Category Archives: My Various handicaps

So I am gainfully employed.

Something Is Wrong With This Picture.

Something Is Wrong With This Picture.

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Proud; Also Exhausted, Bewildered, OUT (somewhat)!

Not necessarily in that order.

What with Pride, Good As You and other things, I’ve been meeting loads of people lately – it’s an active social life, with the disconcerting realisation that there are people here (not all of them, obviously, but an unexpectedly large number) whom I actively like. Friends!

It’s shocking.

Every so often one of them would say, You’re coming to the Pride Eval(uation) meeting, right? And after a point (when I figured out when and where it was) I’d say Maybe, Why Not and finally: Sure! Because, what the hell, it’s not like I have anything else to do.

Leave aside the issue of finding the goddamn ALF, which resides quietly and busily on Infantry road; I made my way there merrily enough, and then woke up to the realisation that most of the people there were, in fact, organisers, either officially or unofficially, and what the hell was I doing there?

Either because they remembered they’d invited me, or because they were too polite to throw me out, or because I’M SO AWESOME, they didn’t throw me out.

It was interesting – in fact, fascinating. I’ve known some of these people a while now, but always in a more social, non–meeting-with-agenda setting. The general air was pleased, but also somewhat brisk. Let’s wrap up this thing, it’s been going on for months now, and we’ve done well but we’re done.

The 2010 Bengaluru Pride was funded entirely through donations, with no corporate or institutional sponsorship. I’m not going into numbers, but they did well, especially considering how thankless a process collecting donations can be. Suffice it to say that Pride 2010 is safely in the black. Hooray for budgeting!

They went over the initial planning meetings. Was decision-making inclusive, egalitarian and inclusive? Apparently, (and with some surprise from unnamed people) yes. Were we to worry that the hijra presence seemed less obvious than the last two year’s? Yes, but also no: they’re currently in the middle of negotiation certain issues amongst themselves (not entirely sure, but it involves identity and identification); they’ve had some grief recently and needed to heal and deal; hey, they were there, whole-heartedly, for the things they wanted to be part of. But also yes, just because.

S (there were so many S’s, so this is S1) noted that there were more women and transgender persons in this Pride, making this the least patriarchal event so far. (Hah!)

Media coverage was another thing. The media coverage for 2010’s Pride was pretty shit. The discussion that went on here was long and rambling, but the final consensus seemed to be that

  • there needed to be an official media team, with members who had no (or very few) other duties
  • the Media Team need to chase/harass/be in constant touch with the actual media, reporters, reps etc. to make sure that whatever else, we’ve done our bit to keep them in the loop
  • next time, we should find the LGBT-friendly journalists (especially the older, established names) and get them to help!
  • the reporters who showed but didn’t write anything? we should contact them, do a little follow-up to see if they will now

S2 noted that while Pride may not have received the coverage we wanted, we weren’t sensationalised either, which is all to the good. R noted that sensationalism and coverage are the only ways we reach the people who’re still at home, closeted, hiding, or just feeling alone. On which stalemated note,  we moved on!

(I’ve shifted pronouns from “them” to “us”. I shall continue, because I’m self-involved enough to feel like it’s correct, but in all honesty I did feel a fraud to be there at all.)

Of overlapping concern was the website. It seemed obvious that the Media Team would have to be in close contact with the Website Team (and there needed to be a Website Team!). Whoever worked on the website would need to put things there in Kannada as well as English, right from the start. (Apparently uploading stuff in Kannada is a real hassle on the current site design, I dunno how that works.)

Every report needs to be in both English and Kannada – which lead on a tangent to the issue of translation. S2 spoke about the need to generate our own discourse in Kannada, lifting from English for terminology where convenient, or whatever. (There was talk of compiling a glossary of terms, which is geeky and adorable.) If necessary, the next time around we shall hunt up professional translators to do the job.

Next year’s Pride is likely to be in July, coinciding with the Naz judgement anniversary. July is a nicer time of year, if overly warm. (Planning would start in, like, April or so. That’s barely any time!)

G suggested that a week of concentrated events was silly. Why not stretch it out, with breaks, over a month? D added that this would be useful in making it a larger event, with some focus on Karnatakan queer persons (blanket-terming here, sorry) and not just the urban set.

(I’m not sure whether that’s a GREAT FUCKING AWESOME IDEA or a tiresome waste of an entire month where our lives will revolve around our statements of our sexualities whether we’re out or not. Or both at once, which is what most of my life feels like at the moment.)

S3 (3?) noted that the next Pride needs to be at least big as this event, and if possible, bigger. I am so fucking sorry for the poor sods who volunteer for the next Pride, really I am. Good luck, you, whoever you are!

