It was raining here today as I sat down to write this post. So, I stopped writing and watched the rain. And thought. About the long days and the long nights and the incredibly short days and nights that are not long enough. I thought about people who live through these days and who are sometimes sustained by the memories of some wonderful days and nights. Who are encouraged by these memories to remain standing for another day. Thoughts about standing led me to think about two women I saw nearly twenty six years ago on a crowded local train in Mumbai. (Well, there is no other sort of local train in Mumbai). It was that time of the day when people wanted nothing more than to get home and the metal walls of the train bulged with the sheer volume of people inside it. Yet, miraculously, there would be place for more people at the next station. Getting into or out of these trains is an art that no amount of rugby training can teach you. You have to be born into it. We who are from Mumbai can hustle with the best of them. These compartments have a life and ecosystem of their own. Men get in with briefcases and vegetables bought at the overhead walkways of the railway stations and proceed to dive for a seat, place the vegetables in the briefcase, pull out a knife and start chopping vegetables while having conversations with the other season ticket travelers. Women have capacious bags for the same purposes. And conversations flow all around you. Somehow, privacy is alien to these locomotive communities where everyone is an Ai, Tai, Didi, or simply, Arey….
It was during one such torrid journey that I spotted actress Sonali Bendre standing right next to me as we hurtled towards Mumbai CST! She was just starting out then, had made a few appearances in the inner pages of the movie magazines that my mother was very fond of purchasing on our trips to Mumbai as these were hard to come by in Oman. For a kid of ten, spotting a celebrity, however minor, was thrilling though I never went up to her and said anything. One has one’s dignity you know. After that, all through that summer, I scanned the railway compartments, looking to spot my next celebrity. On one such rush hour evening, in the ladies compartment of a local train in Mumbai, when women were chopping vegetables and going plunk plunk with their embroidery needles, and people were packed like sardines in a can, I saw a woman place her arms around the woman in front of her and place her head on her shoulder and apparently go to sleep. I found it immensely interesting that someone could go to sleep standing up. Like a horse. On a stranger. Because both of them did not even have a conversation the whole time they were standing there.
When the train reached her station, the sleeping woman withdrew her hands, but not before the one in front held her finger for a fraction of a second. And then the hand was gone, swallowed by the millions climbing the overhead bridge. In my compartment, the woman shaped vacuum was filled inside of three seconds. It was like they were never there. Years later, reading Lihaaf, I realised that, that was my Lihaaf moment. It was like discovering a tiny plant with purple flowers growing in between the cracks on your cemented front yard.
And today, yet again, I thought about them. How would they keep meeting once they retired? Which they should have by now. How would they meet if they had stopped working or had to take different trains to work or home? What became of them and why did they not care that there were all those people around? Did they know that a ten- year old was watching them with irrepressible curiosity and that they would be thought of decades later on a rainy day? Did they think they mattered? I don’t know. But I know what love looks like.
Almost two decades later, while taking my PG students back to Kerala after their excursion to Bengaluru, we had office commuters taking up space in the sleeper compartments. A group of them settled themselves on our side berth as I sat curled up opposite my colleague. Like I said, on trains, my space is your space and all Indian are my brothers and sisters. So, these two men sat down and in an instant, began singing Kannada songs. Of them one would sing duets all by himself. What was really hilarious was that he would preface the female singer’s part (mid song) with the words, “ladies voice”, and then proceed. The non-duet singer’s station was fast approaching and he urged his friend to get down and sing some more and go later by another train. Not this time though. He had duets to sing elsewhere.
The same train had two young men sitting just a few seats away from us. I interrupted their deep conversation to ask if they would mind switching their seats with some of our girls so we could have our group together. And one of them replied, “sorry, we had booked these seats by the window months ago so we could travel like this.” Returning to my seat, I fumed at useless men who gave vapid excuses and mentally suggested they buy a train for themselves. Sometime around ten or so at night, we heard some of the pilgrims traveling to Sabarimala yelling at these two to behave themselves and go to sleep. And was I snarkily satisfied. I hoped they slept by their windows.
Again years, later, it came to me that perhaps, that journey was very precious to them. That months of planning might have been needed to coordinate vacations and book the perfect seats so they could have their personal space. Only to be interrupted by office commuters, women seeking to uproot them and men asking them to shut up and go to sleep. In this world made of ossified thoughts, some loves can exist only in a state of permanent transit. And they do. I wish they did not have to. I know I owe an apology to those young men and the singers. They were only trying to get by. In this vast world of intersecting trains, I will do so, if we meet somewhere.
This post signals the end of the celebration of the Queer Pride Month here at SamyuktaPoetry. A month ago, when we started down this path, I did not imagine that it would fan out to 10 poets, 12 posts and have over 5600 visits. It is wonderful to receive so much of love. In the course of this month, we have travelled down a number of different roads, talked about issues of vintage and contemporary value and featured some tremendous art. It was hectic coordinating all of this, but with an excellent support team backing me, I barely felt a thing. To all our poets, thankyou for sharing the best of your work with us, for spending time discussing aspects of your life and your activism. For the way you shared our vision. Our artists, Sarah Saju Kallungal, Akshay A. S, Ruchi Sinha and Harikrishnan G who responded to our ideas with splendid works. Thanks to your enthusiasm, I know that this is not over. That we have more to come somewhere down the line.
It is a fact that this is not the end of the road. It is not even a halfway mark. Because even as we speak, there are laws and regulating procedures that make life impossible for those who refuse to conform to a matrix. A country like India, which is the world’s largest constitutional democracy, is important in influencing the sexual democracies of countries in its immediate and cultural (post-colonial) vicinity. And this is not as simple as building walls to hide slums. We should be an example of how soft power must work. By enabling civil liberties for its citizens, India can ensure that it touches millions of people worldwide.
I want to imagine. That the two women on the train held each other, without having to avert their eyes. That the singers got down and went home together. That the young men gave up their seats for the girls because there is a lifetime of journeys they can take.
