Thursday, March 20, 2014

Father-daughter stories

Happenings, Mar '14 (update 1)
Debasmita Dasgupta invites inspiring father-daughter stories, which she promises to illustrate for a series called mY FaTHer Illustrations dedicated to all fathers who stand as pillars of strength for their children

It all started with a TED Talk by an Afghani woman, Shabana Basij-Rasikh, in 2013. She shared the story of how her father helped her to continue with her studies against all odds during the Taliban regime. She quoted her father: “We will let nothing stop your education, even if we have to sell our blood for it.”

Monday, March 10, 2014

Making education sexy

Vartanama, Mar '14
By Pawan Dhall

In this season of much heartburn around Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, it is refreshing to come across new and even not-so-new ideas around gender and sexuality discussed and debated in seminars and meetings. If nothing else, then these occasions generate a faint hope that the world can yet be changed!

The homophobic doctor

Insight, Advice - Mind, Body and Family, Mar '14
By Dr. Tirthankar Guha Thakurta

On February 8, 2014, the West Bengal chapter of the Indian Psychiatric Society organized an interactive event in Kolkata to clarify their stand on homosexuality (see A Mental Boost! in the February 2014 issue of Varta). Among a host of issues debated, one was the use of reference books with outdated information on gender and sexuality by students of the MBBS course, the future doctors of India. Varta decided to delve deeper into the matter, and Dr. Tirthankar Guha Thakurta brings you the first in a series of articles that analyse the content of some standard reference books.

Rainbow in Guwahati

Happenings, Mar '14
Madhuja Nandi interviewed participants of the first ever rainbow pride walk in North-East India held in Guwahati on February 9, 2014

Photo credit: All photographs Mili Dutta, Kishor Rabha,
Prince Dihingia
“I truly felt my prayers and wishes come true when I participated in ‘Queer Pride Guwahati’. I had always wanted a queer pride at the north-eastern level as North-East India has almost remained hidden when we speak about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues and it’s only Manipur in the forefront that has been open to talk on this issue. Our Seven Sister states have got diverse cultures and ethnicities with their own cultural norms. It was difficult for each state to organize a queer pride walk on their own but deep in my heart I felt that if we could all come together and walk united, we could do it and we have done it! It was a very proud moment for me to walk with pride – that’s all I can express.” – Rebina Subba, an advocate from Shillong, Meghalaya.

Qatha: Of reel and real stories (part 2)

People, Mar '14
By Pawan Dhall and Sukanya Roy Ghose

Varta brings you the ‘Queer Kolkata Oral History Project’, an initiative to document five decades of queer lives in Kolkata (1960-2000). Our aim in this project is to go back in time and bring forward diverse queer voices through a series of interviews, which will provide a landmark to Kolkata city's queer history. Typically, the focus will be on the queer scenario in Kolkata during the growing up years of each interviewee – how it was to be queer in Kolkata in different decades since the 1960s till more recent times. The effort will be to bring forward a mix of the well known and the lesser known voices. Apart from the excerpts published here, the project also aims to publish a collection of the interviews in different formats. All interviews are based on informed consent and where requested, all markers of identity have been removed for reasons of confidentiality.

In this issue we bring you the second and final part of an interview with acclaimed filmmaker Onir, 44 years old, now a resident of Mumbai but with an enduring Kolkata connection. In the first part of the interview (published in the February 2014 issue of Varta), he spoke about the process of self-realization as a gay person. In this part he speaks his mind on the social hypocrisies around gender and sexuality and his thoughts on how queer concerns can be better addressed.

The interview was conducted by Pawan Dhall on April 12, 2013, and transcribed by freelancer Sukanya Roy Ghose.

Campaigning for love with love

My Story, Mar '14
By Bappaditya Mukherjee

Epilogue: It was almost 11 am on December 11, 2013! I was headed for an important meeting for Prantakatha, a non-profit organization I am part of, with an ex-top cop of India and was in a cab in Kolkata. A status message appeared on the Facebook news feed: “Rainbow is just a trick of light”. I was numbed. I realized that the Supreme Court of India must have given its verdict on Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which ‘criminalizes’ any form of sexual intercourse ‘against the order of nature’. In effect, it means any emotional expression involving same-sex sexual relations is not legal in India.

The phoenix

Poetry, Mar '14
By Rudra Kishore Mondal

Your nest is your pyre.
On a bed of myrrh,
Strewn with ageless suffering
The sepia Cinnamon twigs
Form a fence of memories,
Fading . . .
Entwined with the Spikenard,
Gathered from the lost Eden
Of love and yearning,
You breathe your last . . .
Igniting the inferno,
Devouring the past.
The purging flames grow
Into unmarked wings,
An unbroken heart
And you are born anew
From the ashes of desire.

Rudra Kishore Mandal is a painter and freelance graphic designer and calls his artistic quest Rudrascape (

Burning questions

Advice - Rights and Laws, Mar '14
By Kaushik Gupta

Reader queries

Wouldn't criticizing the decision of a court of law publicly amount to contempt of court?
Anonymous, Kolkata

It will not be contempt if the criticism is fair and not derogatory. It depends on the manner and context in which such criticism is made. It is also important to use restrained language. There should not be use of un-parliamentary words or an attempt to malign the judiciary. A fair criticism of a judgment will not be deemed to be contempt. A person shall not be guilty of contempt of court for publishing any fair comment on the merits of any case, which has been heard and finally decided. The Fundamental Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression includes in its ambit the right to fairly criticize a judgment of a court of law.