4-Part Poem On LGBTQ Workspace In India

Always comforted by binaries
So used to divisions of only Two
I found myself baffled when I
Entered the Ladies’ Room
And found a bunch of men

Below is a four-part poem encompassing various aspects of an LGBTQ workspace from an outsider’s perspective.

[Artwork Credit Poem 1 & Poem 4 by Shayxme // Poem 2 & Poem 3 by Priya Dali]

 

 

PART 1

Growing up in a cisgender family

That treads lightly on issues

Relating to gender and identity

Is a living bubble of reality

Carefully warped to suit

Dimensions that were smaller

Than the palm of my hands.

So when I told my mother

That I would be spending

Every day

For a little more than a month

In the company of

Fellow colleagues who were not

Like Us

She asked me: Will there be men?

I understood what she meant

I had to hold my breath
And explain

That homosexuality was a realm

Of its own

And as an unfortunate outsider

It was my duty to attempt

To understand the oppressed

For what was the point of my privilege

If I did not choose to wisely transgress.

An awkward silence prevailed

 

An uncomfortable chatter resumed

Families in India,

For they’re the only ones I know,

Are pretty good at avoiding conversations:

For days, we let the topic linger

In the air, cold like stale food,

Eerie like gambling with dice,

I wish I had misjudged his eyes

When I saw a tear of shame

Trickle down my father’s face

“But he was always so wise”

I thought, with my pride vanishing

And an ailing curve in my spine.

For comfort I reached out

“So it works for gay people?”

An acquaintance asked

I nodded, giving up on

Explaining the politically correct

Terminologies vast.

He asked me if I’d have the

Opportunity to watch

One woman’s tongue

Patrolling the inside of

Another’s crotch.

My ticking point

Mid-conversation I stopped

Eyes red, choking on words,

Feeling aghast!

He laughed, nudged, and

Asked me to relax, let lose, for

Life was Short.

Using it like a punchline

For all the anguish he cast.

I felt defeated, alas

Even though I’d only

Just entered a foreign battle

That was part of the

Ongoing Spectrum War.

 

Part 2

It was like stepping onto

A burning ground

Only the heat was in my head

And the fire soon cooled down

Into icicles – in my mind

I decided to contour shapes

Of Kindness from those that seemed

More aloof and unfamiliar

Until I realised that I was actually

The absconding culprit

A manifestation of stereotypes

And fears.

 

Part 3

On my first day of work

Approached me a man

With his shoulders bent inwards

And an unsure stance

The bottom ends of his trousers

Made of threads coming apart

But his smile is what kept

Most of us sane

From morning to dark.

He offered me tea

Three and a half times

A day

Three times approaching my desk

Fourth time I’d use my glance

And half-smile

To push him away

He was present to greet me

Every morning I decided to

Step in early

He mopped the floors

And threw out the trash

And cooked a hearty meal

Whenever asked.

It took me a good seven

Working days to understand

Why he fumbled and spoke

Words that seemed to be straight

Out of a toddler’s dictionary:

His speechlessness was a

Decision simply placed in his lap

Rendering him immobile in a world

Where static communication was

Bridging gaps.

His warmth was something

I took back with me

That, and the excess of sugar

He always put in my tea

Which I sipped regardless

Of what it was doing to me.

He refilled mugs of coffee

And waited to be beckoned

By those who sit in cabins –

O’ Prosperous beings!

Helping others rise to their status.

Power Structure, my friends,

Is a wilderness of its own

Carefully marked out on boundaries

Of various Identities alone.

 

Part 4

Always comforted by binaries

So used to divisions of only Two

I found myself baffled when I

Entered the Ladies’ Room

And found a bunch of men

Forcing their wrists into bangles

Inappropriately sized for them

Bickering over the perfect sari

Fall, bending to pleat it well

My eyes met with confident

Apologies from their side

They snuck out with their

Identities carefully hidden

Underneath their tragic smiles.

 

About the guest author

Pankhuri Shukla

Pankhuri is a journalism student currently studying in Pune. Mostly goofy and awkward, she often tries to pass off as a mature adult by eating breakfast, contributing to zines, running her own blog and reading alongside trying to have a social life. Whether it's a paperback or Twitter – her ultimate solace continues to lie in words.