I want to imagine. That the two women on the train held each other, without having to avert their eyes. That the singers got down and went home together. That the young men gave up their seats for the girls because there is a lifetime of journeys they can take.
Though I know it’s a solo, I imagine the duet singer singing the Kannada version of Johnny Mathis’ immortal words.
Sometimes we walk, hand in hand by the sea And we breathe in the cool salty air You turn to me, with a kiss in your eyes And my heart feels a thrill beyond compare Then your lips cling to mine, it’s wonderful, wonderful Oh, so wonderful, my love And I say to myself “It’s wonderful, wonderful Oh, so wonderful, my love.’
Sonya J. Nair Editor
Featured today is the Google Doodle created by Rob Gilliam, that honours Marsha P. Johnson, the queer activist and drag queen who was at the forefront of the Stonewall movement, which was what we had started our first post with. She also set up shelter homes for homeless LGBTQ+ youth. Johnson was an inspiration for all people looking for their identity in a chaotic world. In 2019, New York City decided to honour her and her fellow transgender activist Sylvia Rivera with statues. Johnson, posthumously, was also the grand marshal at the 2019 New York City Pride March.
Mumbai Trains, Queer Love, Johnny Mathis, Marsha P. Johnson, Samyukta Poetry
A few weeks ago, when I was at a friend’s place, waving my arms and talking animatedly, I received a phone call that brought news of an impending demise. Having suddenly run out of oxygen, I walked to the balcony and stood looking outside at what I now recall to be one of the most arid afternoons I have encountered. There was absolute silence everywhere save for a very shrill squirrel whose cries were banging insistent nails into the coffin of an afternoon. I spotted an old lady in the house opposite who had come out to sit on her verandah to guard a tray of rice grains left out in the sun. She sat there desultorily, not even looking at the tray, perhaps because no bird seemed even remotely interested in taking a peck. It made me wonder if that is what life is all about, taking up cudgels in a battle that is not even being fought, competing in a race that is not even yours to begin with- while an invisible squirrel barks angrily at the world, Gods, the trees or perhaps at its own self.
A lot has been written about this year that is like no other. About the isolations that humans, thoughts, homes, non-humans and others were subjected to. About hope, the loss of hope, the return of hope, the scope of hope. The landscapes of living memories have been altered irretrievably and the timeline of life has a before and an after.
Ironically, for a country that had one of the longest periods of complete lockdowns, much of India ended up spending most of its time outdoors. The protests against the NRC and the CAA saw droves of people occupying spaces such as Shaheen Bagh, till the pandemic forced them inside, the leaders of Kashmir were under house arrest for such a long time that by the time they came out, PUBG and TikTok had been banned in India, there was a need to formulate new alliances, Kangana Ranaut’s house was partly demolished and a certain white beard grew as long as Pinocchio’s nose. Tunnels- the longest and strongest came up, the Parliament complex in Delhi was no longer the same, grounds were broken at Central Vista, Ayodhya and so were promises made to farmers, landless labourers, women and to those suffering from the indignities of the caste system. There were lines of migrant workers going home, returning to work from home, dying en route, living to tell the tales of unexpected kindness, of apathy, of fighting primal battles of survival.
This year saw major discussions on medical terminology and I’m positive that the word ‘quarantine’ has entered the parlance of non-English languages worldwide. So have ‘Mask’ and ‘Sanitizer’. And now that the world is slowly allowing traffic to flow through its veins, masks have become a common site in the garbage heaps of landfills and in the usual refuse strewn along roads. The sheer variety of masks, the designs and patterns they come in, amuses me. If anything, it is this that symbolizes the human spirit- the ability to turn anything into fashion.
It has been a learning curve- this year. That the ‘absolute and urgent’ fulfilment of rituals in places of worship can be postponed. That both hell and heaven might well be on earth and exist only till the time you are alive. And that human nature does not change. That at the slightest sign of recovery, the prejudices are back, the constructs of memory, entitlement, all come rushing back like they had never left.
We now live in a world that has lost the voices we knew, the faces that defined it, the people whose blood and poetry gave it life. Today, as I write this, we are in a world without Mangalesh Dabral and Sugatha Kumari.We must also remember those serving the nation from jail. Varavara Rao, Surendra Gadling, writer-activist Sudhir Dhawale, Mahesh Raut, Shoma Sen, Arun Ferreira, Sudha Bharadwaj, Vernon Gonsalves, Anand Teltumbde, Gautam Navlakha, Rona Wilson, Hany Babu, Stan Swamy. Swamy’s lines from prison- as a letter to his fellow religious- say it all. All that a human life should be about. And all that it should not be about.
Prison life a great leveler
Inside the daunting prison gates All belongings taken away But for the bare essentials
‘You’ comes first ‘I’ comes after ‘We’ is the air one breathes
Nothing is mine Nothing is yours Everything is ours
No leftover food thrown away All shared with the birds of the air They fly in, have their fill and happily fly out
Sorry to see so many young faces Asked them: “Why are you here”? They told it all, not mincing words
From each as per capacity To each as per need Is what socialism all about
Lo, this commonality is wrought by compulsion If only all humans would embrace it freely and willingly All would truly become children of Mother Earth
While all over the world, prisoners are being released to prevent prison overcrowding and infection, we have poets, activists- keepers of our conscience- under lock and key. Under house arrest is our conscience as well. Like the parents of the raped girl from Hathras. Medha Patkar sprinted 100 metres or more to join the protesting farmers in Delhi. Those farmers intelligently came in massive tractors and trailers and refused to assemble in another ground that they described as a “prison”. Incarceration and its many, many forms- open skies, captive audiences, radio programmes, news channels for hire.
The year continues to leave its impact on us- an impact that will continue for a long time. The only thing we can do is remember- remember who we are, what we have done, how and to whom or for whom. How would we like to be remembered? We must write of these times, write of the losses, the gains, the love, the pain, the sacrifice. Because, memory is the only weapon one has against the ravages of time. To be remembered is to be alive. In more ways than one. Anaerobically.
