Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Cause-way to the New Year

Vartanama, Dec '14
By Pawan Dhall

December 1 – World AIDS Day; December 2 – Bhopal gas tragedy; December 3 – International Day of People with Disability; December 6 – Babri Masjid demolition; December 10 – Human Rights Day; December 11 – Supreme Court verdict on Section 377, Indian Penal Code; December 16 – gang rape incident in Delhi . . . the last month of the year seems to be a good time for the Indian nation to introspect on its tryst with destiny that began in 1947.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Media warriors of ‘Khabar Lahariya’

Insight, Dec '14
Soma Roy Karmakar in conversation with Kavita, Executive Editor, Khabar Lahariya, a weekly newspaper written, edited, illustrated, produced and marketed by 40 rural women journalists from six districts in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar – half the districts lie in the infamous Bundelkhand region. Thirty years old Kavita from Kunjanpurva in Banda district of Uttar Pradesh is a post-graduate in political science

Photo credit: Yashas Chandra
Soma: One of the key issues on which Khabar Lahariya reports is violence against women. You have also undertaken such reporting. What was your motivation behind it?

Kavita: Survivors of violence open up easily to us. They believe that we will understand the pathos and pain of their suffering more than any other journalist as we belong to the same region, caste and gender as well. Our strong will power to print the actual truth behind the stories, ignoring the glare of powerful political and community leaders helps us to take up and publish such burning issues of the regions we work in.

An ode to my grandparents

My Story, Dec '14
Pallav Bonerjee on his tryst with psychology, people and destiny – the third in a series of personal narratives

I lost my maternal grandmother on the 12th of September this year. It was an ordinary day till the news of her demise came in. I was at office, consulting. The patient sitting in front of me was talking about his compulsive need to check for trace amounts of soap on his scalp after bathing every day, when a phone call from my father broke the news. I was a bit surprised to see his name flash on my phone screen. He usually doesn’t call me during office hours. I instinctively disconnected it with a message that I would get back later and refocussed on my patient. He was narrating about his checking ritual which now involved his wife’s assurance that his scalp was, in fact, perfectly soap-free, at which point he would be satisfied and leave home for office. The phone rang again.

For a breath of that Kolkata air

Travel Travel, Dec '14
Aude Vincent on her nth India sojourn of train rides, road journeys, Durga Puja, NGOs and the distinctive Kolkata air

A Kolkata scene. All photo credits:
Aude Vincent
September 10, 2014, 2 pm, Kolkata airport. Far from my first trip to India, maybe the sixth, in a bit more than 10 years. And like each time, the childish joy of the first breath – the air is damp, rich, with a distinctive smell. And no, I’m not talking of the pollution! In Paris I can find hot snacks in packets and Alphonso mangoes directly imported, Tamil food on a banana leaf and sweet paan (betel). But to smell this air I have to travel about 7,000 kilometres, and I’m glad I have to. Some things have to be missed and looked forward to, without immediate and ‘any time’ satisfaction.

Friendship, love, warmth – totally natural!

Clickhappy! Dec '14
Arunabha Hazra shoots some fun moments at the ‘Rainbow Carnival 2014’ at Rabindra Sadan, Kolkata on December 7, 2014 – the third consecutive year the carnival was organized


The carnival opens. All photo credits: Arunabha Hazra

Gay couples and surrogacy

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

Reader queries

We are a gay couple and want to have a child through surrogacy? Is this possible? What are the legal implications?
Anonymous, Kolkata

The first issue that needs to be addressed here is that Indian law, unfortunately, does not yet recognize the concept of a ‘gay couple’. Marriage can take place only between a male and a female. Two men can choose to identify as a gay couple but the law only understands and recognizes a heterosexual married couple.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Doodle your protest!

Creations, Dec '14
We are obsessed with Section 377, Indian Penal Code, aren’t we? Come December 11, and we couldn’t leave any stone unturned to push away this inglorious creation from our lives! As you can see, even doodling, that delightful and distracted art form has also been drawn in. We invited doodles to register protest on the first anniversary of the Supreme Court verdict on Section 377, and we got much more . . . thank you, all contributors . . . and we are looking for more at vartablog@gmail.com!


Monday, November 17, 2014

To print or not to print?

