Indian society has long stifled the Queer expression and our way of communicating with the world. Therefore, the idea of stand up performances as a medium of expression…the Queer expression… is something I can never give a miss. So, this very inclination led me to Mumbai last weekend where the gorgeous and famed founder of Queer Ink, Ms Shobhna was holding a book fair and a Queer Open Mic event as part of the fair festivities.
To begin with, I loved the book fair and was surprised to see the sheer number of books on the LGBTQ subject: from English authors to foreign, from fictional to personal, simple words to graphics. Funnily enough, it brought back memories of the days when I used to search book stores and libraries for an LGBTQ section and was often left disappointed, only to realize today that they always existed, we just needed someone to point them out.
Moving on to the Queer Open Mic event, to be honest it was a mixed bag of feelings.
Good stuff: Verse and prose that explored themes of gay love and desire, songs of concealed desire. Most amusing was Aham’s coming out episode to his mother in law and that too on a social networking site. Then there was the almost orgasmic recitation of M. Svairini’s poetry “Pedestal” by the lady herself. And then there was the Gaysi gang of girls. Yes, we ladies did our best to entertain and advertise.
Not so good stuff: I was very disappointed to see the turn out (few as audience and even fewer performers). This made me wonder, why the heck do they call this city the gay capital?
Now not to start with the age old Dilli vs. Mumbai debate here, but Delhi really is far more eclectic in this sense. And my splendid experience at the Nigah Queer café evening holds enough weight to back my words. Packed space, “Straight” support & participation, over enthusiastic performers, and the list goes on.
I always thought that there were many like me who craved for such spaces where one could meet new people, exchange thoughts, ideas, and have a fun time out of the closet. But I am not too sure if this sits well with the sensibilities of majority of the Queer folks in Mumbai city, especially women. Yes, Gay parties are good but not enough, in my opinion. Is it the fear of coming out in public? Or just the lack of interest in a creative, stimulating, intelligent and vibrant space? Beats me.
Another personal observation was the lack of any sense of queer community there. I did not see any other queer organization except a couple of folks from the Humsafar Trust. In Delhi at any such event, we see participation from almost all known Queer groups, be it in the background or the forefront. The efforts of ‘The Delhi queer pride committee’, ‘Pink Delhi’, ‘Nigah’ and various others for making the Delhi queer scene so colorful and engaging should not only be appreciated but also exemplary.
We are part of the 21st century, we are almost done with IPC 377 and we need collective voices for representation if we wish to bring the society in sync. Unfortunately, in Mumbai it appears the queer groups operate in isolation, and unity only exists to give an impression of harmony.
It’s commendable what Queer Ink did for the city and its Queer junta. And even more commendable that they did all, almost single handily. Mumbai, you should be lucky.