This edition of SamyuktaPoetry has Calendar Year as its theme and we are proud to present poems that cover the trajectories of land, mind, faith, history, body, identity, love, anticipation and isolation. Strong poems that sing full throated of their despair, their anger, their wistful farewells. Our tones are evocative, sardonic, soft as a feather landing on felt, angry yowls in a howling snowstorm.
“A person does not belong to a place until there is someone dead under the ground,” said Marquez in One Hundred Years of Solitude. But nowhere did he say that they must be our kith and kin. This time, let our celebrations mark our survival and be tinged with respect and the memory of those who did not, let us be responsible for the sake of those who are struggling with their health- mental and physical, the precarity of lives of those who speak for others and remember those who cannot speak for themselves. Let us look at the palms of our hands and in the lines etched therein, discover the paths that we have traversed, our histories, our mythologies and our ephemeral existences. This world that is too much with us looks for concrete absolutes. Dead certainties, certificates of birth, documentation, ownership, possession, cards, papers, eugenics and currencies for leaving us our inheritances.
I think back to a blazing afternoon, when a squirrel cried for the canon ball of grief that Time left me holding.
Sonya J. Nair Editor
Chittrakatha1 – last night with her at the care ward
I have it down to a science but they say it is an art too I have been shaping mantras from my lips to yours my eyes are waterfalls they travel into yours that night, I had brought your favorite books along you preferred silence, your fingers encasing my spine they knew each vertebra, its code I wipe you down, cooling your fever reminding you about your tinctured tongue– sharp and electric how my words have spent centuries inside your spinal fluid syllable by syllable embedding stubborn stories from my atlas to your axis
I grasp at your iris, the fish floating inside them, they mist over for one last time, as if to sip at the full bellied cry that is rising in me, your pulse gripping my fingertips as I listen to your errant beating at Erb’s point— lub dub lub dub lub dub perfect punctuations a dancing wind chime I cover your absent face with one porous poem the final one, an obituary written by your bedside I let it unfurl, like a new born leaf it bleeds a hibiscus into your veins as they calcify, I braid your hair and as they get ready with a checklist I sterilize my hands with your stillness
Chitrakatha – chitra meaning picture and katha meaning story. Chitrakatha is the Indian cultural tradition of women narrating stories with a visual aid.
homesick… an edible canopy of fiery blossoms
fallen mangoes… I bottled my pickles before quarantine
last summer – an aromatic sherbet of alphonso juice
forbidden fruits… maa slices mangoes for me on zoom
What will we do to not become cities ravaged by war, a troy fallen to greeks meteorological omens, all doubts cast away with the rising of a blood moon one conquering, another falling, the moon rising against the wall of minds an eclipsed sky
What will we do to not become cities eclipsed by prophetic moons, where God’s or Goddesses stare helplessly when we march towards armies only to bring home dismantled suns and lunar lit chants
What will we do to not become cities humming of oceans, lashed sleepless by the hollowed tide, her water bed lays wrinkled, its furrows blooming with final moon flowers, as we tread sdrawkcab backwards like our dead
Kashiana Singh lives in Chicago and embodies her TEDx talk theme of Work as Worship into her everyday. Her poetry collection, Shelling Peanuts and Stringing Words presents her voice as a participant and an observer. Her chapbook Crushed Anthills is a journey through 10 cities – a complex maze of remembrances to unravel. Her poems have been published on various platforms including Rattle Poetry, Poets Reading the News, Visual Verse, Oddball Magazine, Café Dissensus. She serves as an Assistant Poetry Editor for Poets Reading the News.
Kashiana carries her various geographical homes within her poetry.
Signboards the Flood Spared
The copper plated roof of the seven hundred year old temple struggled briefly for air before going down. Hindu bubbles kept floating to the surface till a Christian boat named Daivasahayam moored itself to the temple mast.
DOG – BEWARE
The German shepherd in the kennel could not break the gate open, but a pack of mongrels had made the roof their home and knew how to howl when choppers approached.
When the owners returned, apart from clay and weeds, they found a cobra in the prayer room and a viper in the yoga room.
BEGGING IS PROHIBITED
They begged for life on a top floor balcony to the wind and the rain and the distant thunder of choppers surveying aerially.
(With inputs by Rajesh Nandiyankode)
Last Global Warning
Dear sluggish earthworm Don’t burrow the earth You may be cemented.
Dear sprightly grasshopper Don’t hop around in vain You may be skewered.
Dear shiny loony moon Don’t show your bright face You may be eclipsed.
Dear sweet mynah Don’t sing so loud Your voice may be severed. Dear green peacock Don’t dance in public You may be maimed.
Dear little sparrow Don’t get raped You could be jailed
Dear distant pole star Don’t show us the way. You may be blinded.
Your genocide is on its way. Your terminator has landed. He works alphabetically.
The Unbearable Yellowness of Yellow Deaths Yellow me lives in a mustard yellow yello house with yellow walls and a yellow window from which I can see a yellow road winding its way to a yellow hill. a yellow tree with yellow blossoms greet me every yellow morning. I sleep on a yellow bed and watch a yellow sun pouring in through the yellow foliage. Beyond the casuarinas tress yellow plumes rise from cremated kids with yellow bloated faces and yellow eyes.
Yellowest room of this yellow home houses a yellow serpent who when roused from her yellow slumber lasting many yellow centuries, slither into my bed throwing a yellow coil around me. She hisses, “hey yellow poet, write with my forked yellow tongue. Write two yellow poems at a stroke, one for yellow me and one for yellow you.” That’s when I shed my yellow skin and become a yellow phallus stylus pen squirting yellow ink about yellow deaths of yellow kids.