I’m skipping over the individual events for the most part, except to make note:

  • panel discussions and open forum stuff is best scheduled to weekends and not weekdays during working hours
  • The Transgender Day of Remembrance is an event independent of Pride, and always will be (which means next year the organising, what’s needed of it, will be handled by someone other than the Pride Committee? Or will they do it too, as a last huzzah?)
  • The Drama Baazi and Film Shorts are likely to be long processes with exposure during Pride, but not limited in labour or time to that month

And the leftover cash? Hand it over to the next Pride group? Invest in merchandise? Fund the Film-maker and theatre enthusiasts? Keep it for themselves? (I still sort of think they should have!) Use it to start a Crisis Fund?

Finally, they decided to fund the follow-up events – such as the film-making etc. – and the rest goes to the next Pride.

There is a fascinating in watching these people – some of whom I am going to get to know very well, I hope – in a working scenario, however informal. In seeing the maneuverings of several trains of persistent thought and the negotiations between them – in three languages no less.

I’ll be in Bangalore still next July, and I hope I’m in contact with the cooks making Pride broth, just to see how they work together, how they make decisions and get things done. It seems so WEIRD, a bunch of random people working towards a common goal from their hearts as opposed to their wallets or need to serve a formal authority.

After which, we ate! And then I went home.

My mum, well, has been suspecting that I was hiding something for a while. And she pushed, a bit. Amongst other gems she asked:

  • were all these people I am hanging out with employed?
  • were the unemployed ones rich people with nothing better to do?
  • who were these people anyway?
  • could I not find people I liked this much in other groups?

So I told her I was “bi”. (It’s a rather limiting term really, especially in these days of fluid genders and sexualities, but it’s also convenient.) It didn’t go badly. Just not well.

In the conversation that followed, my mum decided to tell me that I am immature. In context, it sounded like she meant that with reference to my sexuality. In retrospect, I realise she meant it about all of me. She is perfectly okay with whom I may or may not love, may or may not marry.

Hooray for openness, unyay for self-respect, I guess.

Fortunately, the next day we hugged and made up. My mum is always more sensible in daylight. She hasn’t taken it back, about my immaturity, and of course I still fucking resent that. But it’s better than being thrown out of the house or told that my attractions aren’t valid or – well, whatever else people come up with.

(It turns out: I was invited to the Eval meet because I was there. No more, no less. The world does not revolve around you, Roh!)

(I was supposed to post this last Friday. When all of this actually happened. But I am lazy, and this is my blog so I can do what I like! Mwuhahahahaha, etc.)

I Vant Yourrr Buhlood!

It’s been three whole years since I was gone, almost a year since I came back. Bangalore (Bengaluru, gods, I am not sure how to spell it unless I check online, and I cannot be bothered. I like it Anglicised, I’ve always liked it Anglicised, a little unpatriotic betrayal I cling to, sometimes, because rebellion is fun [!]) is a warm blanket against my skin (on show because my Tesco-bought shirt, lovely as it is, is cut a bit deep for India, I’m going to be assaulted on the street and my mother will say I told you so dammit) as I walk into BKF, now renamed NU.

NU has been given a ruthless makeover, and if I ignore the tidy rows of seats for waiting patients (I don’t, I never do, they can’t see it but I’m just like them, only it’s me, not my kidneys) it’s like I’m walking into an office, for a job, maybe, that I’m definitely unqualified for professionally, academically and socially. The receptionist is seated behind thick glass that matches, in spirit if not in colour, the shiny antiseptic grey floors.

Six months, heavy sunlight, sleeping pills, a wedding, a psychiatrist, a therapist, a grandmother and a healthy diet have brought my weight up to forty-six kilograms. In Britain I would still be unable to donate blood (the only reason I would not go back to Britain, rebuild my life there), but here I am just about allowed.

The receptionist (so pretty, so adorably pretty and oh look she’s married, that mangal sutra looks shiny new against her smooth skin) smiles at me. “We’ve closed our blood bank,” she says.

What? “What?” I must look as stupid as I sound – the crippling humiliation of it! – because she smiles at me kindly, repeats, “We’ve closed our blood bank.”

“But why?” Surely a hospital that specialises in organ transplants should have a blood bank readily to hand? The receptionist doesn’t know, and why should she.

I walk back out into NU’s sketchy garden, walk out onto the street, staring somewhat gormlessly (I can see me, staring gormlessly while ignoring the hopeful auto-rickshaw driver who’s waiting for me to ask him to take me somewhere) at the shops opposite. They have nothing I want. The heavy meal I ate two hours earlier sits unhappily in my stomach.

Five, four, three years ago BKF’s blood bank, staffed by my dad’s colleagues, would fuss over me, make sure I was heavy enough to donate, bleed me, feed me excellent coffee and send me away with a few extra smiles and a certificate that said I was a noble person.

When I went abroad in 2006, I was, oh, around 48 kg. I’m five-three, and not at all muscular, so while I was definitely out of the running in the Fitness Olympics (or any Olympics!), I didn’t care much either way so long as someone somewhere still loved me. Lots.

While I was there, in foreign climes, far from home, the cold penetrating to my very soul, the clouds sinking closer to my unprotected head etc. et all, yaddi yadda – while I was there, I began a carefully unplanned campaign of avoiding people, falling ill every so often, being late to class, and trying to find out how I could donate blood.

