Saturday, November 28, 2015

Walking with pride! Walking for equality, love, solidarity!

Happenings, Nov '15 (update 1)
The 14th edition of the 'Kolkata Rainbow Pride Walk', the oldest of its kind in South Asia, is planned for December 13, 2015. Excerpts from a leaflet developed by the organizers of the walk shared here


The movement for equal rights for people of diverse genders, gender expressions and sexual identities has seen some very contrasting developments in the past couple of years in India. The historic judgment by the Delhi High Court on 2 July 2009 held that treating consensual sex of any kind, including homosexual sex, between adults as a crime is a violation of the Fundamental Rights protected by India's Constitution. The verdict resulted in the decriminalisation of homosexual acts involving consenting adults in the jurisdiction of the Delhi High court. This verdict was later overturned by the Supreme Court of India on 11 December 2013, with the Court holding that amending or repealing Section 377 should be a matter left to Parliament, not the judiciary. The legal battle for equal rights of all citizens immaterial to their sexual orientation or gender identity suffered a definite setback with the judgment. Nevertheless the voices against such discrimination became stronger than ever. The same apex court, in the National Legal Services Authority Vs. Union of India and Others case, delivered a landmark judgment affirming that the Fundamental Rights granted under the Constitution of India would be equally applicable to transgender people, and gave every citizen the right to self-identification of their gender as male, female or third gender.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Why should boys have all the fun?

Vartanama, Nov '15
By Pawan Dhall

                                                                 Photo credit: Mitali Sarkar
An assortment of circumstances, and I find myself writing this piece in Maddox Square in southern Kolkata, sitting next to the stump of a once handsome shirish tree struck down by kalbaisakhi lightening. It’s almost 7 pm and as I wait for a friend to turn up from work (we have shopping lined up for later), I observe a group of seven or eight women (presumably middle class and well-off) enjoy tea and snacks at a bench nearby. This is accompanied with much laughter and light banter, a lot of it about family matters. In a while, at least some of the women will join the ranks of evening walkers in groups of threes and fours, in gleaming white sports shoes that don’t quite go with the churidar kurtas or sarees but indispensable nonetheless for a brisk walk. Their conversations will continue uninterrupted, almost as energetic as their walk.

Gendering the trekking trail

Insight, Travel Travel, Nov '15
By Paramita Banerjee

Kanchanjungha from Sandakphu
Photo credit: Rubina Sen
Even my worst enemies, whoever and wherever they are, would acknowledge that I don’t lack in taking risks. So, past 56 years of age, I decided to resume one of the hobbies I’d loved as a young person – trekking. A trek, by dictionary definition, is a long arduous journey and in India, it certainly involves the mountains. The higher the altitude, the more thrilling is the trek for most Indian trekkers I’ve known.

Perhaps naturally, no trek organiser would readily include anyone of my age, especially after a gap of almost 23 years. Not even when the trek organiser is a friend and a colleague in the social development sector that provides me my bread, butter and jam. I needed to prove my fitness. A 14-kilometre walk across a mountain forest, covering two villages and a viewing point was proof enough for me and I managed to persuade this friend into including me for a Sandakphu trek in May this year. This one is considered a beginners’ trek, after all, and ideal for someone well past her prime seeking to resume trekking after a long gap.

Changing houses (and perspectives)

My Story, Nov '15
In this chapter of a series of personal narratives on psychology, people and destiny, Pallav Bonerjee holds forth on the virtues of moving house – across localities and cities

Author (right) with his sister in childhood. All photographs
shared by author from his family albums
My earliest memories of changing our residence belong to a time when I was all of six years age and lived in Calcutta. My world comprised of my parents, a younger sister, grandparents and plenty of cousins. Life was perfect. My sister was in pre-school and I was in class one. We had made some friends in school. And then, all of a sudden, we got news that my father would have to transfer to a city called Raipur in Madhya Pradesh (now the capital of Chattisgarh). Being young and ambitious, my father had said “Yes!” My sister and I were told that since he was in a transferable job, we must get used to such changes. It would help us ‘in the long run’. At six, I had no idea what that long run could have meant. Though I have no distinct recollection, I’m sure I must have tried to dissuade my father from going ahead with this ‘opportunity’ citing reasons that ranged from “How would we manage without speaking Bengali or eating Bengali food?” to “What would happen to all our friends and cousins without us?”. It didn’t help.

Star quest: Bisexual, bipolar and happy

Clickhappy! Star Quest, Nov '15
By Kaustav Manna

Star of the month: Sudeshna Basak aka Rupsha
(all photographs provided by Rupsha) 
The third (October 2013) and fourth (November 2013) issues of Varta carried a column called Star Quest, a series of photo-stories of individuals who may not be public figures like politicians, artistes, social activists or media persons, but have in their own way contributed to social equity and empowerment around gender, sexuality and related issues. For a variety of reasons, including priority given to other interview and photography based columns, Star Quest was discontinued. With the previous (October 2015) issue of Varta, we revived the column to continue sharing innumerable untold stories twinkling with inspiration!

The contribution of the ‘stars’ we zoom in on may be in an intimate arena – among friends and neighbours, their local community, a village or slum school, their own work place and so on. It may not have attracted any media attention, yet the importance of their efforts cannot be underscored enough. Varta is happy to bring to light such hidden ‘stars’ and focus on endeavours that generate hope for a better present and future.

Rewarding awards

Advice - Disability, Nov '15
Ahead of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, Shampa Sengupta wonders how government awards related to disability rights can be made more rewarding

December 3 is celebrated as International Day of Persons with Disabilities and this year the theme chosen for the day is ‘Inclusion Matters: Access and Empowerment for People of All Abilities’. According to the United Nations website, “The International Day of Persons with Disabilities is marked around the world annually on 3 December, as per General Assembly resolution 47/3 of 14 October 1992, to promote awareness and mobilize support for critical issues pertaining to the inclusion of persons with disabilities in society and development.”

Photo credit: Shuvojit Moulik