Ra Sh (Ravi Shanker N.) has published English-language poems in many national and international online and print magazines. His poems have been translated into German and French. He has published three collections of poetry – Architecture of Flesh by Poetrywala, Mumbai, The Bullet Train and other Loaded Poems by Hawakal Prokashana, Kolkota and Kintsugi by Hadni by RLFPA Editions, Kolkata. His translations into English include a biography Mother Forest (of C.K. Janu) by Women Unlimited, two collections of poems Waking is Another Dream (Sri Lankan Tamil resistance poems) by Navayana and How to Translate an Earthworm (an anthology of 101 contemporary Malayalam poems translated to English) by Dhauli Books, a collection of essays Kochiites ( Bony Thomas on the migrant communities in Kochi) by Greenex and two collections of short stories Harum Scarum Saar and other Stories (Bama) by Women Unlimited and Don’t Want Caste (stories by Malayalam Dalit writers) by Navayana.
Questions I ask myself
If you could be equal in an unequal world, where would you plant your feet?
On a floor that slips with alarming regularity, or a place where holding your ground requires everyday battles?
Whose hand would you hold?
Would you get ahead or stay back?
Would you bend to pick up the remnants or will you leave without a trace, all the lives that have held place for you?
The kiosk is run by a lady who opens shop at 7 in the evening everyday. In the corporate world, she may have won accolades for her punctuality. But here, there’s only the haphazard queue of auto drivers, cab drivers, and daily wage labourers that squat on plastic stools and eat, perhaps their first meal of the day. She has always been generous with her portions.
Now, there is only a dark pool of oil that her kerosene stove has spilt.
Kiosks don’t qualify for essential services.
moonbow no omens for the future in sight
*Forthcoming in a book of haibun published by Red River
Home chores stretch between walls into predictable loops.
Work piles cloud after cloud and splashes into a pot of milk that has just boiled over.
At night they come together like angry lovers, each, incomplete, promising to draw their boundaries firmer the next morning.
Shobhana Kumar has two books of poetry and six works of non-fiction covering industrial and corporate histories. She works in the spaces of education, communications and social work. She is Associate Editor of Sonic Boom and its imprint, Yavanika Press. She is deeply influenced by haikai writing and her book of haibun, A Sky Full of Bucket Lists is forthcoming by Red River. She is part of The Quarantine Train, a poetry workshop founded by Arjun Rajendran. She works in the spaces of corporate communication, branding & advertising, education and social work.
We remember when there was only the rain
We remember when there was only the rain, nothing but the rain. The rain chain stitched itself to our hearts till our hearts hung out their crimson shadows to dry in the famished sun. We too remember when there was only the silence, nothing but silence. We lent silence a language but nobody came to console us. Only the birds born out of our rubble wept in our ruins and time hurried past us with our yesterdays in its luggage. We forgot when we tumbled out of tomorrow with the gauze of bleeding clouds flung over our slumped shoulders. Our destinies were shattered on the pavements, and the soldiers picked up pieces of to use as looking mirrors and stroke their guns with the pride of careless death.
We remember when there were only the shadows, nothing but the shadows. We cremated our names on water to reach the other side where you stood waiting with open arms in the land of your siege and my siege, the perfume of ripe wheat in your moist eyes. Be our shadow between the two wars on our glass maps. Take us to your gardens laden with cherry blossom, sprinkle us with rose-water and comb our wheat in the prisons of your names. What was the point of your waiting, who do we await in the long winter? Did the poets not warn us to lock our sleep weary doors, as all promises stood broken. Nobody came, the shikara wala laments, and I complete the verse: Nobody will now come here, nobody.
Our poem is in your manacled hands and can comb its fingers through our forgotten songs sung when we return dead from destiny’s road. We kiss the poem, surrender our hearts and ask: Who are you? Who are we?
Letter to a Lost Lover in Kashmir
Every window owns a voice Though not one speaks to me.
I am lost in such a crowd Where my only company is me.
– Sabir Zafar
Faiz, you summed it right:
Who dares the courage to request now? Who bears the patience to endure now?
I can hardly shake off the fear off me, but how does one persuade the heart to write off its obstinacy? Neither any plea for meeting admitted, nor any grievance redressed. Tyrant, how merciless is your regime: All the rights of the broken heart have been suspended.
Freshly metalled roads lead to wary mountains and wintered gardens in the upturned valley – ashen white and stale green, in jaded wallpapers. Special SRTC buses meet to auction generous routes to relish the barricaded world. There are great attractions indeed, but what use are they when elegy is prohibited to me? The rains of my misfortune didn’t choose a stranger’s roof.
Those stars, we stole from the impossible seas of blood in the dug mountains and strung into three constellations (if our two ran out, we kept one for a rainy day) were gunned down too right in the heart of my sky. Perhaps some prophet will glide over now and resurrect them from saffron graves. Perhaps, I could then empty the sea of long death between us, and nail to it my leaking palms with the syllables of your memory. From me, ailing from you, the furry hands of death will, perhaps, exorcise the mortgaged plagues of memory. My sutured memory leans back on the benches of superiority stroking your blood matted hair with rock-hard guns.
The awaara was used to conversing with the black roses blooming in the undug bazaars. Will he too need to be diagnosed, medicated and counselled for generic anxiety? Will you steal the scars of your memory from him too, the scars which are full moons now?
Someone wake you up, tear you up, grieve over you, when I come back home late midnight someone sigh over you and console in hushed whispers: indeed, you have suffered greatly till now, you have walked alone and burnt in our fires alone. Come, walk beside me come, let us walk a new journey, come walk, make me your witness and walk.
How long more dear heart, how much more life like this? Saif, we too never wonder at the dead. Death must’ve been the only approved remedy.
Huzaifa Pandit is the author of Green is the Colour of Memory which won the first edition of Rhythm Divine Poets Chapbook Contest, 2017. Besides he is the winner of several poetry contests like Glass House Poetry Competition and Bound Poetry Contest. Born and raised in Kashmir, his poems alternate between despair, defiance, resistance and compliance as they seek to make sense of a world where his identity is outlawed. His inspirations in poetry can be guessed from the topic of his PhD: “Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Agha Shahid Ali and Mahmoud Darwish – Poetics of Resistance” pursued at the University of Kashmir.
