generating immense pollution as a result of using and extracting those resources. The imbalance has also led to immense biodiversity loss that has caused one of the biggest threats to human survival – climate change. It has now been described as a “code red for humanity.” The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene. Banega Swasth India will also be taking forward the dream of Swasth Bharat, the campaign feels that only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and the country can become a Swasth or healthy India.