Thursday, August 25, 2016

We have moved . . .

Notice, Aug '16

We have moved to – our new website, which will henceforth include also the monthly issues of Varta in a new webzine format. The 36th (August 2016) issue is already up on the new site. But this blog site is not going anywhere. We will continue to maintain it with all information related pages up-to-date.

Before you move on, spare a look at our new page on Anthologies – another debut in Varta’s third birthday month! Our first anthology titled Queer Potli: Memories, Imaginations and Re-Imaginations of Urban Queer Spaces in India, a collaborative venture with Queer Ink, Mumbai, is just out in an e-book format (print version in the works). Buy, read, share!

Best wishes from the Varta team!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

We're transitioning!

Notice, Jul '16

Hello readers! Apologies for the long silence. We've been preparing for a transition to a new format the last few months. We're ever so near the final step, and as with all change, this move has not been without a few hiccups. For the first time since Varta started on August 1, 2013, there will be no monthly issue (the 36th) of the blog in July 2016. But we will be back next month, the third birthday month of Varta, in a new avatar!

The new format will be a comprehensive website that will include the Varta webzine (with many new and old features) as well as many new links to the different activities of Varta Trust. The webzine will continue to be published with a monthly frequency. With this change Varta Trust aims also to initiate a new set of journalistic and publishing activities.

Well, more on those when the time comes nearer. In the meantime, we will continue to maintain this blog version of Varta with all information related pages up-to-date. Looking forward to resuming our monthly dates with you!

Best wishes from the Varta team!

Friday, June 24, 2016

Vigils for trust and kindness

Vartanama, Jun '16
By Pawan Dhall

I had forgotten many details of this family story from the time of India’s partition in 1947 – till a cousin sister recounted it recently. My late father, then all of 19 and unmarried, along with his younger brother and parents, lived in Shorkot town in the Punjab now in Pakistan. A time came when they had to leave home in a rush and take refuge in a camp within the town. Only to realize that they had left behind some valuables, which would have proved more than handy if and when they crossed the border.

Teach India gender and sexuality

Insight, Jun '16
By Shampa Sengupta

“Ma, are there only two kinds of human beings – male and female and no more?” This was the question my daughter Suchetana asked me 14 years ago when she was four. As usual, I pretended to be busy (which I often did whenever she asked me difficult questions) and told her I would explain later.

I had to take help of mythology when I came back to her with explanations – since story telling was part of my daily routine when I was with her, I started telling stories from Mahabharata – so Shikhandi’s story was told and retold a number of times, as also those of Brihannala and Iravan. But I distinctly remember Shikhandi was a favourite with both of us.

Books, comics, films, teaching aids are needed to make
children aware about gender and sexuality diversity.
Photo courtesy: Thoughtshop Foundation, Kolkata

Odisha awaits transgender welfare board

Happenings, Jun '16
Anupam Hazra reports on the ‘2nd Transgender Day’ event in Bhubaneswar, Odisha

Inauguration of '2nd Transgender Day'  event at
Bhubaneswar. Photo credit: Anupam Hazra
Bhubaneswar, April 25, 2016: Trans women’s community groups in Odisha made an emphatic presentation of their demands at the observation of the state’s ‘2nd Transgender Day’ at Hotel Keshari in Bhubaneswar today. Odisha Law Minister Arun Kumar Sahoo was presented with a charter of demands for the formation of a transgender welfare board in the state, reserved seats in educational institutes, opportunities to participate in the political sphere, separate beds in government hospitals, pension for individuals above 40 years, and access to benefits under a number of social welfare schemes.

Qatha: Recalling dark room discoveries and more (part 1)

People, Jun '16
By Pawan Dhall

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 first part of an interview with Suresh, 68, a teacher of marketing management who used to live in Kolkata till the late 1990s and is now based in a coastal town in southern India. Suresh talks about his early sexual discoveries and negotiations around relationships, never mind if terms like ‘gay’ didn’t exist back then.

The interview was conducted by Pawan Dhall over Skype on June 4, 2016, and later transcribed by the interviewer.