Dr. Arya Gopi
IS AN ECHO OF AN ECHO OF AN ECHO, AN ECHO?
I echo sounds of all blind tongues of the hushed era I echo the thud of axes of all ellipses of hunter tales I echo snores of flaws in history of all uprooted souls I echo the legacy of traditional woes of invisible routes I echo the scream of a molested infant of all abused childhood I echo the fear of mothers who lack their home anywhere on this earth I echo the vibe of leaves of a tree in which I listen to myself I echo the grave of immortelle which lives after death on cemetery blankets I echo hooting of nocturnal nights of all circadian rhythms I echo downpour of menstruating moons of dawn and dusk of all stains of being I echo voices of vanquished queens of all incredible empires I echo loudness of the laugh of medusa of all hairy snakes I echo the rising sun of timid ones who never sets every evening I echo the prodigal of love and trials of all mysteries I echo charlatans of all arts of suicidal moments I echo sleepless midnight blues of erotic smuts leftover in the master bedroom I echo dumb words which had drown in the lethe I echo the sleepless nights drowned in the alchemy of woes I echo the violent puffing of all pathogenic influenzas of myriad times I echo weeping of extinct words thrown out of dictionary I echo ignorance of lurches of leaps of all dead parents I echo the noisy flight of blow flies with mouthful of impatience I echo thud of fire of flood of crystallized cadence of sin I echo compromises of obedient life which doesn’t have its own silhouette I echo the anesthetized words of all dirty games I echo slogans of the slippery ideologies of voluptuous politics I echo ancestral contour of runaway of organic whorls I echo the invisible calendar days which is the unseen facades of menstruating lockdowns I echo wars of silent prayers of all countless echoes of echoes…
Arya Gopi is a bi-lingual poet who works in English and Malayalam with half a dozen published books including four Malayalam poetry collections. Her first English title Sob of Strings was published in 2011. A contributor to major journals and anthologies, she has won several awards which includes the Kerala Sahitya Akademi Kanakasree Award, Kerala State Youth Welfare Board Swami Vivekananda Yuva Pratibha Award, Kerala State Youth Commission Youth Icon Award, International ONV Foundation Yuva Award, Vyloppily Award, She is also a regular presence in the Malayalam literary events. She teaches Literature at Zamorin’s Guruvayurappan College, Calicut University.
It’s the night sky and I’m looking for stars and I can’t find any but I have hope but I will be here tomorrow and Alone and single and On the rough lonely bed but I will search for stars but I don’t do it every night and.
Upasana Das is a postgraduate student in the Department of English, Jadavpur University. She is a writer, artist, translator and academic. Her research interests include postcolonial studies, modernist studies, visual culture and performance studies. Furthermore, she also researches the interconnectivity of literature, film, theatre, comics and the other arts.
Dr. Archana Bahadur Zutshi
Not one or two but five of them, Caught in a limbo, it was a knock, Sudden, as the preparations were on – Of the long awaited marriage of their aging daughter. She too was among those Who boarded the ambulance, Quarantine zone was awaiting them Away from home.
People seem to have been nudged Into a slow motion jamboree, The protestations, quirky medication bills, Have failed their nerves.
They all huddled gradually in the omnibus, Sauntered into the waiting hulk As the driver kept reminding It was not solely at their command.
My afterthoughts were the wedding Is still twelve days apart, Mitigating, unsuspecting snatches. How slow life has become And death seems to be in a snatching hurry!
Dr. Archana Bahadur Zutshi has two volumes of poetry, Poetic Candour and The Speaking Muse, available on Amazon. She is a bilingual poet – translator, author of chapters in literary texts and co-author of twelve international anthologies. An accomplished poet who has been a judge for online contests and a winner several times, the ‘Culturium’ (March 18, 2019) features her and her poems. Her works have appeared in All Poetry, United by Ink, Spillwords, Confluence, Setu, The Bilingual Journal, The Madras Courier, MirrorSpeak and the Indian Journal of Comparative Literature and Translation Studies.
The Preamble and Power Politics
I first read the Preamble in class seven The Indian constitution seemed straight out of heaven I looked up at my mother with eyes lit bright And found in hers a reflection of my delight
Now the constitution lies torn, disregarded Surreptitiously before us the manusmriti is paraded Slowly we celebrate Gandhi’s murder Stop mourning his death, I shudder
Innocent people are imprisoned, killed, lynched The courts bat not an eyelid, nor flinch I realise I must dispense with rhyme Which represents a youthful, childhood time
I see a world enmeshed in power I see ordinary people trapped in nets Lives and homes so fragile Big men rich men orchestrate And snap power hungry fingers Which cost lives and deaths in faraway places anonymous people, anonymous spaces They will never know about, nor care about. Common people like us prance-dance to their tunes In this circus-ring, who’s the top master, Who’s the elephant jumping fire And who’s watching?
Shruti Sareen, born and brought up in Varanasi, studied at Rajghat Besant School, KFI. Graduating in English from Indraprastha College for Women, University of Delhi, she later earned a PhD in Indian English Poetry from the same university. She has had over a hundred poems and a handful of short stories published in journals and anthologies. She is currently seeking publishers for her novel. Her debut poetry Collection, A Witch Like You, is forthcoming from Girls on Key Poetry (Australia) in April 2021.
Dr. Sabreen Ahmed
Mother Tongue Blues
A human, a woman, a netizen of India, A native axomiya -a goriya or ‘miya‘, a deshi, jolha or a baganiya I am all in flesh and blood one yet i deeply crib when one asks— what is my mother tongue? I blast out at the computer operator at the NRC hearing centre who is rude to my septuagenarian father and uncle and repeats— what is our mother tongue? He has never heard of the term ‘Axomiya Mosolman’. I was enraged, but he was just doing his job, yet why i crib when one asks— What is my mother tongue? The lockdown did no better Those who couldn’t spit on the streets Spat venom on their screens Some sane, some insane and some obscene Yet all in flesh and blood one And still I crib when one asks— What is my mother tongue?