Vartanama, Nov '14
By Pawan Dhall

With this issue of Varta, we complete 16 months of publication. All along, right from the start, we have deliberated extensively on publishing also a monthly print (tabloid) version of Varta newspaper. In the process, varying views have come up in our discussions, including if indeed we publish the tabloid, what frequency should it have – monthly, quarterly or some other frequency? Alternately, should we just stick to an online version (this blog) and rather focus on improving its content, looks, user-friendliness and reach? Additionally, what languages other than English should we publish the newspaper in?

If women gain, men don't lose

Insight, Nov '14
By Pawan Dhall

Only men with 56 inch chests welcome! When this becomes the criteria for the top job in the political leadership of a country, where is the space for the sentiment behind a statement like “When women gain, men don’t lose”? Are men pre-occupied with large chest sizes and other aggressive forms of manhood likely to let go off power, share it and invest in women and children’s gains? Are they likely to do so for supposed ‘social misfits’ like transgender, gay, lesbian or bisexual people; or people not from their religion, race, class or caste? Maybe they will, provided they are honoured with larger-than-life and hero-like adjectives such as ‘protectors’ and ‘providers’. But protectors and providers also tend to be ‘controllers’ of freedoms and choices!
So back to square one?

Hijras as home guards?

Happenings, Nov '14
Hijra community leaders advocate for livelihood options with the police in Bhubaneswar. Pawan Dhall reports

Bhubaneswar, October 18, 2014: “If we don’t get jobs, what other option do we have to earn our bread and butter?” Hijra and other trans woman community leaders posed this question to Dr. R. P. Sharma, Police Commissioner for Bhubaneswar and Cuttack, at a meeting in Bhubaneswar today. A key representative of SAKHA, a support forum for trans women in Odisha, informed Varta that the police officials had expressed concerns about a month earlier that several trans women broke the law and operated as sex workers on different roads of Bhubaneswar at night. In the process, they attracted drunken men who created a nuisance and disturbed other residents in neighbouring localities. Today’s meeting was organized to address the concerns of both sides.

Where to look for minuscule minorities

From the Archives, Nov '14
A random flipping through Counsel Club’s archives takes Pawan Dhall to the world of a few queer men writing in to the support group from small-town India in 1998 – a world where loneliness, anxiety, aspirations and courage all took on the hue of a yellow light bulb, quite removed from the arc lights and neon of metropolitan cities. 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, eastern India’s first queer support group (1993-2002), and from the group’s house journal Naya Pravartak.

“I can’t figure out why, but life seems so miserable today. Is this frustration? Tomorrow, Saturday, our weekly newspaper will be published and yet I didn’t go to work today. Instead I went to see the evening show of Satya. I quite liked it, but do you know how far the cinema hall is from home . . . six km! And there are no buses after 8.30 pm. I decided to walk back home, but somebody gave me a lift on his scooter . . . I wanted to talk to you all on the phone today, but wasn’t sure if I would get anyone . . . You know, these days I see people on the road and think they may well be one of us, but I never get down to talking to any of them. You guys have formed such a nice ‘group’ there, people get to meet each other, talk to each other . . . but I am all alone here. Please help me, for I am gradually losing heart . . .”

Queer in Chhath Puja

Clickhappy! Nov '14
Madhuja Nandi records Kolkata Rista’s campaign against gender-based violence during Chhath Puja celebrations in Kolkata on October 29-30, 2014


Film screening during Kolkata Rista’s ‘Zero Tolerance Campaign on Rape and Gender
Discrimination’ at Kadapara, near Swabhumi in Central Kolkata. A community-based
organization of trans women and other queer people, Kolkata Rista has been
organizing public sensitization events on gender-based violence every year since
the last six years during Chhath Puja, a Hindu festival dedicated to Sun God Surya
and Goddess Chhathi Maiya.























Act now for child protection

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

Reader queries

My neighbours have employed a very young Nepali girl as a maid. She seems sad all the time and cries a lot. I suspect something wrong. Could it be that she has been forced or tricked into this job? If so, what can one do about it legally?
AB, West Bengal

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Pushing boundaries

Vartanama, Oct '14
By Pawan Dhall

As I stood looking up at (and to) Goddess Durga in a popular South Kolkata Durga Puja pandal, the theme of a research paper I was writing on social and economic inclusion flashed past my mind. With her 10 arms resplendent with celestial weaponry, she looked extremely capable of protecting human kind from all directions and from all evils and miseries. Were the Government of India to start a large scale social and economic inclusion programme for the sexually stigmatized and criminalized communities, wouldn’t she make for an apt icon for the programme? Her 10 arms could also stand for a ‘come one, come all’ slogan!