Trapped in transit

Clickhappy! Jun '16
By Vahista Dastoor

“The photographer is an armed version of the solitary walker reconnoitering, stalking, cruising the urban inferno, the voyeuristic stroller who discovers the city as a landscape of voluptuous extremes” – Susan Sontag, 1977 

Trapped in transit, Vahista Dastoor spends 13 hours in Bangkok airport – anonymous and unseen, honing her street photography skills.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Queer readings to remember Rituparno Ghosh

Happenings (Preview), May '16
Varta previews an upcoming event in homage to the late Rituparno Ghosh

Kolkata, May 28, 2016: Three days from today – on May 31, 2016 – art personality Sujoy Prosad Chatterjee will pay homage to Rituparno Ghosh, a queer icon in the world of cinema, through dramatized readings of queer writings from across the globe. The event will take place at the Ahuja Museum for Arts, Lee Road, Bhawanipur, from 7.30-8.30 pm.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Of unusual love angles (and pickles)

Vartanama, May '16
By Pawan Dhall

Photo and artwork credit: Pawan Dhall
Labels and identities have a habit of getting in the way. So if I were to put the word ‘polyamory’ in the title of this article, many readers may conclude that it is about what Wikipedia explains as the “practice of, or desire for, intimate relationships involving more than two people, with the knowledge and consent of everyone involved”.

Wikipedia goes on to further say that polyamory is “consensual, ethical, and responsible non-monogamy”. So that should clarify that polyamory is not quite the same as polygamy (the practice of having more than one spouse at the same time, many times without the knowledge of the spouses involved, or even with the knowledge but not consent based on equal terms).

Pehchān conundrum

Insight, May '16
Pehchān, an ambitious civil society-government partnership to provide sexual and reproductive health, HIV, legal aid and social security services to nearly 4,50,000 sexual and gender minority people in India, has drawn to a close. Its scale and implementation attracted both praise and criticism, but the completion of its term will leave behind a vacuum feel Anupam Hazra and Souvik Ghosh of SAATHII, a national NGO that implemented the programme in eastern India

Solidarity event organized by Dinajpur Notun Aalo Society at
Jibonmore, Islampur in Uttar Dinajpur district
Kolkata, May 2016: Even as we write this, West Bengal is counting votes cast for a Legislative Assembly election, and by the end of this month a ‘new’ state government may well be in place. But what will be new about it from the public health perspective? Will the five-year cycle of polls yield fresh hope for some of the most marginalized communities like transgender women, Hijras and men who have sex with men (MSM)? Barring one or two political parties, none seem to have included their socio-economic and associated concerns in the election manifestos. One party fielded two transgender women as candidates from prominent seats in Kolkata, but how respectful was such inclusion is open to debate (the candidates withdrew from the contest in protest against what they felt was tokenism and a publicity stunt).

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Church coalition mulls rainbow inclusion

Happenings, May '16
Pawan Dhall participated in a meeting on gender and sexuality diversity called by the National Council of Churches in India, a forum of Protestant and Orthodox Churches in India

Dr. George Zachariah, Akkai Padmashali and Fr. Philip Kuruvilla
at the launch of Disruptive Faith, Inclusive Communities:
Church and Homophobia. 
Photo credit: Pawan Dhall
Bangalore, April 20, 2016: “’I hope you never worship a God who makes you feel that He hates the person you have become. May you never grow up denying every feeling that comes from your heart. May you be able to visit your place of worship without fear that you will be rejected, judged, or have to listen to teachings that call your life wrong. I hope that nobody ever uses the name of their God to let you know that the world's salvation depends on whether you follow a loosely interpreted book or your evil desires’. These lines reflect the pain of the Key Affected People, and their struggle to find fellowship and solidarity within the church.  Constructing people as ‘other’ who refuse to submit their lives to the dominant Christian norms of what it means to be human is the approach of almost all Christian communities. We are gathered here in the true spirit of repentance and conversion to realize our sin of self-righteousness and to dream together the birthing of a Church – an inclusive community of hospitality, fellowship, and solidarity.”

Does disability need divinity?

Happenings, May '16
Shampa Sengupta reports on a consultation titled ‘From Handicapped to Divyang: Politics of Identity’ held at Jadavpur University, Kolkata earlier this year

Consultation at Jadavpur University. Photo credit: Sruti Disability Rights Centre

Kolkata, March 16, 2016: In December last year, in a radio show named Mann Ki Baat, Prime Minister Narendra Modi referred to persons with disabilities as ‘divyang’ (divine body). This generated much debate in the country, and in light of this, the School of Media, Communication and Culture, Jadavpur University and Sruti Disability Rights Centre teamed up today to organize a consultation on the ‘politics of naming’ persons with disabilities.

