Swiping Right With Indu Harikumar

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SWIPING RIGHT WITH INDU HARIKUMAR

WORDS BY SADIYA UPADE

Editor's note: All the images are links to the illustrations on Indu Harikumar's Instagram account, where you can read the stories that inspired them.

Modern love may be a swipe away, but it's still messy. Ask Mumbai-based illustrator Indu Harikumar. When she started "100 Indian Tinder Tales" in 2016, it was through the prism of her own experience. As the circle expanded, out came stories of gay men finding love, extra-marital affairs, fleeting encounters, couples tying the knot, rather funny tales involving hair dressers and bad breath, and even that of a woman hand-holding a man who had lost his virginity!

"I didn't expect it to go beyond eight or nine stories," says Indu, who cleverly stitched together the subtle shades of grey, admissions, love, and longing with her illustrations. "The series took shape based on the stories that came in. After a point, people's reactions were that these are all sad stories, give us love stories!" The tales were crowdsourced from Indians and expats dating Indians.

It was the urge to try something new that spurred Indu, a children’s book illustrator. Offhand conversations with friends and her own experience in Vienna culminated in the social experiment, which ran for seven or eight months. "I was on a residency in Vienna when I first used Tinder,” says Indu. “It was scary. I didn't know anybody there, didn't know the language, didn't even know whom to call if there was a problem. But the date went wonderfully. We went for a walk for six hours, saw local art, and a connection was made. In eight months of listening to [other] people's stories, I learned that we look for love in all sorts of places. The project made it easier for me to lean in, be vulnerable, to accept my flaws and be more at peace with myself. It became a platform for people to connect, to feel less isolated."

Indu’s own story, which is ninth in the series, is special to her.  The "Vienna guy", in fact, is also the inspiration behind her self-published colouring book, Beauty Needs Space. The artist, who finds inspiration in the works of Rainer Rilke and Gustav Klimt, has gone on to illustrate physical and social prejudices through "Body of Stories". Her latest endeavour, "Girlisthan", is about getting women to talk about what they love about themselves – putting the focus on "female gaze". Self-love remains a tangled web to decipher. For now, we got the artist to pick her favourite Indian Tinder Tales.

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