God loves queer?
Vikram Tyagi’s small talk with Indian-born Toronto based alternative rocker Vivek Shraya about his recently launched book, “God loves Hair”, a collection of short stories, his immortal love for music and his visit to India.
How’s it going here in India?
So far it’s going really really well. It’s been such an amazing trip. I haven’t been here for twelve years.
What difference do you find after twelve years?
When I came here last time, I was seventeen, just coming out. I spent most of the time in an ashram. So this time I’m having an urban experience which is totally different. My sensory levels are always at ten here in India, even if it’s to do with traffic.
Tell us something about your book. What triggered you to write it?
The stories are about gender, religion, being queer and being brought up in Canada. One of the big reasons is when I started reading queer literature, I noticed there were not lot of stories that reflected my own experiences as South Asian. If I was a teenager again, it would speak to me, like what it meant to have immigrant parents in Canada, what it meant growing up in a Hindu household.
Which is your favourite story from the book?
I have to say it’s ‘Dear Vishnu’. It’s about how I grew up surrounded by Hindu masculinity and how that’s very different than North American masculinity.
Any particular character that you relate most with?
All stories are autobiographical and based on my life’s experiences. I am kind of main character in all stories. So it’s hard to say which is my favourite character.
Your book is a part of the course curriculum at University of Alberta, Brock University and George Brown College. How do you think it helps queer students?
There is a lot of gay literature but not all of them are about people of colour. As a Human Rights Advisor, I do anti-homophobia workshops but at some point, they stop affecting people. After a while people get de-sensitised. If people hear people’s life’s stories, it has a larger impact. So when they read it, they can relate to it. It helps people realise our experiences and our stories.
Do you try and establish any kind of synchronisation between your writings and your music?
I try to. When I read, I sing some bhajans. I am really inspired to make art that brings change. Right now my music is very much pop. It’s all about love, heartbreak, dancing. But I’m hoping in the future to make music that’s a little more challenging.