‘Man-ghat’ ahead! Cover your eyes

Clickhappy! May '16
Suchandra Das was candid behind the camera at Dashashwamedh Ghat in Varanasi – perhaps to compensate for the shame felt by the women, or compliment the candidness among the men

Sunday, April 24, 2016

'Allah megh de . . .'

Vartanama, Apr '16
By Pawan Dhall

April and even the run-up to it has been someone’s handiwork of a scorching earth policy. Even as the unprecedented heat snuffs physical strength and life across India, human-made or human-induced disasters seem to be sapping emotional reservoirs dry.

Greed and callousness led to a murderous flyover collapse in Kolkata on March 31, and was soon followed by social media rants blaming India’s reservation policy for the collapse. If Pee (Shit), a short Tamil film shown at an event ‘In the Name of Caste’ organized by Peoples Film Collective in Kolkata early March, was made compulsory viewing in schools and colleges, there just might be fewer such insensitivities.

Inconvenient desires

Insight, From the Archives, Apr '16
Sayan Bhattacharya comes across ‘marriage of convenience’ as an issue reflected in the Counsel Club archives and wonders what such arrangements mean for ‘queerness’, ‘desire’ and ‘identity’. These series of articles intend to create an archive of the queer movement in Bengal and India – not a chronological narrative of the movement, rather anecdotal histories capturing the little voices that are often lost in general historical accounts – voices from thousands of letters received by Counsel Club, one of India’s earliest queer support groups (1993 to 2002), and from the group’s house journal Naya Pravartak.

Graphic credit: Vahista Dastoor
A recent campaign called ‘Come Out Loud’ has been documenting queer narratives across India to forcefully challenge the ‘minuscule minority’ claim made by the Supreme Court of India in its verdict on Section 377, Indian Penal Code in December 2013. Stories of varying degrees of struggle with a hetero-normative economy and violent institutions like the education system, workspace and the family  to establish one’s sense of self, to live on one’s own terms. Perhaps these stories can be an inspiration for those who are discovering their selves or who are struggling with similar situations. Moreover, to be able to say that we are a large number of people and there is no way that the State can deny us our rights, might serve on a strategic level.

Star quest: Fighter with a heart

Clickhappy! Star Quest, Apr '16
By Kaustav Manna

Star of the month: Anurag Maitrayee at the 'Kolkata Rainbow
Pride Walk 2011'. All photo credits: Nilanjan Majumdar
Star Quest is 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.

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.

Maid in India

Clickhappy! Apr '16
Suchandra Das narrates the story of Akka, a house maid in Chennai

This is the story of a house maid. I call her Akka, which means didi or elder sister in Tamil. I asked her name but she just smiled and said "Akka okay". She travels 28 kilometres everyday from Poonamallee to my residence in Thiruvanmiyur. She was my ‘rescuer’ when I shifted from Kolkata to Chennai in December 2015. She works in 15 houses in my colony. We don’t understand each other’s language but we still communicate.

Quick HIV primer

Advice - Mind, Body and Family, Apr '16
By Dr. Prasenjit Saha

For your concerns about HIV exposure, its prevention and treatment (in the Indian context). 

Reader queries

There is so much half information about HIV floating around. Can one have a simple list of the most important things that should not be done if one has to prevent HIV infection? And where does one go to find out if one has HIV?
Sameera, West Bengal

Monday, March 21, 2016

'Mere paas moo hai'

Vartanama, Mar '16
By Pawan Dhall

Photo credit: Pawan Dhall
“Why isn’t the milk curdling well these days?” My mother has no satisfactory explanation in response to my complaint made the nth time in the last couple of months. We try to figure out what could have gone wrong. It is the same brand of milk that gave delicious results till last year. Firm-textured curd – no, actually dahi sounds better – with just a thin layer of sinful fat! It has been my comfort food since childhood, either to be had plain, as a raita, with paranthas or rice, or as a dessert (mixed with sugar, gur, shakkar and even sugar free powder). So much so that I can wear the tag of dahi chor with mischievous pride!