Unfortunately, these specific Foreign People were built on a larger scale than the average Indian, and had a correspondingly higher minimum weight requirement. To Donate Blood Abroad, I would need to weigh more than fifty kg.

Fifty fucking kilograms? How was I supposed to gain that much weight without going through a light regimen of muscle building? Obviously, I was doomed to bleed only from naturally-constructed orifices for the rest of my natural life. Woe! Alack!

More seriously, I had been donating blood for around two to three years, and I had become accustomed to the idea that I was doing something useful, something valuable, something anonymous for society. I had spent the last two or so years not dieting, realising that I liked my body as-is, and most importantly, I had learned that sometimes good deeds were investment-light. Giving blood took somewhere around half an hour (it’s been a while, so give or take ten). I lay down for most of the procedure. I ate good food an hour or two beforehand, and the donation centre fed me coffee and biscuits after. They would also give me – I kid you not, it was awesome – a certificate, thanking me for my “Noble Gesture”. I might be a raving bitch most hours of the day and night, but for that half an hour, I was a Noble Girl, who made Noble Gestures.

Suddenly deprived of the quick fix-it to my many insecurities, I felt a bit adrift. I’m making neither correlation nor causation here, but two years passed, and then I went back home and was diagnosed with clinical depression.

This is not a post about clinical depression, so suffice it to say: while I was ill and as-yet undiagnosed, I lost a lot of weight. I looked terrible (yes, it matters) and I felt worse. I was way below the 45 kg minimum requirement for donating blood in India. Fortunately, my mum, dad and grandma made up an elite feeding force, and in time I was pushing 45 kg, give or take a kg depending on whatever it is that makes weight swing like that. While I found it difficult to eat in anything approximating to a schedule, or in amounts that would do anything but keep me alive at safe nutrition levels, I did fantasise about giving blood again. I thought: hey, it’ll be a good deed. I’ll be a good person if I bleed for strangers. I’ll get a certificate! And since only healthy people donate blood, if I donate blood, obviously I’ll be healthy!

That’s when I discovered that my old centre had closed.

My weight seems to swing around 44 kg these days, and I’ve not yet found a centre I feel quite comfortable with (yes, this matters too), so currently I’m somewhat like Lancelot on the quest for the Grail – no one, including myself, will let me in.

But I was thinking about it today, in a park of some description, instead of reading The Trotter-Nama like I’d planned. Over the next few months, I decided, I would:

  1. Look to gaining a little weight
  2. Find a place to go to regularly donate blood, assuming all else is well
  3. Repost here some old personal essays about donating blood.

The longish quote at the start of this post is an extract from a much longer (and much whinier) piece, written somewhere in 2009.

 

 

Proud and Loud: Out in the Streets (!)

[So I deserve cookies today too, but since I am stuffed with garlic bread and cheese I shall forgo my demands of the universe and just ask for this post to be finished before midnight.

Edited before posting to add: It wasn’t. It’s 12:40 a.m. Next time, I’ll start earlier.]

I’ve never Marched for Pride before – it’s embarrassing to admit it, but I spent two whole years in Bangalore not even knowing they were happening. Where was my head? What was I doing? It’s a mystery. If I hadn’t been accidentally linked to Good As You, I’d never have even really believed there were LGBT people in Bangalore. And let’s not even start on what might have happened if I hadn’t screwed up the courage to go to a meeting – there’d be nothing to start with.

Anyway. I woke up this morning an hour earlier than I intended to because we had visitors. I watched Numb3rs. (Charlie Epps is so cute, etc.) I made careful purchases to ensure I wouldn’t collapse of deprivation while I walked – coke, granola bars, chocolate. (I learned today that granola bars are a dyke thing. Who knew?)

Then I wended my auto’d, expensive way to Majestic, and walked around until I saw a rainbow-coloured umbrella. And then another. Aha, my inner Sherlock said. This might be My People! And they were!

I was a few minutes early, and the actual walking didn’t start for nearly an hour. This was an hour spent socialising and making note of the people I’d met over the past few days and figuring out which ones I absolutely must talk to again because I actively like them. (Yeah, I’m talking about you. Of course I’m talking about you, babe, I love you! and so on.) I find it a little odd, how many people I recognise. It’s not a HUGE community, but I guess certain people show up everywhere  – because they’re active, they’re supportive, they’re gutsy, they’re proud, it’s either be seen or roll over and die – what have you. People were putting on the hats and masks and picking out posters and getting their faces painted.

I’d located KRI today, learned I could write about him as s/he if I pleased, watched as he got half a green moustache painted on hir face, and finally decided I too must be painted. There were, as far as I could make out, three people doing the painting. Pallavi, the only person I knew, was busy, so a tiny woman (it is very nice to be in Bangalore, where so many people are shorter than I am) called Francesca dabbled away at my left cheek. I couldn’t see the damn thing, though I had asked for Not Pink, and Whatever You Like, so I assumed it was pretty. Staring forbiddingly at my phone, daring her to think I was falling for her technological allure, I managed to take a photo of it. A small triumph for Machine, a Giant Victory over Roh-kind! (Over the course of the day, loads of people took photographs of said cheek. I shall hunt up a few and maybe put them here.)

