Thoughts on “Queer Literature, Queer Rights” dialogue organized by PEN @Prithvi.
She’s dressed in a brilliant mix of fuchsia pink and emerald green, a silver kangan to add to the beauty of her already gold-decked body, and a set of matching pink-rimmed spectacles. Her book is more than just a novel – it’s the history of generations of her ancestors, spread across the world. She smiles with the confidence of anyone who’s conquered her dreams, yet the weariness in her reflects the heat of the April sun, the sweat and the travel she’s undertaken to come to this queer meet.
He likes cotton, preferably worn in red, with a red-daisy adorning the neck – nah, bow-ties don’t suit the artsy guts of a writer whose passion for research of any kind can’t out-do his flair for kitsch. He’s born this way, so he’s wearing his specs this way; big, black-rimmed, bigger than his cheek-bones can accommodate, yet overwhelming anyone with his charm and geeky looks that demand attention. Oh, and not to miss, the recycled-plastic-wrapper bag as a statement against all the garbage dumps in this goddamned, yet lovely city.
The book reading can begin.
But wait, there’s someone equally confident as these two, yet with a poise and wise look on her face, that the brats on her either side can’t match. Curate, moderate, mediate, liberate – she likes them ‘ate’ words, she likes food. And anything about the words – written, to be written, published, or just spoken. She’s the only one who shall sit in between the two that shall narrate from their works,. Mothers, artists, poets, journalists, activists, or even passers-by seem attracted at the sight of a board with pink chalking, up the winding stairs, beyond the myriad of shoes, sandals, slippers and junk, to the open room with striped, bright durries and benches. The air is filled with laughter and wit, before the reading begins.
And then she starts, purple and pink in her thoughts, with a voice that’s husky and sweet, charming and enchanting, all at once. Lovely words pour out of her – a lifetime of experiences documented hardbound, a set of experiences that have the audience rapt in attention afire with laughter, nods and tears in their eyes. She doesn’t exaggerate, she’s definitely practiced reading as much as writing before, but she knows her story so well, that the words don’t fail her at all. It’s all in her genes, her memories and her erotic dreams.
He then seizes his chance, as she drops the last leaf and the audience their last laugh, to take them on a roller-coaster ride. A flurry of images from a psychedelic life, prose mingling with poetry and vice-versa amidst all the paradoxes of an ‘otherwise’ lifestyle, in an ever-growing, cosmopolitan city, with men and women, queer and not so queer, fun and boring, colorful and dreary – he charms them again, with visuals of a hot-air-balloon ride across the world of Bombay. Yes, it’s a world, not just a city – it’s alive and full of zest, so much so that it takes all the people and their cultures that come to it, hardly letting go. Disco-Jalebi – can neither forget that word nor his chuckles when he utters other words in regional lingo. What fun!
‘Finding home’ determines the focus of the discussions, eliciting arguments, agreements and applause. An occasional journalist-cum-god-knows-who seeks sensational views about the community’s active involvement in the nation’s activities, its own legal and social battles and maybe some Masala for his write-up in some column. The crowd raised eyebrows, answered some queries, ignored some, and moved on.
Does Gaysi also get involved in this? Yes – Gaysi wants to know how online write-ups and texts would count in the eyes of print-media literati, and then the discussion shifts to movies, Dostana, Sholay’s screenplay, Fire and erotica. This against a backdrop of: eyebrows, nods, stirs, jeers, hoots, memories of men intimate with men, women with women, yet pretentious, unlike the likes of the ones present there that evening.
While all this is happening, I nudge MJ, rendering comments with sarcasm at times, at times with acknowledgment of the emotions being shared by each of the authors, or the audience. I’ve scanned every inch of the room with my eyes and the camera I hold, for recording the event in my brain – there’s such an intellectual vibe in the air I am breathing, digesting and sweating out, that I need to capture it, within my fist, my retina and the lens. Be it the clothes that people wear, their hair-dos, the jewels or tattoos, I’ve managed to ingest every bit of this visual experience in my head, including the verbal diarrhea between the various personalities present, each of them trying to grab a space for themselves during the intelligent moments, not to make their mark, but to express those thoughts and aspirations that seem triggered and pushed out of those magical heads of theirs..
Somewhere towards the end, I sense that E’s blonde hair and sweet, slender back is close to me. I feel so intense in the issue of being queer in her presence, I feel I should hug her, but why? I nudge closer to E now, giving her back a rest with my chin, although I’m resting myself on her, she’s leaning back on me – we’re symbiotic, we’re together, yet different. The intensity of this literary moment fires each of us up, including E and I, and suddenly I imagine taking over her presence, filling her lips with mine, teasing her nipples, sucking those luscious melons of feminine energy, delving into her, and back, losing myself in her lost self, losing ourselves in this lost world so literary and vibrant. She then bids farewell and disappears behind me, and I lose her mentally, and when everyone calls it an evening and thank you’s are exchanged between participants, out-of-the-blue stumbles in my Angel in a white Gheebutter shirt and grey Bombay Electric shorts, literally throwing my plans of indulging in carnal orgies and high spirits the same night into nothing. After a hug and kiss I settle quickly for a walk by the beach, sharing thoughts of caring and abusive relationships and the mad city that keeps drawing us back to it, despite me wanting to leave it and him all the time. I love him.
I’m queer. I’m not so into him or her, I’m like this only. What a confused mind!