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