So. At some point, when the crowd size and assorted noises (people, auto, loudspeaker, various percussion instruments, horn) reached critical mass – We Marched!

I must admit, I was a bit iffy about this whole marching business. I could ramble on and on about why I was ambiguous, but I shall make a tidy list instead.

  • Am I, in fact, all that proud? Dedicated readers might have noticed a certain yen for self-criticism. Does my acceptance of my sexual self indicate the kind of effusiveness the word “Pride” projects?
  • If I suggest that “Pride” is an act of defiance, of self-acceptance, of assertion of my Dignity as a sexual human being, am I steady enough in my Self to walk in public, making this statement?
  • Am I queer? I like women, and I like men; am I comfortable with the label of “bisexuality”, “queer”, granola-eating “dyke”? If I march, am I surrendering to these terms? Am I “committing”, and am I okay with that?
  • Does being not-straight truly make me one with all these people, these massed hordes none of whom seem similar to me, whether they’re L, G, B, T or unlabelled? Or “straight”?
  • Oh my gods, a three-hour walk? Won’t my feet fall off?

To answer some of these questions: I may not be proud of me, but I fucking well am proud of us. I’m not “like” all of these people, but that’s okay, I’m with them anyway. I don’t need the label, but it’s not technically inaccurate, and if it is, I’ll sort it out when I need to, and until then I’ll take a fucking chill pill. I’m not strange, but hey, why not, I’m queer and I’m here. I need to get over it. And oh heavenly gods, a three-hour walk, my feet felt like they’d fall off. (But no worries! They’re still here!)

I moved from the front to the back to the middle and sallied here and there. At one point, I wore a green wig.
I didn’t dance – I did wiggle my hips. Twice. Someone, I forget who, told me I needed to loosen up, but I kept things tight. I took a few photographs. I found most of the people I’ve met over the past few weeks. I held up posters now and again. I hugged. I shared the coke, which was nice of me.

I don’t think I stopped smiling the entire time. Don’t ask me why I was so happy. Why I’m still so happy. We were all fucking high on ourselves, and I swear even the policemen making sure we marched in a somewhat orderly manner cracked a smile every so often.

The Pride website tells me we marched from Tulsi Park (near Majestic bus station) through Anand Rao Circle, Freedom Park and Corporation Circle to Banappa Park. I wouldn’t know – that entire side of town is like the past and another country for me. (Also, I travel a lot by bus, which means I don’t always pay attention to how I’m going where I’m going.)

Well. Well. We got there. By now, even the most hardcore jumpy dancers were flagging. Akkai (Padmashali?) welcomed us all there – dudes, if we go by type alone, there were loads of us! Queer Trangendered F-to-M M-to-F Hijra Kothi Jogappa Gay Bi Lesbian Straight and I dunno what all. At that moment it just felt like there were masses and masses of us, and we were one big mushily loving family. (It is now past midnight on the 29th, and I am back to my charming, cynical, pessimistic self. But at that moment…)

Sumathi from Sangama, Ramesh Babu from the Janatha Dal Secular party, someone from the CSI (?) not sure about this last. Topics of interest were, of course, the Naz judgement, the appeal at the Supreme Court, Karnatakan government decisions to provide more assstance to the transgender community (loans, employment, the lot); and of course the stuff we’re still asking for  free Sexual Reassignment Surgery, lower costs for Anti Retroviral Treatments, the right to education and employment, the right to adopt… Sumathi mentioned, and for some reason I remembered this very clearly, more than anything else, that it was imperative that forced marriages be done away with – to force someone to be that miserable is kinda sucky. (She was more heartfelt than this, but I am being briefer than brief.) At some point, Akkai called some of the individual organisers (Tanvi, Siddharth, Amritha, Niruj, Sumathi, the other Siddharth[?])  up on to the stage and garlanded them, which was adorable.

Two friends of mine, J and A, showed up at around this point, not more than mildly shamefaced at having missed the actual walking. But they took me out for food and coffee after, so I forgive them. I was proud enough for all three of us, anyway.

No, really.

Being Proud Part 3: the word “queer” is ours now

1. This is Bangalore, and most of the people at SCM House today will know what I mean when I say, Goddam, I never want to take an auto again. I want a car and a driver and a pony, and the pony’s hair should be tied up with a pretty ribbon and angels should follow me around singing my praises.

I’ll settle for an auto driver who doesn’t dump me in the middle of nowhere (okay, somewhere on Mission Road) vaguely telling me we’re right outside SCM House.