Men and boys – gender justice calling

Insight, Happenings, Oct '14
Pawan Dhall and Madhuja Nandi report on a symposium organized in Kolkata on engaging men and boys in gender justice

Kolkata, September 19-20, 2014: “Our education system can no longer afford to be gender blind”; “Let us change the symbolism of god as male”; “Why should giving pain to one’s body be manly or glorious?” Snapshots of some thought provoking comments made by speakers at a two-day symposium titled ‘Men and Boys for Gender Justice’ organized at Seva Kendra by NGOs Swayam, Kolkata Rista, Ebong Alap, Sanjog and FEM Jharkhand. The symposium was a prelude to the ‘2nd MenEngage Global Symposium 2014’ to be organized in New Delhi in November 2014 by the Centre for Health and Social Justice and MenEngage, a global alliance of organizations working with men and boys for gender equality.

Nagin Hijra, my inspiration

People, Oct '14
Guddua remembers her guru, who dreamt large and inspired others to do so as well

Nearly 40 years ago, a trans woman who was just 19 years old and had run away from home, was found alone at one of the ghats in Banaras. A young Hijra named Reshma was the one who found her and brought her to the Hijra daiyar or ghar (household) in Habra, West Bengal. Reshma Hijra was amazed with the newcomer’s dancing and singing skills, who was short in height and fair in complexion. She never kept any links with her biological family and whenever asked about them, she kept mum.

Empathy – the magic dose

My Story, Oct '14
Pallav Bonerjee on his tryst with psychology, people and destiny – the second in a series of personal narratives

I immensely enjoy the process of observing, not because a student of psychology is primarily taught to do so, but since observation by itself is a fulfilling activity. It does not require a formal set-up or high-end tools. It can happen anywhere! I have, since the recent past, started believing that the process of psychological support or therapy may follow a similar path. It is possible to develop a therapeutic alliance or rapport with an individual in the strangest of contexts, even in the absence of a conscious desire to do so and even then, it serves the purpose – of support and help, and may even be extended to change aspects of an individual’s behaviour. The only essential ingredient is the ability to empathise.

Dream of the orange flowers

Poetry, Oct '14
By Shaleen Rakesh



















Shaleen Rakesh is an author and activist based in New Delhi and has been at the forefront of the gender and sexuality movement in India for the last 20 years. He was the primary petitioner to challenge Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code in 2001. He currently works as Director at India HIV/AIDS Alliance in New Delhi, and is Editor with independent publishing house OpenWord in New Delhi.

Poem sourced from The Lion and the Antler, the first collection of poems by Shaleen Rakesh (World View Publications, 2013). Limited number of copies available with Varta Trust – please write to vartablog@gmail.com.

The female breast

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

The female breast is a magical organ – it nourishes, it entices, it nurtures. It stands out as a prominent distinguishing feature between an adult man and an adult woman. It is also one of the most neglected and misunderstood organs of the human body, its beauty and biology under-appreciated.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Sangram’s ‘Ramdhanu Milan Utsav’

My Story, Sep '14
Aniruddha Dutta on his experience of the ‘2nd Rainbow Festival of Unity’ at Baharampur

It was a cloudy, rainy Sunday evening in Baharampur, a small town that is the headquarters of the district of Murshidabad in West Bengal. The mood was sombre among the participants who had gathered for the ‘Ramdhanu Milan Utsav’ – Baharampur’s version of the annual lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) pride walks and festivals held in many Indian cities. The event, which entered its second year in 2014, was organized by Madhya Banglar Sangram, a community-based organization that works with the transgender and other gender or sexually variant communities of Murshidabad, including Kothis and Hijras (terms for feminine-identified people assigned male at birth).

