Thursday, August 22, 2013

Examining rape and abuse

Happenings, Aug '13 (update 2)
Pawan Dhall reports on SlutWalk Kolkata’s first seminar as part of its gender literacy drive

Kolkata, August 17, 2013: It was an hour late to start, but a worthwhile Saturday evening date. In a move to go beyond its Facebook page ( and the two marches it has organized so far in the city since last year, SlutWalk Kolkata organized a seminar titled ‘Examining Rape and Abuse’ at the Birla Planetarium and launched its magazine SLUTKOTHA on the occasion. The speakers were Niladri R. Chatterjee, lecturer in English Literature at University of Kalyani; Arnab Saha, researcher on gender and sexuality; Madhuja Mukherjee, professor of film studies at Jadavpur University; and Satin’s Love, fashion editor, gay activist and avid blogger.

Speaker Arnab Saha making a point. To his right is Niladri R. Chatterjee, and to the left
Madhuja Mukherjee and Satin's Love. Photo credit: Pratik@Shades of Passion

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Pledge for no more Erwady!

Happenings, Aug '13 (update 1)
Pawan Dhall reports on a commemoration of the tragedy of Erwady in Tamil Nadu 12 years ago when
inhuman treatment cost the lives of 28 mentally ill people

Kolkata, August 6, 2013: “Nothing about us without us!” is a worldwide acknowledged principle and slogan to assert the idea that no policy should be decided without the full and direct participation of members of the groups affected by that policy. The inmates of Lumbini Park Mental Hospital in Kolkata seemed to assert this much neglected principle in the context of people living with psycho-social disabilities or mental illnesses through an inspiring performance of songs, dance and plays at the '12th Erwady Day' observations outside the Academy of Fine Arts on August 6, 2013.

Thursday, August 01, 2013

About intimate dreams!

Vartanama, Aug '13
By Pawan Dhall

Street life in the Kolkata of the late 1970s had at least one entertaining element that probably does not exist any longer. Every few evenings the Baman Para area of Palm Avenue in South Kolkata would see children milling around a brightly coloured bioscope. For a few paise, it would be plenty of fun. The moving images inside and the accompanying sound would almost have a dream like quality. But it was also vaguely odd, bending and peering into a machine in the middle of the road, watching ‘dreams’. Dreams are intimate, and we don’t want everyone to know what they are. Yet we often look out for someone with whom to share our dreams.

Intimate / Intimacy / Intimation

Insight, Aug '13
By Paramita Banerjee

Conjure up this image in your mind’s eye, dear readers: Three persons, two biological males and one biological female, each dressed in jeans and a t-shirt (though of varying hues as per individual preferences, for they are certainly not in uniform) are together rummaging garbage bins in an upmarket shopping mall. They talk in incredulous tones about their mysteriously vanished movie tickets as they continue their search. Now, what can be more intimate than searching garbage bins together with bare, un-gloved hands?

‘Intimate’, ‘intimacy’ and ‘intimation’ are interesting words in the English language. The word ‘intimate’ as an adjective with reference to relationships reflects a range of features that sometimes combine in a relationship, sometimes don’t. The scene described above, as it happens, combines at least two features – the three people in that episode are certainly ‘friendly’ enough to go for a movie together and going by their attire, they can afford to be ‘informal’ with each other. Are they ‘close’ beyond the casual camaraderie needed to go for a movie together? One doesn’t know. Is their friendship ‘cherished’ equally by all? Is there something ‘private’ and ‘confidential’ in their act? No way of knowing.

Spectacles of dissent

Happenings, Aug '13
Aniruddha Dutta reports on Kolkata’s anti-rape protests as a flashpoint for contrasting, even clashing, forms of politics

Kolkata, June 2013: June 14 was a hot and humid afternoon in North Kolkata, when various groups converged in protest around College Square. A week earlier (on June 7), a young woman had been brutally raped and murdered at Kamduni, a village near Barasat to the north of Kolkata, prompting a series of protests to break out across the city and the state. And just a day earlier, representatives of the women’s rights network Maitree had been picked up and detained by the police for staging a peaceful dharna near the Chief Minister’s residence, after they attempted to present a charter of demands to ensure the rights and security of women in the state.


Poetry, Aug '13
By owais

This, perhaps,
is an inherent pain
in the human situation.
That our imagination
goes farther than our power.
That our consciousness
allows us to feel more
of what we have not,
than what we do.

That our imagination has given us
much of what we have, is beyond doubt.
Though, what we have -
is that a blessing, or a curse: Who is to say?
The desire, not the greed,
for more –
not just,
more money, more power, more fame
but also,
more love, more knowledge, more happiness,
more life!
Does it, this need of
ever leave the human breast?
Can it?

And is this
just an attribute
of being human,
or of Life itself?
Every Beta wants to be an Alpha,
every weed, the place held by the crop.

They all have the urge, but
do they also have the pain?

The pain, of not being

owais calls himself the ‘sucker for love’ – for knowingly, he not only trusts, but lives on that rainbow which does not actually exist.

Source: First published in, written May 6, 2008

In the imaginarium of Karan Johar

Cinemascope, Aug '13
By Sayan Bhattacharya

Recently while surfing TV channels, I chanced upon a talk show featuring Karan Johar and his lead pair in Bombay Talkies, Randeep Hooda and Saqib Salim, filmmakers Onir and Sridhar Rangayan. The show was being compered by Anupama Chopra. It was about the depiction of ‘alternate sexuality’ in Bollywood. When a popular TV channel presents a talk on depiction of sexuality in films, it does mean that such discussions grab eyeballs because TV today caters only to the market! So great! But why the term ‘alternate’? Who decides what is mainstream and what isn’t? Isn’t that a paradox? You are celebrating the presence of desires of all hues in the mainstream and then you are also marginalizing those very desires with a certain terminology!

Rainbow on the streets

Clickhappy! Aug '13
Kaushik Gupta and Pawan Dhall present glimpses from the '12th Kolkata Rainbow Pride Walk', July 7, 2013, Hazra Crossing to Academy of Fine Arts

Every year around late June or early July, Kolkata sees an annual event called the 'Kolkata Rainbow Pride Walk'. The rainbow here is a symbol of diversity in gender identity, sexual orientation or any other aspect of gender and sexuality.

Photo credit: Pawan Dhall
Gender identity is about one's innermost sense of self as a man, woman, both or neither, and it may differ from one’s biological sex (which may be male, female or even intersex). Thus, for example, a biologically male person may identify as a woman. So other than men and women, there are also transgender people in society.

Health, disease and life soup

Advice - Mind, Body and Family, Aug '13
By Dr. Tirthankar Guha Thakurta

“Life is a sexually transmitted disease and the mortality rate is one hundred percent” – R. D. Laing

Once we are conceived as a single cell in our mother's womb (or elsewhere as in a test tube), we are destined to die. And it is the journey from conception to death that cooks up a ‘soup’ called life. We have no option other than to gulp it down, as long as we live. The only way to ease the gulping process is to customize the soup as far as possible to our liking. From this concept of customizing life comes the ‘effort’ of well-being. This is where the philosophy of health and disease germinates.

Photo credit: Vahista Dastoor
Trying to remain healthy is more a philosophy, than a state of being. The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines health as a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. This state is achieved by a harmony between body (physique), soul (mind) and environment (loosely, society).