We weren’t. I was already 20 minutes late, which makes me nervous, anxious and unhappy, and  I spent another 10 minutes asking people where CSI Compound was and keeping a beady eye out for Priyadarshini Silk House (mentioned in the directions on the Bangalore Pride site). In retrospect I realise I walked a nearly full circle before I found two women walking their dog who told me where SCM House could be found. Hooray for dogs! If those women had owned a cat I’d still be lost. I said hi to D, who was manning the door and taking care of the Queer Ink books, and made my way in the darkness to a chair.

2. 

Before the Pride and Queer Habba began, 20 people took part in a film-making workshop, which was led by T. Jayashree, Deepu, and Siddharth Chadda. After what seems like the funnest time ever, they split up into four groups, each group making a short film (ten minutes max?) about something close to their hearts.

Since I was late, I missed most of the first film. I caught the last few minutes, enough to gather that it was about Kiran, a transgender person who is wheel-chair bound. Kiran spoke of the ways in which he is vulnerable in our society, when his mobility is hindered, his body is weak, and his identity is ignored or dismissed. But the film wasn’t about his sorrows, it was about his strengths, and his ongoing journey – moving to Bangalore to live as he wishes to live. The film is called Prathibhatane, ‘Challenge”, and was made by Pavan, Christy and Kiran, who wanted to tell his own story.

Kaadhal Thirunal, or ‘The Festival of Love’ shows us two lesbian women sharing their life and love, with added poetry. Actually, “through the medium of poetry”. I must admit I found this one overly soppy, but a feel-good movie about love and the courage it gives us, ending with a kiss, about lesbians, is not actually a bad thing.  And this peachy honeymoon love came with a price – both women have left home, their family and relatives, migrated to Bangalore, to have this life together.  Bharathi, Gayathri and Rajesh made the film, and one of the women nearly cried when she told us that this was the movie she’d wanted to make – living like this, with the people we love, with financial security. That’s the fantasy, the dream, and really it’s not much to ask for, or take.

Amritha, Charu, Kannan and Siddharth, collectively ‘Sticky Juice Productions’, showed us A Dream Not Deferred – focussing on Charu and his life as a transgender man. The triumph of living as he wishes to be and the problems of living in a body that betrays itself as female unless tightly packed down. Charu left behind a husband and a child, and wonders how he will find the courage to tell the child, “I am your father”. Amritha said later, “Charu’s story is so compelling, we decided to go with it.” (There was a guy in the audience who asked “How is it a dream not deferred if she cannot speak to her child?” which is more faux pas than should be allowed in a single question. The rest of us [actually, I didn’t shout, too busy being embarrassed for him] that Charu is a “he”, at which point he bemusedly corrected himself and was told that living as we want to live, instead of waiting for our parents, husbands, children, what-have-you is the dream not deferred. At least, for some of us it is.)

The Flamboyant Flamingos, Charan, Sandeep and XX (I haven’t written his name down, I suck at this reporting lark) gave us On the Prowl, to the tune of ‘I wanna mmmm’ by The Lawyer. This is fun music video, detailing the epic quest of a guy cruising through the streets of Bangalore, the people he meets. When will his journey end? etc. The video is full of familiar faces and I don’t think there were any moments of quiet in the hall. At all. It was hilarious.

To close things off, the chief guest Ayesha (independent artist, filmmaker, served on the board of Sangama, currently on faculty of Srishti) gave each team The Famila Award, newly instated in memory of Famila, late activist who is dearly missed by her friends.

A woman – she looked maybe a few years younger than my mum  came onstage, congratulated the film-makers, told us all that she and her parents had enjoyed it very much, but had one thing she wanted to ask us: No to call our Habba “Queer”. Because it’s such a word. She was very sweet about it. NMR informed her that we took back “queer” decades ago, made it our own. It’s for LGBT people, people who don’t fit into LGBT “categories”, for anyone who wants to be, I suppose. It’s our word now, bitches! (He didn’t say “bitches”, but the point stands.) At which point things broke up.  I contemplated hanging around talking to people, but my frazzled nerves reminded me that it would be nice to go home and rest, so I went outside.

3. The universe had decided to make me prove my worth today, though, so as I was standing at the book table, buying some stickers (yes, yes, I know), AM, whom I’d met a week or two ago and had a long conversation with about prostitution and our attitudes to it (he: take them as individuals; me: I find it hard to accept that it’s a good job to them, even though money is a good thing and we need it to survive! though I am willing to listen, always) came up and said hi. It took me a few seconds to place him. Then I had to explain why it took me so long to recognise him, and my feeble “I don’t always recognise people outside of their original context” is making me cringe even now. I also had to defend myself from D and VP, explaining why I will not be going to the Lavender Night Benefit Party. (It’s simple enough: I don’t party.)

Enough was enough! I slunk off, hoping against hope I wouldn’t meet anyone else to whom I could say something utterly stupid or socially inept. I did smile at someone who smiled back and engaged me in conversation, but this one went fairly well:

She: Are you the blogger?

Me: Er, well, I am a blogger.

She: Rohini?

Me: Yes! This is a good thing, yes?

She: Yes.

However, extracting payment for conducting a conversation without making me look like a tool, my brain has decided to forget her name. Still. I am famous now! All I need is a pony and a boob job and my life’s work will be complete.