Ponnayā – an identity makeover movement in Sri Lanka

Insight, Mar '16
Damith Chandimal believes in reclaiming ‘Ponnayā’, a derogatory term for feminine men and homosexuals in Sinhalese, as a self-reaffirming identity, not just in relation to one’s sexuality but also in questioning ethnic, religious and caste rigidities. Excerpts follow from an article he wrote recently (with editorial support from Kenneth Gunasekera): Giving up Sinhala Identity and Proudly Embracing Ponnayā as a Self-identity.

What does it mean exactly to give up an ethnic identity? Is it possible to erase one’s ethnic identity? Though it may not be possible to erase one’s ethnic roots, giving up identity could be a political decision and a political statement. Furthermore one does not have a singular identity, but multiple identities, all of which are socially constructed. It is easier to define ourselves within frameworks of these existing identities, especially within identities that are assigned at birth such as gender, ethnicity, caste, and so on. But deviating from, refusing to accept assigned identities, or even criticizing these identities is usually punished, stigmatized and discriminated against in our societies.

Buddhist monks clash with military and police officers at a protest held in
front of Homagama Court against the arrest of Gnanasero Thero, General
Secretary of Bodu Balu Sena, an extremist Buddhist organization.
Photo credit: Eshan Fernando 

Decoding consent

Happenings, Mar '16
Cracking the consent conundrum was the focus of a panel discussion organized by Civilian Welfare Foundation, Kinky Collective and Varta Trust last month in Kolkata. Pompi Banerjee reports

Kolkata, February 20, 2016: Nearly 30% out of 71 people felt that the age of sexual consent in India should be 15 years. Almost 25% agreed that long-term intimate partners need not explicitly seek verbal consent every time they wanted to have sex with each other, another 30% were undecided. Among those who clearly disagreed with this statement, there were far more women than men. Not saying no or not resisting advances implies consent for sex – only 54% of the audience disagreed with this statement. Consent for sex can be withdrawn at any point of time – 79% agreed, but 21% did not or were undecided, which was equally worrying!

Photo credit: Arunabha Hazra

When the mind disassembles

My Story, Mar '16
Dementia is the focus of Pallav Bonerjee’s next in a series of personal narratives on psychology, people and destiny

Many of you will have encountered this nebulous term called ‘dementia’. Unfortunately, it is becoming a rather familiar term these days. Dementia is a collection of symptoms essentially as a result of a chronic degenerative disease of the brain. These symptoms can include disturbances in memory (short-term memory), orientation and comprehension, calculation, learning capacity, language, thinking and judgement. There is currently a great deal of academic and clinical interest (both national and international) in trying to find a cure for this disorder, which mostly affects the elderly (typically, post 65 years of age).

Graphic credit: Pallav Bonerjee, Prosenjit Pal

The most common cause of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease, which was first discovered in 1906. Since then we have had over a 100 years to identify a cure and we haven’t been able to reach there yet. Just to give you a picture of the magnitude of its impact, currently around 35 lakh people in India have Alzheimer’s dementia. It is estimated that this number will double in the next 15 years. According to the February 2016 issue of TIME Magazine, “Globally, nearly 50 million people are living with dementia, most of which is caused by Alzheimer’s and in the absence of effective drugs and other interventions, this number is expected to double every 20 years”. Now, that is not a pretty picture.

Star quest: Fire and hope

Clickhappy! Star Quest, Mar '16
By Pawan Dhall

Star of the month: Jacinta Kerketta on a visit to St. Augustine's
College, Manoharpur where she completed her intermediate
studies (all photographs courtesy Jacinta Kerketta)
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 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.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Wow, what a month!

Vartanama, Feb '16
By Pawan Dhall

WOW felicitation ceremony. Photo credit: Prosenjit Pal
It is Valentine’s Day eve and Saraswati Puja (often considered Bengal’s homegrown Valentine’s Day). Just back from an inspiring launch of the Women on Wheels (WOW) programme in Kolkata and it is the time to pen down these thoughts – lest the ‘wow moment’ writers swear by passes away!

Monday, February 22, 2016

Some murders ‘more foul’ than others?