No words nor dreams no sorrow or screams can reach my mind now a tabula rasa. There are no more echoes of the soprano of those bygone sagas of love as I harp on to the encircling vistas of surmounting hatred I move apart to untrammelled pastures of darkness. Walking with the sophistry of the mind over lanes and streets in unseen starry nights, a masked woman am l, I hide my brazenness to walk on with a clogged up brain. I know not where to stop and etch my destiny in the lost footprints of time
Dr. Sabreen Ahmed has received her PhD from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi in Feb 2013. Her area of interest is Gender studies, South Asian English Writing and Contemporary Theory. She has published an anthology of poems entitled Soliloquies (2016) and has also edited a UGC Sponsored National Seminar Proceeding captioned Indian Fiction in English and the Northeast (2016). Currently she teaches in the Dept of English, Nowgong College, Nagaon, Assam, India. She writes poems, short stories, articles, book reviews etc for several webzines in India like Café Dissensus, The Thumbprint, The Citizen, Feminism in India, The Assam Tribune and so on.
The treasure I was sitting on
A brand new car and miles to go The year started with great gung-ho
Overland drives and overseas tour The road beckoned with its own allure
And then came March and the deadly virus No big deal, it can’t be happening to us
A curfew day turned into weeks of lockdown And weeks turned into months of global meltdown
Make do with less, make do online A new life emerged, called it quarantine
And out of the blue I got literally smitten With vegetables, grains and more from my kitchen
Faces, scenes, birds, animals and flowers Kitchen art engaged me longer than hours
In English and Hindi, words would flow Likes and followers began to grow
My cycle became my bosom friend Walks and long rides made a lovely blend
Clocked more than a thousand miles Far exceeded by the number of my smiles
The year that was, unusual no doubt Turned my life upside down and inside out
The treasure was right here and right now Every moment was indeed a big wow!
After 35 years of a professional life spanning academics and industry, as a computer scientist, Uma prefers to just engage in activities that she enjoys or is good at, like mentoring students and teachers and life coaching. In the process of working with her own challenges, in the last 20 years, she has analysed life from different perspectives. Creating art from material available in her kitchen – vegetables, pulses, grains, fruits, peels, cutlery, pasta, noodles, papad… has opened up vistas of inspiration for her. The road and its sights and adventures hold great fascination for this avid driver.
There are some times in the lives of most Malayalis (people who hail from the Indian state of Kerala) when despite their best efforts at being glitzy and jet setting, the call of their roots becomes impossible to ignore and even the most hardened global citizens among them long for their share of slurpy curries and tapioca or jackfruit in their many delicious versions.
Come Onam and the nostalgia factor rises quite a few decibels. Onam is the harvest festival of Kerala. The festival lasts for ten days and marks the first ten days of the month of Chingam- technically, it is the Malayalam New Year. In the past years, Onam in the state would reach fever pitch with news channels beaming visuals of crowds thronging shops for last minute purchases- especially on the eve of Onam- which is called Uthrada Paachil (or frenzy on Uthradam day). The crowds would be out in full force on the streets and the State government organizes special programmes for all the ten days, the inaugural and closing ceremonies compete with each other in terms of grandeur. The festival attracts tourists and the famous snakeboat races happen around this time. There are food fests, stalls selling everything from spoons to safety pins to anti-acne cream and ant repellent chalk (sure, they are available on non-Onam days too, but this time, they can be purchased in the same breath and the fact that you purchased it during Onam makes it exciting- there is that magic in the air that makes these odd acts strangely appealing)
The major cities are decked up, government offices are lit up with fairy lights, there are fairs on most public grounds, gaanamelas– concerts featuring film or popular songs- (which are interestingly called light music- as opposed to all the other by contrast, heavy music? Trust me, one has to be Malayali to understand. And must have witnessed at least one University Youth Festival). These gaanamelas are free- held on open grounds or on improvised stages in the parking lots of government offices. The singers, accompanied by an orchestra belt out number after number- sometimes they are very good, sometimes, birds drop dead from their perches. But there is always an audience. I don’t know if it is because of the festive spirit or because the Malayali can never pass up anything free being handed out.
There is more to Onam than being just a harvest festival or a way for what is an acknowledged consumer state to consume more and more. There is a story and as always, there is more to that story than what meets the eye. And like all good stories, there is a King, a rival and the general public who as usual have no say in anything that matters. Sounds very contemporary? Any association is purely in the mind of the reader. And thereby hangs a tale.
It did not feel right in my mind- a ten year old mind- when I first heard the story of Maha Bali, Vamanan and Onam. Brought up for the first nine years of my life in a state of literally no cultural awareness thanks to a badminton game-like existence between Bombay and a small village on the border between Kerala and Tamil Nadu, I placed a strong faith in the Ramayan and the Mahabharat in the era of Doordarshan. I trusted Christ, Sri Ram and them gods and goddesses of the pantheon with equal fervour and knew only what Doordarshan and Amar Chitra Katha taught me. Subsequent researchers have told me what a grave mistake that had been.
It was when I went off to Oman to lead the next leg of my cosmopolitan life that I began to have questions. My first formal introduction to Onam was at age ten. My father being the Malayali that he is, would insist on preparing the Onasadya every year. To those who do not know what that is, it is an extremely tedious, but, admittedly delicious lunch that involves cooking curries of varying degrees of complexity, there are courses of the meal, right from the crispy sweet and salted banana chips to the pickles and chutneys, to the mounds of rice that have a main curry poured over it, then you can mix and match it with an assistant curry of your choice, this is repeated at least thrice in the course of the meal, there are infinite kinds of desserts (payasam) that follow…sorry flow onto your banana leaf (the sadya is eaten on this leaf) sometimes as ordinary as semiya payasam or ada payasam or sometimes, soy bean, quinoa, beetroot, bitter gourd (yes…again yes…) payasam all this can be mashed with a banana- which is also part of the feast. Then there will be the obligatory rice and curry routine- this time curd based or sour- to balance the palate. And then digestives.