(Edited on 28th November 2010 to add: Nithin in the comments reminds me that her name is Namita, which means she’d’ve been “N” here had I remembered it when I should have. N, you made my day!)

Queer Words is tomorrow, 6-8, at Jaaga. I am not committed enough to being bi to sit through two whole hours of poetry, so I am going here instead, on the off-chance that there will be prose. Tonight, I shall rest the rest of the introvertedly weary. I hope all the extroverts have extra fun for me over the next few days – I’m thinking of you guys!

Being Proud Part Two: Still Quiet

Drama Baazi, the Bangalore Pride website told me, needed me to bring my stories, scripts, ideas, body and voice. Packing these items untidily into my Big Bag For Laptops (I packed my laptop in there, too, as well as books and sundry other items, freaking thing weighed more than I do), I showed up at 1. Shanthi road as close to six as possible. This is not because I was neurotically determined to be punctual, but because I was certain I would mostly meet the same people today I met yesterday. Surely all possible avenues of interesting conversation were broached yesterday? My conversational quiver was empty! Oh noes!

As it happened, there were new things to talk about: S and I exchanged books. I now hold hostage his copy of The City and the City, while he has his claws sunk deep into my Perdido Street Station.  We are now officially Book Buddies, which sort of makes up for every social blunder I made today.

An ex-classmate was there. I vaguely remember Thangamma making jewelery in college, but she’s been doing this seriously for over a year now. Thangamma makes jewelery from stuff (technical term) – discarded coins, broken earrings, bottle caps, the lot. The result is casual chic, at nice, friendly rates. I sat and watched her for a bit.

T (ref: last post, where I refer to her as ‘tiny’ a lot) showed up, looking snazzy. She’d read the blog! She objected to being called “Tiny T”, which I didn’t! (I swear. It’s like “Elementary, my dear Watson!” Canonically never happened.)  It is her birthday today, by the way, so: Happy Birthday, T! Hope you had a good one, and don’t see this post till late tomorrow morning. 🙂

The actual event took place in the exhibition room. We all dutifully congregated on the chaapes – my padamasana has done yeoman’s service lately – noisy until someone called out “kill the lights! kill the white lights!” which seemed unnecessarily violent to me. S was forcibly reminded of the medieval English custom of drawing and quartering, which must have been very unpleasant for the poor horses. Not to be outdone, I told him that the labourers who died toiling over the Great Wall of China were mixed into the foundations to strengthen them –

– at which bloodthirsty point, the show began.

LesBiT is an offshoot of Sangama, fighting for the advancement of human rights for this particularly invisible community. Musical Chairs is a compilation of various true stories LesBiT has come across over the years. Unfortunately, the skit – it was short, very emotional – was multilingual and had no English. I wasn’t able to follow all of it. In fact, I only really understood the last, Kannada narrative. Two I could not understand at all – so I’ve lost something here. An F-to-M transgendered person, I gathered, was the protagonist/narrator of the third part; he spoke of (again, I am speculating) his discomfort in traditionla female wear, the disrespect he was shown in the streets for not behaving or looking like a “proper” “woman”, the more intimate and mundane issue of going to a public toilet in a bigendered public world… The fourth narrator spoke in Kannada, andreaffirmed my belief that the Kannada word “preethi” is somehow one of the loveliest words for “love”. She loved a girl. The parents didn’t approve. She was forcibly married. She was forced to be a mother. She was forced out of her homes. She turned to sex work. She remembered her first love.

The second play was, again, interlinked short pieces alternating in English and Kannada narratives. Sumathi (from Sangama), Kauveri (she wasn’t here, but I suspect this is KRI in the last post) and Gee wrote the entire set and put it together. We revisted Dr. Srinivas Siras’ suicide, and the collective washing of hands that occured after – I think this section reminded me that the personal might be political, but it is still, most intensely, personal. The next narrative took us into a hijra’s family as they beat her, drugged her, cut her hair off – because she wasn’t being a man. Because. The third narrator is the sister of a victim of honour killing. Such as that is. She describes her sister’s budding, chaste romantic relationship, contrasted with its insanely dangerous risk. The murderers were her own brothers. The last narrative was voiced by Sumathi, with Chitra performing (Chitra was in the first play as well – she and Sumathi have fantastic voices, and Chitra is a strong, dramatic performer). Chitra enacted the strengths and vulnerabilities of a woman who didn’t want to be “her” but “he”. Parted from the woman he loves, scorned by society, beaten, hurt…

All the plays, all the narrators, whether I understood them or not, remind me that confession can be strong, it can be cleansing; it can also be a very lonely thing, a great deal to bear until it is done. And there are so many of us out there who are lonely, or hurt, unhappy. I wish we had some happier confessions today. Just for the reminder.