Insight, Feb '16
Terror attacks in Paris last year set Aude Vincent thinking about the ‘hierarchy’ of genders, races, aggressors and violence in France

Posters in support of Jacqueline Sauvage: "Before rapists and aggressors all
our answers are legitimate!" and "It's never too late to end domestic violence!
We're not alone!" Photo provided by Aude Vincent

In 2015 in France, 147 people were killed in terror attacks by Islamist extremists. In 2014 in France, 134 women were killed by their partners or ex-partners (all males) – numbers for 2015 are yet to be communicated. If you include suicides by victims of domestic violence, you can add around 200 women to the figure for 2014.

The first number of 147 is supposed to be an ‘historical record’, a ‘premiere’ and a ‘shock’, widely reported and commented on by the media. The second number of 134 is just ‘business as usual’. Since as long as these deaths have been counted (at least since 20-30 years), on an average in France a woman is killed by her partner every two or three days. Information about it does exist, and more now than a few years ago, but certainly not as massively as for the terrorist killings.

Homophobia has no place in Sikhism

Happenings, Feb '16
We share excerpts from a thought-provoking article by Sukhdeep Singh that first appeared in Gaylaxy webzine on February 4, 2016

Personal bias should not be passed off as Sikh ethics by SGPC

On 26th January, India’s first transgender band launched their second song along with Sonu Nigam. The song titled Sab Rab De Bande was derived from a famous shabad from Guru Granth Sahib, the holy book of Sikhs, also worshipped as the living Guru by the Sikh community. Written by Saint Kabir, it has been included in Guru Granth Sahib and signifies the amount of importance Sikh Gurus placed on the fact that all human beings are a creation of God and are equal.

Golden Temple, Amritsar. Photo credit: Sukhdeep Singh

Star quest: Gulabo's story

Clickhappy! Star Quest, Feb '16
By Aakash

Star of the month: Gulabo
(all photographs courtesy
Gulabo and Aakash)
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 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.

Varta welcomes its readers to contribute to Star Quest by sending information about individuals living anywhere in India who can be portrayed in the column. Please send a brief description of the individual and their work in about 100 words to, and also include three to five high quality photographs of the individual depicting their day-to-day life.

Please note that no individual will be portrayed in this column through text or photographs till the Varta team has interacted with them and obtained their informed consent. Therefore it is vital that readers also obtain the consent of the individuals concerned before sending information about them to Varta.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Next step in Section 377 challenge

Advice - Rights and Laws, Feb '16
By Kaushik Gupta

Reader queries

When the Honourable Supreme Court of India took up the Section 377, Indian Penal Code curative petition on February 2, 2016, why couldn't they hear out the arguments of the petitioners on that day itself? Why did they have to defer it again?
MN, Barasat

Monday, February 08, 2016

Twist in Section 377 saga!

My Story, Feb '16
Vivek Divan on his mood swings as the Honourable Supreme Court of India decided not to reject the curative petitions against its December 2013 verdict on Section 377, Indian Penal Code and referred them to a Constitution Bench for possible reconsideration

At a gathering of queer people and allies at the Academy of Fine Arts,
Kolkata on February 1, 2016 evening. Photo credit: Pawan Dhall

I’ve become a poor predictor of these things. As one of the core team at Lawyers Collective who strategized and filed the Naz Foundation (India) Trust’s petition against Section 377 in 2001, I was full of optimism about its outcome then though I knew it would take a while. I got more pessimistic as time passed and the case went through the quirks of the justice system. But lo and behold! We got a great bench of judges in the Delhi High Court in 2008, and won. When the judgment was appealed to the Supreme Court of India, I was convinced we couldn’t lose given the great praise that was heaped on the Delhi High Court judgment by law schools and legal experts in India and around the world. And, even after witnessing the way in which the Supreme Court heard the case in 2012 (gingerly, with evident discomfort) I couldn’t imagine we would lose; the Delhi High Court judgment might be watered down, but we would remain decriminalised, I thought. After all, apart from the celebrated High Court ruling we also had a very strong legal case, a government that had no objection to the decision, and a bunch of opponents who had religious bigotry, and arguments based on hypocritical morality and bogus ‘data’ on their side, but little in terms of legal arguments. And, of course, we lost.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

A letter from queer India, supporters and allies

Happenings, Jan '16 (Update 1)
'377 No Going Back' campaign is organizing vigils across the country ahead of February 2, 2016, the day the Honourable Supreme Court of India is likely to hear the curative petition in the matter of Section 377, Indian Penal Code