The sadya is thus eaten. And then its time for a siesta. Dinner is more of the same and so are all subsequent days till the curries are over. The great thing about this sadya in my house was that my father would do it all with minimal involvement from my mother. I was his hapless assistant and would be given all sorts of tasks like chopping the cashews, keeping watch on things set to boil, fetch and carry…and one year, while the vegetables were cooking and the ghee was ready in the uruli for the payasam, he told me the story of the Asura (Demon)King, Maha Bali who conquered the netherworld and the Earth and had set his sights on Heaven and how Maha Vishnu, the great preserver of the cosmos, came to him in the form of a Brahmin dwarf by the name of Vamanan and asked for three steps of land. The king readily agreed as he was in the midst of a Yagna for his final victory- over the heavens- and so could not refuse the Brahmin. Upon being granted permission to measure and claim his three steps of land, Vamanan grew to his actual cosmic size and in one step covered the heavens and in the next, the earth and raised his foot and asked the king where he should place it because there was no place left. The outwitted king offered his head. Vamanan placed his foot on the king’s head and pushed him into the underworld where he ruled. He accepted the terms and agreed to stay there and asked to visit his people once a year. So, on Onam, it is believed that Maha Bali comes visiting his subjects and they cook whatever they have harvested to offer up a feast and welcome him.
Applying a child’s logic to all this, I found it odd that a demon king behaved in the most un-demon like manner and let a god trick him into submission. And if restoring righteousness was the main objective behind tricking and defeating demons (as countless similar stories of conflicts between asuras and devas taught us), then why is this demon king asking to see his people once a year? And why were these people lining up to welcome him?
But in the general swirl of curries and payasams and my father’s nostalgia, these doubts sank. Years later, as the only resident of the college hostel who did not go home to her local guardians for the ten-day Onam vacations, I was invariably invited to saunter down to the kitchens and eat what I liked. On Onam, I would request the nuns to let me stir the payasam because that’s what I would have done had I been home. In my mind, like my father, I too was in a state of exile.
Onam is, in a way, the signature festival of Kerala, though in parts of Northern Kerala, Vishu (the Equinox festival) is what is celebrated on an epic scale. Onam is the social barometer of Kerala as the ways the state reads itself and the directions it wants to take is reflected in the scale and nature of the celebrations and the ways these patterns are interpreted. The laments over increasing commercialization of the festival, the shrillness of competing television channels airing the latest hit films, the exhortations to buy more and more and more and the sometimes mind numbing cultural patterns of behaviour in terms of what to wear, what to eat, what one is doing, all point to a people in a state of anxiety. The fetishizing of the Non Resident Malayali, the Non Resident Malayali in turn romanticizing Onam and the various ponds, rivers, lakes where friends would go swimming after the lunch-(strangely I have not heard women’s narratives of going swimming after the Onam lunch) – all seem to be private conversations a people are having with themselves in terms of who they really are and where they want to be placed.
In recent times, the optics of the festival underwent a change through the figure of Maha Bali, who was till then pictured as a jolly, rotund, pot bellied man with a huge moustache- a sort of Malayali Santa Claus if you will. Maha Bali is an obligatory presence at all Onam celebrations across the state- schools, colleges, residents’ associations, offices, street performances, shopping malls- you name it. Dressed regally as the kings of yore, he would welcome people for the ultimate shopping experience- well why not. Vaamanan is generally absent.
In time, when mainstream, complacent politics had to make way for insistent and urgent subaltern voices, this very picturization came in for interrogation. The caricatured portrayal was called out and soon posters depicting a dark, muscular Maha Bali began doing the rounds. And in a way, it stands to reason that a King who conquered all that there was there to be conquered would be less- chubby? And not the avuncular figure we imagine him to be? I don’t know. Body shaming is really not my thing. Matters were not helped when a certain politician from another part of the country tweeted Happy Vaman Jayanthi on the occasion of Onam. The accompanying image showed the fair skinned Vaman’s foot on the head of a worshipful…(or was it defeated?- apparently the two look the same) dark hued, strong looking Maha Bali. Any associations are purely in the minds of the reader. I suppose having potbellied surprised looking Vamanan pushed to Sutala- (that part of the Underworld where refined people go unlike Patala where…others go) would have looked sort of bad- and sympathy would come into play where pride and faith should. This debate over iconography shifted to another gear when the compulsive vegetarianism associated with Onam began to be questioned by students from Kerala studying in Universities outside the state. Soon, Onam sadyas with meat began to be served in these places and with it the subaltern heritage of the festival.
During the floods that wreaked havoc on the state in the last two years, celebrating the festival became the symbolic of the resilient Malayali. There were sadyas being prepared in relief camps and the true spirit of community was witnessed there. Celebrations were muted across the state by the government as a cost cutting measure, but with the fragrance of food that rose from these camps and floral carpets were laid out with flowers from the neighbourhood, we felt invincible and hopeful.
For those who are wondering why Maha Vishnu went to stop Maha Bali in the first place, it is another roller coaster ride through mythology. It is believed that looking at the rising power of Maha Bali, Indra, the ruler of the heavens retreated to the forests. Indra’s mother, Aditi, feeling sorry for her son, appealed to Lord Vishnu for help. He asked that he be born to her and this child is the fifth of the ten avatars of Vishnu. By being born to Aditi, he was fulfilling a promise he had made about being born thrice to incarnations of Prsni and Sutapa across various Yugas. He did so because they wanted a son like him, and because no one could be like the Lord himself, he promised to be born thrice to them. After being born to Prsni and Sutapa, he was born yet again to Aditi and Kashyapa as Vamana (or Upendra- one who helps Indra) and finally to Devaki and Vasudeva as Krishna. Vamanan set out to defeat Maha Bali- not kill him as Maha Bali was the descendant of Prahlad, the greatest devotee of Vishnu, who had once asked of the Lord that he not kill any other member of his family (do refer to the story of Narasimha- the deity. Beware, there is a film in Malayalam by the same name. You have been warned.) There are wheels within wheels in just this one story…but that I leave to you to find out.