Friday, September 12, 2014

Remembering Shikari

Vartanama, Sep '14
By Pawan Dhall

Was it 1977 or 1978? Shikari must have been 10 when he was reportedly shot dead by the Hind Motors Colony administration in a ‘cleansing drive’ – or was it something to do with the Emergency? Funnily, I too was around 10 at that point of time. But by then I had moved with my family to Kolkata from Hind Motors and Shikari was gradually receding into a memory. When our family friend broke this news to us, everybody was stunned into silence for a few moments. I don’t remember crying for him, but Shikari’s image in my mind became vivid and since then has stayed as that of a childhood friend first I lost touch with, and then lost with a finality that can’t be questioned.

Living with a god . . . err . . . dog

Insight, Sep '14
By Dr. Tirthankar Guha Thakurta

Dogs have shared a long evolutionary history with humankind. The archaeological findings on the walls and floors of Chauvet Cave in southern France or the Goyet Cave in Belgium bear testimony to the tens of thousands of years of our relationship with our best friend, the dog. Many theorists believe that humans and dogs evolved together, resulting in a deep sense of interdependence and mutual understanding. It is not surprising that dogs, even without rigorous training, understand so many gestures and words that we use in our day-to-day life. With such an intense inter-species relationship comes a great responsibility – to make the journey safe and joyous for both the species.

Mamalogue - 101

Poetry, Sep '14
By owais

Mother,
I cannot be
like your other sons:
those that live
to consume.
To desire,
to conquer. 
To want,
to get. 
To top,
to orgasm.

Love is a four-legged word

Clickhappy! Sep '14
Love, affection, family can have diverse expressions – each meaningful in its own way and worthy of acknowledgement – Dog-Mom Vahista Dastoor gives us a peek into her family album!


“Whoever said you can’t buy happiness forgot little puppies” – Gene Hill,
American magazine columnist and author of books on nature related subjects


















“The ideal age for a boy to own a dog is between 45 and 50” – Robert Benchley,
American newspaper columnist, actor, humourist


Thursday, September 11, 2014

Vertical infections

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

After sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and reproductive tract infections, it is time to take a look at mother to child infections. Several infections can be transmitted from a mother to her child. The infections can be transmitted not only during pregnancy, but also during the process of childbirth or breast-feeding. Let’s take a look at some of the common infections that can pass down from mother to child.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

The hunt for a social G-spot

Vartanama, Aug '14
By Pawan Dhall

For some people – biologists, medical experts, social scientists and more ordinary folks – the jury may still be out on the existence of the female or even the male G-spot. For those who never heard of such a thing, perhaps this article will set them off on a Google hunt or more sensual offline discoveries. And blessed are those who know exactly where their sweet spot is! But I suppose half the fun is not in the existence of such a point of pleasure, but in the process of exploration and trying to find it. Moreover, who’s to say that there is only one G-spot?

Transferring judgment into action!

Insight, Happenings, Aug '14
A quick round-up by Pawan Dhall on developments related to transgender and Hijra welfare in eastern India in the month gone by

Purulia / Bhubaneswar / Kolkata / Patna, July-August 2014: The run-up to the first birthday of Varta blog couldn’t have been better! The entire month of July saw a number of happenings in eastern India that took the path-breaking Supreme Court April 15, 2014 judgment on transgender identities and rights that much closer to reality on the ground. This was welcome relief from a slowly building up anxiety about when and how the court’s judgment would be implemented. Not that the question of an apex national body to oversee and coordinate the implementation systematically was answered. But it was good to see both civil society and state government initiatives catch the ball lobbed in the air by the Supreme Court and run with it!

Fulfilment in mental health

My Story, Aug '14
Pallav Bonerjee on his tryst with psychology, people and destiny – the first in a series of personal narratives

I did not choose psychology. It chose me. It allowed me to fool around a bit after high school, attempting competitive exams to get into engineering colleges like most of my friends, without adequate preparation. It gave me sleepless nights when all the entrance exams that I took for engineering closed their doors on my face due to abysmal performance. It gave me a chill down my spine as my best friends started their academic curriculum in professional courses while I stood around clueless, not knowing how to get back to studies again. It made me feel terribly embarrassed in front of family and successful cousins. It got me wondering about subjects I never knew existed. It made be swallow my self-pride and pushed me into exploring colleges I wouldn’t have wanted to be seen dead in. And then, as I was almost about to give up hope, it gracefully accepted me.

Micro-poetry jewels

Poetry, Aug '14
By Bauke Kamstra

Your eye
when it sleeps
leaves me dark

open
it is fire.

***

Cries for help
only draw
predators.

