My looking glass

My looking glass

Comedian Shrirupa Sengupta has no qualms laughing at the problems that life throws at her

Shrirupa Sengupta

For the longest time, my looking glass reflected back to me, a stranger.

I was the school captain, led international student bodies, championed debates, aced humour and theatre. I graduated from prestigious colleges. I spoke five languages of which only one was spoken at home. I was 13 when I became a certified healer, 22 when I landed my first job as a consultant to the Government of India travelling across 22 states, contributing solutions to prevent and control HIV/AIDS epidemic.

People loved me. My family and I loved laughter. And that, was my reflection for everyone to see.

In flesh and blood, however, I stood in tears, at 10, having decided that I didn’t deserve to live. What followed, was over a decade of self-hatred and a firm belief in the angsty “no one cares”. By 26, I was the quiet survivor of years of abuse and violence. My boundaries shattered and my reasonings skewed, I found myself looking into an abyss of no return.

An obstinate friend coaxed me into therapy and for the first time in my entire life, I found the courage to be real. And I wanted to create laughter this time. So in September 2014, with my heart in my mouth, my cousin and nephew cheering me on, I hit a standup comedy open mic for the longest four mins of my life. And people laughed! And from that point onwards, I poured myself into the artform.

In November 2014, I won the Bengaluru finals for an open mic competition. Though I lost the nationals, it gave me something crucial to hold on to — laughter. Craving to explore, I signed up for an improv comedy workshop with Kaneez Surka. In 2015, I joined a bunch of improvisers to start an improv comedy troupe. By the time I moved on, I had found new ways to find comedy in everyday truth.

I have learnt that no matter how deeply you love your life, there will be times when your experiences unpack their bags and let out dark, ominous clouds of doubt.

In October 2015, at 28, I found myself back to square one. But this time, I knew how to beat it.

And so I did — laughing at the face of it all, on stage, night after night, with a bunch of strangers. By the time, I recovered in April 2016, it felt like I had won my life back on my own terms.

In May that year, I found a job. In April 2017, I was signed by Evam Stand-Up Tamasha where I learn and grow amidst love and laughter.

It took me two decades and loads of now hilarious mistakes to be me.

No matter how near you are to your breaking point, find a looking glass and look into your eyes. 

Find the humour and laugh at the stuff life throws at you. Because even at your lowest, in that moment, that is the strongest you will be. And, that laughing you, celebrating your vulnerability is invincible. Nothing and no one can break you when you are absolutely true to yourself and can find happiness in everyday things. I know. I do it every day.