Dear Reader

A court does not confer Fundamental Rights; it confirms their existence. The right to dignity, liberty and equality is ours, as per the Constitution of India. But a law that is currently in our statute books prevents its citizens, in particular lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender Indians, from realising these rights.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

‘Self-reflection abhi baki hai’

Vartanama, Jan '16
By Pawan Dhall

Media headlines on Rohith Vemula's suicide
Research scholar Rohith Vemula’s death on January 17, 2016 in the wake of the Hyderabad Central University’s unjustified expulsion of Dalit students last year has saddened, shocked and angered people across the globe. It has left many as stymied bystanders who for that fraction of a moment couldn't help marvel at the human capacity to hurt, insult, demean and kill a fellow human. Beyond this reverie though, it must give reason for those engaged in or even remotely interested in socio-political reforms to pause and reflect on their beliefs and strategies. No doubt tremendous efforts and sacrifices have gone into bringing about greater social equity in India not just since independence but even before it. And yet Rohith Vemula’s suicide and the events leading up to it and since then indicate that “Dilli abhi door hai”. Sounds clichéd, but painfully true.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Queer, Dalit and questioning

Insight, Jan '16
By Dhrubo Jyoti

The author at the '14th Kolkata Rainbow
Pride Walk
', December 13, 2015
Photo credit: Pawan Dhall
When Bahujan intellectual Kancha Ilaiah inaugurated the ‘1st Telengana Queer Swabhimana Walk’ last February, little did anyone know that it would spark a deluge of assertion of Dalit identities in queer spaces across the country. The well-known writer’s presence was part of the organiser’s conscious push to reach out to as many struggles and movements across the region – as a result, Dalit and Bahujan contingents marched in the pride walk. Later in July, Dalit feminist author Gogu Shyamala inaugurated Hyderabad’s queer carnival and expressed solidarity with the struggles of LGBTQIA people (an umbrella term for queer communities or people with non-normative genders and sexualities).

Reconnecting – please don’t wait!

My Story, Jan '16
Continuing a series of personal narratives on psychology, people and destiny, Pallav Bonerjee writes about his epiphany of the New Year – the secret to a good life

The New Year did begin with a bang. We had barely recovered from celebratory hangovers and sat down with our new list of resolutions and there was already a parallel list of incrementing stressors, setting in a flavour for the times to come. Delhi’s toxic air was crowned once again as the worst possible in the world. This led to a new ‘odd-even’ formula for taking cars out on the streets for the first 15 days of the month in the entire National Capital Region. This led to many interesting discussions, jokes, fan fare, heated debates and public opinion polls. Eventually, we gave in and settled down.

Salt, pepper and sex – on the table!

Creations, Jan '16
Pawan Dhall in conversation with advocate Kaushik Gupta, 44 and physician Dr. Archan Mukherjee, 33, both photography enthusiasts and creators of Colours of Love in . . . Monochrome, 2016, somewhat plain-sounding but easily the ‘hottest’ calendar in town – displaying it on your table may well call for revisiting and confronting your ideas about gender, sexuality and sexual pleasure

Photographs courtesy: Colours of Love in . . . Monochrome, 2016
Pawan: Before we flip through the calendar, let’s hear something about the creators.

Archan: I’m a photo artist and a doctor (Master of Public Health) and teach in a medical college – I travel between Kolkata and Durgapur for work.

Pawan: How did the combination of doctor and photo artist come about?

Stop passing the buck!

Advice - Disability, Jan '16
Shampa Sengupta argues that both government and civil society are not living up to their commitment towards women with disabilities

Photo credit: Shampa Sengupta
Rarely do we see news or photographs of women with disabilities on the front page of any newspaper. So when Ira Singhal made it to the first page of all the national dailies of India in July last year, it was a matter of great joy. Ira Singhal, who topped the Union Public Service Commission examination and made all of us proud, talked about the hurdles she faced in life. According to some media reports, she maintained that her parents did not bring her up as someone with ‘special’ problems and the difficulties she faced were more on grounds of gender than disability. Since this is her personal experience, we believe in her words. However, the majority of disabled women face multiple levels of discrimination. Sometimes they articulate the discrimination they face; at other times they perhaps don’t even understand the inequity and remain in an unaware stage without striving to change the situation.