Nidhi Goyal, India’s first blind comedienne, is breaking stereotypes

English stand-up comedy has picked up in a big way in India now. But still, there are only a few women stand up comedians in the country. What’s even rarer is a stand-up comedian who’s blind! Yes. That’s Nidhi Goyal for you.

While most of us get bogged down by trivial matters like how are we looking or have we put on weight, Nidhi actually has a major obstacle. But she has overcome it, and how! Her jokes actually revolve around her disability. That’s dark humor at its best!

A researcher by profession, Nidhi has worked for the betterment of women with disabilities.

From the age of four, Nidhi Goyal loved to paint, and by the time she was a teenager, she knew she wanted to be a portrait artist. When Nidhi was diagnosed with a degenerative eye disorder, at age 15, the loss of this dream was the biggest blow.

“I’m not sure, looking back now, that I would have had the temperament—the patience—for it,” Nidhi tells

In May 2015, she was having coffee with the queer activist and filmmaker Pramada Menon, and the two of them were in splits over some of Nidhi’s insights about the way disabled people are treated. Menon was performing a comedy set in Calcutta that December and insisted that Nidhi perform too.

So for the next six months, Nidhi recorded instances of ignorance or prejudice that she encountered, ranging from misconceptions about disability and sexuality to  observations about navigating public spaces—from city streets to airplane bathrooms. Then, it was just a matter of stringing them together for the show. “It’s part of the way I’ve looked at things in life—the lens I adopted to my own challenges,” she says.

“Everything you hear and laugh about is based on a personal incident, a slice of my life or that of my friends. As an activist, I interact with a lot of people with disabilities. So the set is a collage of my story and theirs, stories that’ll make you see the hilarity in the myths and assumptions surrounding disability and just how far they are from the truth.”

“By using comedy, I’m trying to remove the hush around the topic,” she explains. “Within the hour-long performance, I talk about being single and wanting to meet someone. I share the experiences I’ve had meeting people, potential suitors, their families and more. Again, these are real incidents. It’s hilarious how people react when I tell them that, yes, I’m blind and I still want a relationship. But these incidents are the ones that struck me when I was writing. It’s not like I sat down and reflected upon everything that has happened in my life.”

 

“Everybody has their own shit, just because you can see my shit doesn’t mean it’s horrible. When we’re happy with a bigger piece of cake, we should be okay with a bigger disability too; it’s as simple as that.”- Nidhi Goyal.

If Nidhi’s story inspired you, write to her at nidhi@risingflame.org or tweet @saysnidhigoyal

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