***

Still alive
still with passion

not rendered
inconsolable

by the memory
of pain.


Bauke Kamstra, artist and poet, resides in Nova Scotia, Canada. His book We All Reach the Earth by Falling will be published in November 2014. You can often find him offering poetry on Twitter https://twitter.com/Wyrde.

'Varta' blog 1st birthday album!

Clickhappy! Aug '14
Birthday messages from Varta team members . . .


Madhuja Nandi: To me the name Varta carries a big meaning. Varta is not only a form of media, but is also a ray of hope. It means a thin white line of light, which can lighten the dark room in my heart. Birthday wishes and loads of love and affection to Varta.

Reproductive tract infection alert

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

In the previous issue we discussed about sexually transmitted infections or STIs. This issue will focus on the basic idea about reproductive tract infections or RTIs.

What is a reproductive tract infection?
The male and female organs of reproduction are often called reproductive tracts. Any infection of the reproductive tract can be called a reproductive tract infection.

Gender change legalities

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

Reader queries

I am a female-to-male transgender person living in Kolkata. I am a central government employee. I wish to legally change my gender from the existing female to male. In view of the Supreme Court judgement of April 15, 2014, what are the steps to be taken by me for the same?
ST, Kolkata

Monday, July 14, 2014

Kolkata queer pride roots for 365 without 377

Happenings, Clickhappy! Jul '14 (update 1)
Pawan Dhall and Kaushik Gupta on the ‘13th Kolkata Rainbow Pride Walk’, July 13, 2014, which protested the piecemeal granting of rights to queer people by the Supreme Court of India

The run-up to the '13th Kolkata Rainbow Pride Walk' began with a poster making
and slogan writing workshop at WBVHA Towers on June 15, 2014.
Photo credit (above and below): Kolkata Rainbow Pride Festival



























Next stop: Kolkata Rainbow Pride Festival fund raiser party
for the walk at Hotel Blue Moon, July 5, 2014.
Photo credit: Pawan Dhall

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

The power of one

Vartanama, Jul '14
By Pawan Dhall

Photo credit: Pawan Dhall
The first wobbly steps of a child . . . first complete words uttered by the child . . . the child’s first birthday!

The first time a child goes out of home alone to school or for an errand . . . or the first time the child stays home alone.

The first pangs of love in school or college . . . the first heart break.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Queer developments in Odisha

Insight, Jul '14
By Pawan Dhall

It would be tempting to dismiss the occasion as yet another consultation on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) concerns, an activity that the Indian queer movement has become rather good at. But this meeting in Hotel Keshari in Bhubaneswar on May 30, 2014 proved to be no run-of-the-mill gathering. Organized by SAKHA, Odisha’s foremost queer support group, and partner agency Solidarity and Action Against the HIV Infection in India (SAATHII), the usual suspects were all there – queer community leaders, NGO workers, lawyers, doctors, psychologists and media persons. Yet the passion with which they discussed and debated key socio-legal concerns facing India’s queer communities was refreshing.

Bangla music against violence

Happenings, Jul '14
Drake Fort reports on the launch of a Bengali music video that talks about the violence faced by queer people

Team Bindubot at the music video shooting site
Photo credit: Bindubot
Kolkata, July 6, 2014: A large part of the struggle of Indian lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and other queer people has found its voice mainly in English. However, the non-English speaking queer populace is also now speaking louder, fuelled by the many legal developments around Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code and transgender rights and identities. This is also reflected in the birth and growth of queer support groups all over India beyond the metro cities, as also in the start of Hindi publications like Gaylaxy Hindi (see A Rainbow in Hindi in the February 2014 issue of Varta). And now comes along a music video in Bengali that talks about the violence faced by queer people day in and day out. Lending support to the effort are Bengali musical stalwarts like Srikanto Acharya, Susmit Bose and Pratul Mukhopadhyay.

Silence

Poetry, Jul '14
By Md. Gulrez

you said you were listening to my every word

but it was my silence which needed understanding

the fall and rise of my breath

the smell of my skin

the floating stares

the whirl in the cheek's pool

the dancing Adam's apple

the unshaven face

the dried lips

the hair on the forehead

the tapping of my feet

the stroke of my hands . . .

. . . were you really listening?



Md. Gulrez is a social development professional working on rural poverty.


Mind that itch!

