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 Unfortunately, July 2, 2009 was cruelly superseded by December 11, 2013, when the Supreme Court of India reinstated Section 377 and in effect recriminalized queer people.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 (

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

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. 

Skin (s)care!

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

Every season comes with its unique set of gifts and tantrums. Summer in India is not very comfortable. With a rise in the maximum temperature every year, Indians are left scorching in the hands of global warming. Given its sub-continental stretch, India has wide differences in weather patterns. In some parts, the summer is hot and humid, while in some other parts it is dry. The amount of rainfall also varies from state to state. This causes local variations in the pattern of summer-related health problems. In most parts, however, people face problems with their skin and hair. This month we turn our attention to some common summer-related skin health problems, associated myths and their medical remedies.

Intimate partner violence

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

Intimate dreams and relationships can be disrupted by partner violence. A look at the legal remedies available

Reader queries

I am researching intimate partner violence in the context of men in sexual and romantic relationships with other men. If a man is beaten up by a same-sex intimate partner, under what section of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) can the culprit be punished?
Sameer, Kolkata