Fuck this, I’m changing the subject. The venue for the past two days has been 1 Shanthi road. It’s a studio gallery that provides living space and a gathering space for artists. It’s all for creativity and cutting edge art, and it has a very laid-back, calm feel to the place. If I were an artist, I’d want to drop by. (They have a swing on the veranda! Baby, I’m sold!)

I forgot to talk about Queer Ink yesterday! Queer Ink is an online bookstore and publisher, specialising in us highly unusual people, or whatever we multitudinally want to call ourselves. There’s been a table of books from QI for sale the past two days, and I think there will be for the next few events as well. There’s a nice-ish selection, meant to tease, to make you go to the website and browse for fuller fare. My personal favourite sort of marketing.

I hung out with Thangamma for a bit, watching her make an anklet – it’s soothing, really, those quick, repititive motions making this complicated-looking shiny thing – and then I left when she got inundated with potential customers. (Go, Thangamma, go! Do that capitalist thing! [I need to learn to cheer. And swear. And slang.])

A good day, all in all.

Being Proud, as quietly as possible

I only started attending Good As You meetings a few months ago, and I’m still jittery about it.  I know no one at the meetings well, and I do not feel comfortable with strangers, especially when the strangers seem to know each other and band together in comfortable friend-groups.

Actually, even when they don’t.

I don’t want to go into deep detail for the “reasons why you are like this”. Either I’m shy, or I’m still manifesting interpersonal rejection sensitivity from my over-medicated depression.

To be honest, I’m still a little surprised that there are so many LGBT  – well, not the T, I was at least aware, as one is of the margins without paying attention to them, that the hijra community exists – people in Bangalore. When the 377 repeal happened I remember looking at the papers of all the people celebrating, thinking, where the **** did all these people come from, and why am I not with them?

So. When I realised Pride was coming up, with attendant Queer Hubba (there’s something very lovely about the kannada word “hubba”. It sounds like the rich, noisy, fat thing it is supposed to be) I was tentatively gung-ho for going.

 

Bangalore Pride and Karnataka Queer Hubba 2010

If you’re celibate, and you’re a girl, and your style is mildly girly, being bisexual can be a thing you don’t “need” to be out about, or so I used to tell myself. It’s an inconvenient lie, and at some point I will stop falling back on it. Fingers crossed for how the parents take it, by the way! (maybe they’ll read this and save me the trouble? Not-so-much accidentally on purpose.)

Famila’s Remembrance, which I attended with equal parts sympathy and curiosity, was very moving – as all remembrances of the dearly missed are, I suppose. V, the Good As You guy (don’t even, just don’t) made sure I gave my contact details to WHAQ (We’re Here and Queer, with no real website save on Facebook), a fairly newish group for LBT women, so that I could be added to their mailing list. Right as I was added, the emails that flooded my inbox carried the middle stages of an incomprehensible bitch fight about inclusiveness and respect. Figuratively cowering from my screen, I didn’t post anything for a few days, until the furore has died down.

They seem nice.

At a march gear workshop, I met T, who is a tiny, tiny woman, as far as I can make out unaligned with any of the groups in Bangalore but networked with all of them, who told me I should give her a call if I wanted to volunteer. Lying my face off, I said I would.

Except, I did call her. And I did volunteer. Not for much – just to do write-ups for the Pride events I attended. It’s still more of a commitment than I’m used to making for complete strangers, however competent or tiny. (Sorry, T, but you are, and you are!) It means that I have to attend the events I want to attend, whether I want to attend them or not. (I do!)

(No one who is sane and/or socially secure will find me making any sense on this issue.)

After all this. I fall sick. Properly sick, fever past a hundred, headaches, body aches, coughs, colds, phlegms, the lot. I stay in bed for four days waited on hand and foot by my devoted, concerned parents (who were genuinely worried).

This is what I missed.

  1. Love Across Boundaries – A Panel Discussion
  2. Park Bench Stories – On Love, Relationships and Identities
  3. Transgender Day of Remembrance
  4. Pride Mela, or Diversity Fair, or Vaividhyateya Jathre

Today, I said, No More! Ignoring my minimal fever, my throat’s deep-seated desire to push itself out my mouth through force of gag, I packed my bag, called T to make sure I knew where the event was, and set off.

It was two events in one, actually. The Body Politics exhibition, which will run for three days, officially opened. The alternative/electric/psychedelic (does that mean “for when you are high”?) band Bicycle Days played a mini-concert on the premises. From the outside, it sounded all right. J, a guy whom I know from those good ol’ college days, described them to me as “post-rock”, which is apparently to music as “post-modern” is to – well, whatever.

After wandering around aimlessly for a while, being lick-attacked by a dog that J tells me was focussing only on the dudes until I came along (aren’t I special?), I remembered that I had a job to do! Responsible!Roh gets very little stage-time, but she grabbed hold of this opportunity and made T and random other people intro her to the photographers. She took notes!

A lot of the models for the photographs were wandering around the gallery – it’s a bit odd to see visually-stilled people as they breathe and move and talk. Some of them seem to be able to convey themselves in both media – of “real life” and photography – while others show you something different in each moment. Not sure how much of that is the artist’s work and how much the model’s.

