Vasu Primlani: Lesbian comedian and environmentalist
There’s a reason that people draw comparisons between comedian Vasu Primlani of India and our own Ellen DeGeneres.
After all, Primlani is not only a comedian but also a businesswoman and activist. She is so well-respected that she received a prestigious presidential award.
Likewise, Primlani is a triathlete and a somatic therapist. (That’s fine because Ellen is a talk show host and actress.)
Vasu Primlani: Serious despite the laughs
Another reason to compare Primlani is because she also draws her humor and her strength from the challenges she faced as both a woman and a lesbian.
“You know I grew up to hate my shadow and thought that the sole purpose of existence of every man was to gauge what would set me off,” Primlani said.
Born in New Delhi, India, Primlani doesn’t talk much about her childhood except for the key points that changed her life.
“I was raped when I was five till I was seven. I had so much rage and shame inside of me. And if you told me I had it, I’d say ‘I’m fine,'” she narrated.
She has also admitted that at the young age of 5, she wanted to be an environmentalist.
“One of my favorite teachers loved trees and from that day on, I loved trees because I loved her. It’s also logical, how can you destroy what you live in?” she asked.
She later went to the US to get her master’s degree from UCLA in Geography, Urban Planning and Law.
The many layers of Vasu Primlani
While Primlani wears a lot of hats in her life, one she constantly wears is being a survivor.
She said that she managed to heal in terms of her rape by taking up somatic therapy in San Francisco at the age of 35 after a friend introduced her to it.
Now she also offers the gift to others: “Many people don’t know that I also work with rape survivors, parents of autistic children, and anyone who’s been through trauma to take it out of their bodies and allow them to live happy lives, not questioning their sanity anymore.”
Another time, she was imprisoned over accusations of fraud. In 2014, she was arrested by police because an environmentalist claimed Primlani had named her NGO after her.
“I was put in a cell with five other women who’d committed murder, locked in a building 24×7 and in a cell 12 hours every day. I lost 10 kgs in nine days. My mother could not stop crying,” she said.
Fortunately, the High Court of Karnataka decreed in 2015 that the state couldn’t try her because the charges didn’t amount to a crime.
Talking about her many roles as comedian, activist, therapist, and public speaker, she said: “But why do you find it difficult to digest? Believe me it is not when one loves layers, no matter how contradictory. They should just come together to seamlessly form the core of your sensibilities.”
Vasu Primlani makes her mark
Because of her many advocacies, Primlani is the first standup comedian in India to be honored by India’s Nari Shakti award 2016.
Primlani has been a stand-up comedian for several years and chooses topics that people don’t want to talk about: the environment, gender equality, women’s safety, and the like.
“The primary purpose of a comedian is to hold up a mirror to society. We use comedy, which is the most potent and disarming tool of communication,” she said.
Through her comedy, “I bring about change,” Primlani said.
What is her deepest, darkest secret? She said: “Comics are always depressed. That’s why they can never afford to switch off.”