Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Living on the edge

Vartanama, Sep '15
By Pawan Dhall

Who would have thought that an airport security check would have been the most adrenaline- generating moment on a recent trip to wondrous Manipur? The purpose of the trip was to interact with mental health professionals on issues concerning lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) communities in a seminar. While there was a good exchange of ideas and experience during the post-event networking and it was heartening to see queer concerns gaining currency among mental health professionals and researchers in the state, there were no pointed questions or clarifications sought in the seminar itself. It could have been the auditorium acoustics, political correctness or my presentation was just not invigorating enough. But one was left wanting for greater engagement on the matter, especially when queer individuals across India continue to report negative encounters with mental health professionals.

Trans-ing the college roll call

Insight, Sep '15
Trans woman activist Santa Khurai tells Pawan Dhall how she pushed hard to help her friend Sandra Nandeibam secure admission in a college stating her gender as ‘TG’. This was possibly the first such instance in Manipur since the Supreme Court verdict on transgender identities and rights in April 2014, and perhaps more such ‘exceptions’ on the ground would propel faster formulation of policies, systems and rules to implement the verdict

Sandra Nandeibam, a picture of confidence
Photo credit: Santa Khurai
Pawan: Santa, congratulations on your and Sandra’s success! How did this come about?

Santa: In June this year, Sandra Nandeibam (earlier Nandeibam Sandeep Singh) succeeded in securing admission in the Dhanamanjuri College of Arts, Imphal as a trans woman, probably the first trans person in Manipur to have managed in breaking a social barrier that does not recognize any gender beyond male and female.

Going by a University Grants Commission directive (based on last year’s Supreme Court verdict on transgender identities and rights), the college had expanded the gender options in the college admission form to include ‘TG’ (or transgender). Sandra opted for ‘TG’, and also submitted the legal documents for gender change (court affidavit, newspaper declarations, gazette notification and other papers) to support her option.

Qatha: Brother queer brother (part 2)

People, Sep '15
By Pawan Dhall and Soma Roy Karmakar

All photographs from the family albums of Sanjib Chakraborty
(in the picture) and Rajib Chakrabarti
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.

This issue brings you the second and final part of an interview with Rajib Chakrabarti, a teacher, 46 years old and a resident of Kolkata, and his brother Sanjib Chakraborty, 42, a health worker and queer activist based in Guwahati. In the first part of the interview (published in the August 2015 issue of Varta), they talked about the difficult times and small pleasures of life that saw them through to self-discovery, self-acceptance and discovering each other as gay persons. In this part, they talk about coming out to their mother and sister, connecting with queer support forums in Kolkata, and their vision for the future.

Battling the depression demon

My Story, Sep '15
Pallav Bonerjee continues his series of personal narratives on psychology, people and destiny, this time in collaboration with a patient who provides his perspective on depression

All photo credits: Vahista Dastoor
When I started collecting my thoughts on depression as a mental illness and how strongly it affects the life of an individual, I couldn’t help falling back on some of the many anecdotal instances narrated to me by patients during their interactions with me as a therapist. I have tried to recreate some of them here with the intention of allowing others a glimpse into the life of an individual suffering from depression. I have also tried to collaborate for the first time with a patient who I felt could provide a unique and invaluable perspective on depression.

Age and disability

Advice - Disability, Sep '15
By Shampa Sengupta

Reader queries

Artwork credit: Prosenjit Pal
I'm a middle-aged single man living in Kolkata, closer to 50. In the last couple of years, I have developed joint and muscular pains in my legs, and though treatment is on, and in phases I feel better, the problem does not go away entirely. Could this be an onset of age-related disability? My family members feel I worry unnecessarily, but I have seen other family members suffer and their movements drastically reduced. Other than family support, do I have a right to expect any facilities in public places? Do I need a certification for my disability? If yes, how can I get it?
Anonymous, Kolkata