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

In this issue, let us explore some frequently asked questions about common sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).

The term STD includes any disease that can be transmitted by sexual acts. As these diseases are all infectious, they are also known as sexually transmitted infections or STIs. All people irrespective of their biological sex or gender are susceptible to STIs.

Sharing property: Queer partner rights

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

Reader queries

I am a man and in a relationship with another man. My boy friend has made me a 100% nominee for his flat, of which he is the sole owner. The building society has registered me as a nominee in their books. What are my rights and privileges and can I stay along with him? Can the society object to or question my stay? If yes, what explanation can I give on legal grounds?
SMK, Mumbai

Saturday, June 14, 2014

No giving up, no going back

Vartanama, Jun '14
By Pawan Dhall

July 2, 2014 is round the corner – the fifth anniversary of the landmark Delhi High Court judgment that read down Section 377, Indian Penal Code. Unfortunately, July 2, 2009 was cruelly superseded by December 11, 2013, when the Supreme Court of India reinstated Section 377 and in effect recriminalized queer people. A t-shirt campaign against Section 377 is now underway to emphasize that when it comes to human rights, there can be no giving up on the fight. A few queer activists in Delhi have tied up with FreshMonk to create and sell t-shirts with the ‘No Going Back’ campaign logo set on a black background (www.freshmonk.com/377).

Daring to dream

Insight, Cinemascope, Jun '14
Nitin Karani on the experience of the fifth ‘Kashish Mumbai International Queer Film Festival’

Marathi film Mitraa won the Best Indian Short Narrative
Film Award - a trophy and cash prize of Rs. 20,000
sponsored by Anupam Kher's Actor Prepares School
All photo credits: Kashish MIQFF
Every year, a couple of months before May, one feels trepidation: Will there be a new edition of ‘Kashish’ or not? If you have had a glimpse behind the scenes into the sheer amount of effort and hand wringing behind putting together one edition, you would understand why the apprehension. But each year ‘Kashish Mumbai International Queer Film Festival’ not only happens, it also grows bigger in scale in what seems on the face of a miracle. Festival Director Sridhar Rangayan has a zest for cinema and an indefatigable passion for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) equality, which is probably why, come May, one knows that ‘Kashish’ is definitely on, come hell or high water. Of course, it must require Sridhar Rangayan to summon all of his will power and tap into all of his goodwill to bring together an ever-growing band of friends and queer allies, starting with festival co-organiser Humsafar Trust and festival patron Shyam Benegal.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Straight lines

Poetry, Jun '14
By Shaleen Rakesh

I watch them quietly
they are everywhere

whichever way I turn
whenever I scan the rooms
to understand more

they live around corners
and turn with a parallel force

in the shoe box
on the floors, on roofs
along fingers and toes

down the railway tracks
in your most hidden alleys

sometimes they sit across me
looking strong, confident

elsewhere they are like anyone else
longing for dimension
waiting for their time to come

hoping to sleep
wanting to smile.


Shaleen Rakesh is an author and activist based in New Delhi and has been at the forefront of the gender and sexuality movement in India for the last 20 years. He was the primary petitioner to challenge Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code in 2001. He currently works as Director at India HIV/AIDS Alliance in New Delhi, and is Editor with independent publishing house OpenWord in New Delhi.

Poem sourced from The Lion and the Antler, the first collection of poems by Shaleen Rakesh (World View Publications, 2013). Limited number of copies available with Varta Trust – please write to vartablog@gmail.com.

Qatha: An adventurer speaks

People, Jun '14
By Paramita Banerjee

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 an interview with a bisexual woman, who is in her early 40s, lives in Kolkata and works in the disability sector. She is not comfortable disclosing her name as she fears it might have an adverse impact on her work in the disability sector, which is not necessarily open to sexual diversities yet.

The interview was conducted by Paramita Banerjee in September 2013 and revised with the interviewee in May 2014. It was transcribed by Paramita Banerjee.

Human rainbow

Clickhappy! Jun '14
Anubhav Gupta has an eye for the colours of the human rainbow








































 
















Anubhav Gupta is a media professional, a freelance writer, social activist and photographer based out of Delhi. He is the founder of Jeevan trust, an NGO that promotes social causes through media. He has worked extensively with underprivileged children, people with disabilities, people living with HIV, transgender people and other socially marginalized communities.