A Tete-a-Tete With Harsh Agarwal - Author, Entrepreneur, Social Activist, President of Harmless Hugs
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Empowering individuals from the LGBT community, Harmless Hugs is a venture by Harsh Agarwal which is aimed at providing a safe and non-discriminatory space for queer individuals. Working for the betterment of such a neglected society comes with it's ups and downs. So here's all about his journey and how Delhi has been treating his initiative.
Your first book got published when you were 19. What inspired you to make this achievement at such an early age?
I always loved writing and started composing small rhymes when I was young. When I started college, I started giving more time to writing and drifted towards fiction. The first book was the result of the restlessness that I experienced because I wanted to tell my story of being in Kota for two years. This was the time I was realizing and absorbing my affinity towards writing.
You're an artist by soul, an entrepreneur by profession and an engineer by education. How did you manage to set foot in such varied fields?
I believe in experimenting and exploring. Being an engineer was an academic decision that was taken when I wasn’t even sure what I'm getting into. Once I entered college, I got back to my passion of writing which also paved way for my first venture - which was a small content writing agency which I operated from my hostel room. I feel everything is related to each other, and somehow compliments and synergies eventually make you who you are.
Is there a particular section of the society you intend to target with your writing?
I don’t think there is any particular section of society. My books are theme-based rather than being genre-based, and hence it would depend on the reader - if it will appeal to him/her or not. My basic focus is to build a story on an interesting concept which has not been touched on before.
Tell us something about your trust 'The Harmless Hugs'?
Harmless Hugs started as an online group which was supposed to provide safe and non-discriminatory space for all queer individuals. From the year 2015 onwards, we started ground-based activities for mass sensitisation and community binding and this year, we registered it as a trust. Currently, we do a wide variety of activities - both online and offline like flash mobs, queer hugs, theater and film festivals and lots more.
Do you feel that Delhiites have started thinking about the betterment of the LGBT community after your first flash mob in 2015?
The responses and reactions have always been mixed, and they continue to remain so. There is always a part of society which will be in support while the others would keep hating us. It’s a long journey. Even though the flash mob helped with better visibility and exposure, there is still a long way to go.
The issue your trust is working on is still a very sensitive issue, as far as India is concerned. What challenges did you face when you started up?
We are not particularly from an NGO background, and whatever was done was because of sheer passion. The lack of experience created a number of obstacles but at the same time, it also helped us learn so many things. We have a strong volunteer base and we're working to train them better. Despite that, our major challenges have been of funding and time constraints. Since no one works full-time at Harmless Hugs, we take out whatever time we can from our personal and professional lives to further our cause.
How has Delhi reacted to The Harmless Hugs? Did you face any hostility when you decided to go ahead with the idea?
Delhi has showcased many ups and downs. While the crowd has been motivating, the police has also tried to stop having a peaceful vigil after the sad incident of Orlando. I feel, it entirely depends on time and situation and no one can be blamed for that. Apart from that, all kind of other stakeholders including society, media and even other NGOs - have been quite supportive.
What according to you, makes Delhi, ‘So Delhi’?
Delhi is beautiful and charismatic in its own way and the flavors and hues that you experience being in the city - in context of people, food, places, activities and so much more - is something that has mesmerised me! The old-city charm fuses so beautifully with the glow of modernity that Delhi never fails to surprise you. The diversity and enthusiasm that you experience here is perhaps unmatchable. Even being an author, I always find myself short of words while describing about Delhi.
We thank you for your indefatigable efforts towards the betterment of the LGTB community, and hope you find every success!