I wasn’t able to speak to too many of the models – or rather, the people whose pictures were taken. This is partially because there wasn’t much time and I am not very good at this, and partially because I was too tired to chase them all down.

Arnab Banerjee is based in New York, where he is a photographer and runs a modelling agency. His portraits feature moods and emotions, highlighted when his subject turns away from the camera. Arnab wanted to show the LGBT person in his/her/hir beauty without flamboyance, since extravagance and brightness can be our courageous way of facing the world despite our self-perceived inadequacies – in body, in mind. His portraits show us beauty, passion and our eroticism without artifice, and are some of the most contemplative of the works shown here.

But I did get to speak to KRI, whose photograph by Arnab is somehow still the most memorable to me  this might of course be because I spoke to hir and liked hir (damn, I need to ask hir which pronoun s/he prefers). Visually at least s/he occupies, very stably, a space between the masculine and feminine that’s not necessarily “loud” but, especially in still photographs, very there. Apparently T asked her to do the shoot, which resulted in a diptych  – a shot in black and white, KRI contemplating a banana; a shot in colour, Arnab (the photographer) remarking that he was glad of the light, hitting hir obliquely, giving the portrait a quiet, serenity. KRI is a neuroscientist and ecologist. S/he works not with rats, but with crickets, and hopefully does not torture them either.

Arnab was very quiet, talking intensely about beauty, and how people in the LGBT community hide behind our bright flamboyance, our extravagantly visible courage. I found him a very interesting person to talk to, so much so that I did not take notes while we were speaking.

Shiva spent a day with Chandini, an M-to-F woman and her family, creating a set of photo graphs to show her life as she lives it, by her request. Shiva is a freelance photographer who focuses his lens only on people. “Everyone is human, everyone is the same.” Chandini and her family are seen in moments of abandon, putting on their eyeliner… they form a colourful, lively contrast to the individual shots of some Koshy’s regulars in their favourite haunts; this set of black-and-whites titled “some boys have cunts” is more self-conscious, more reserved.

Of the four photographers, Shiva seemed to be the most enthused, and very cheery – he laughed as he told me he loved how the hijras paid attention to makeup and presentation, more so than most women. He had a series of photographs of Chandini and her family. Most of the photographs remain in memory as showing Chandini and co. in motion – there was one lovely shot of Chandini swishing her hair, though Shiva himself prefers the close up along one eye as eyeliner is applied. The black-and-white individual shots stand well enough, but are not as vibrant. Collectively they seem more posed, more… deliberately cultured. “Look, Koshy’s LGBT does Bangalore! Do you recognise this venue?”

(individually, they’re lovely pictures, mind you.)

Nishant Ratnakar is engaged in a long-term project, documenting the life of his friend Romal. Nishant believes that the photographer and the subject can be – indeed, must be – intimate friends, so that the camera is not an intrusive presence throwing the subject out of her/his comfort zone. With the camera as confidant, photography can be an advocate for the individual; and from the other end, the photograph can tells its audience a deeper story, following its protagonist through his issues.

Nishant Ratnakar’s project felt the most delicate to me  – an extended photo-narrative of his friend Romal. Ratnakar’s philosophy that the camera needn’t be an intruder into the subject’s life really holds only so long as cabin fever doesn’t set in, or only so long as the friendship, trust and intimacy last, I would think. But – touch wood – better to trust the artist’s instincts than the pessimist’s.

“We think of hijras and we think of them in one way, always clapping, never as anything else.” Indu Anthony’s “Beauty in the Blur” takes the traditional figure of the hijra and transforms the transgendered person into a new aesthetic. This is an ongoing project – Indu hopes to have 100 portraits in time! These portraits are elegant, sometimes melancholy, sometimes delighted. My personal favourite is ‘Flying With Butterflies’, featuring Shalini, which seemed to me to place the delicate, the always-moving, into a moment of still where dignity and elegance took on a electric attraction.

The aforementioned dog was Indu’s, and she spent a lot of time fruitlessly searching or its leash. Her project seemed to be, geographically, the largest – she intends to extend the net of her search for models beyond Bangalore, to the rest of the country (my notes are a bit garbled, but that is what I think she meant). Her work was placed on the wall next to Arnab’s, which was a neat touch, I thought, since both artists approached the concept of beauty from such different angles. I liked Indu’s wall best in terms of sheer prettiness, and forgive her her attack!dog for it.

People did some impromptu singing after Bicycle Days packed up and left, but I paid very little mind except when S pointed out that someone was singing Bhimsen Joshi, and very well too.

S, by the way, seems to have a fairly well-sized library at home. I must now plot my way into his good graces. Then I may either steal the library, or be lent it!

At some point, my throat, nose and sinuses said, No more, Roh. We will make you Vewwy Vewwy Sowwy if you stay any longer. So I packed up and came home.

Note: Indented passages are taken verbatim from the short write-up I sent NMR – I hope he uses it, but even if he doesn’t, they’re here!