At the Yagna, when Vamanan made his strange request, the teacher of the Asuras, recognizing the trap warned him against agreeing to Vamanan. But Maha Bali would not go back on his word. It is said that Maha Vishnu was so impressed by Maha Bali’s piety and sense of duty that he himself stood guard outside Maha Bali’s palace in Sutala. Apparently, this is a reward. I do not understand how it is that when you thwart a man’s ambitions for no good reason and offer him a consolation prize by giving him something that you think is great, it can be seen as a reward. And through Aditi, I comprehend and salute the spirit and determination of the Indian mother.
These are testing times for the entire world. Our readings of our myths and legends reflect what we seek at crucial points in our collective existences. The story of Maha Bali today can been seen as a man making the best of his circumstances. Bound by his commitment, he chooses to do what he can, going away, till he can return that one time a year. You might know someone like that from the scattered Malayali diaspora. It might even be you, living in Kerala during the pandemic, finding ways to get by. It might be all of us trying to fervently believe that there is a land where people were equal. Equally happy, equally prosperous. For the song goes, Maaveli naadu vaanidum kalam, maanusharellarum onnu poley (When Maaveli-(Maha Bali) ruled these lands, people were all equal).
Then again, at the end of it all, as my friend Kukku Xavier once pointed out, it might just be an allegory for sowing a seed by pushing it into the soil, the seed is guarded by the farmer who relentlessly protects the plant and one day it is ready for harvest. The land celebrates the end of hunger. The end of poverty. All shall dine tonight. All are equal tonight. Maanusharellarum onnu poley. Hunger is a great leveller.
You will find bits and pieces of this story in the poems of this edition of SamyuktaPoetry. The harvests, the anxiety, the pandemic, the past, the present. Time is cyclical. And I feel that while this site carries poems across cultures, languages, belief systems, it is good to come home to some payasam. So, like me, like my father, like someone you know, like possibly you, like Maha Bali, SamyuktaPoetry too has come home this Onam.
Sonya J. Nair Editor
The past and the present Fit in – Flowers of different hue In the floral carpet That adorn the floor Afloat on the waters of the floods. Children swing In bright ethnic wear, Returns and homecomings Get- together and feasts, Royals and the bourgeoisie Jostle with poverty And luxury The ideal past And a dreary present The utopic and dystopic Suthalam and Camelot Merge in a whorl Of colors Of fragrance Of Onam Bought and felt….
Hema Nair R retired as Principal Mahatma Gandhi College, Trivandrum. She taught English in NSS College for Women, Trivandrum. She was Assistant and later Associate Editor of Samyukta: A Journal of Women’s Studies from 2001 to 2014. She continues to associate herself with Team Samyukta in a crucial way.
Those four days of Onam, the elders stretched their afternoon game of cards into the night, as the monsoon suspended its play.
We cousins, thirteen of us, dampened by what low-voltage does to a Siemens VCR, missed the load-shedding of the early days—
when we became such blacksmiths of light, as our palms practised magic, moving on well-oiled joints, shifting, conjuring up
antelopes, bears, dogs, cats, and whales— enchanting a lantern light to do our bidding, making younger ones squeal in delight,
even as monsoon held back its applause, afraid that clapping its wet hands would be some sort of an ill-omen.
Soni Somarajan is a poet, copywriter, editor, and content consultant. His poetry and writings have featured in anthologies, magazines, and newspapers including Muse India, North East Review, Kitaab, The Bangalore Review, New Indian Express, Marie Claire, The Four Quarters Magazine, and is forthcoming in The Alipore Post, Bengaluru Review, and The Bombay Literary Magazine. Soni is the Creative Head at The Quarantine Train, a poetry collective. First Contact, his debut collection of poetry, will be published by Red River in 2020. He lives in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala.
Hook, on-line and sinker
Throw this plastic banana leaf over there Where the broken swing and rotten jasmine lie Here is some fast sticking magic glue for your eyes A big man on the small screen is singing off key Most of the payasam is left over, too bland Take it to the neighbours, bring back the vessels we should not waste food, good or bad People are starving in some other states Keep the mobile charged, screen unlocked Grandparents might drop in, uninvited Feed the dogs, the cats and the love birds No need to feed the domestic help She has COVID and thank God The good government is feeding her well It is a good idea to block all the images The screen is bulging out a little With starched cotton obesity You may remove the Pookkalam now Wash it, wrap it up and store it It is a good thing Onam is here once a year And that it is here only once a year Hello, I will surely call you back Today itself, BTW, how are you?
Sreekumar K, born at Punalur, Kollam, Kerala, now living in Trivandrum, after three decades of teaching in several schools across India, took to writing after retirement. He has tried every genre in both English and Malayalam. He coaches creative writing and spends most of his time translating works into and from Malayalam. He runs a YouTube channel for storytelling and an FB group for critiquing. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
When September Comes
The chempaka 1-scented night tousles the rainbow tresses of Onam with marble-cool fingers. Greenery edging into crevices of blue and brown; soaring high
from the mango tree, revelry whoops in a dusty courtyard of memories. Creamy kasavu2 clinging to moist midriffs like a skin of milk, bodies jostling for breath in an overflowing bus.
Nostalgia curdles overnight into politics on a campus unfringed with coconut palms—beef and olan3 defiantly locking stares on green banana leaves
procured for ten rupees apiece. Gurer roshogolla 4 crumbling in paalpayasam5 that I cup in my hand and teach you how to drink off the leaf,
pursing your lips, an invitation to kiss: Ami tomake bhalobashi6 melding into Enikku ninne ishtamaanu7 on an eve emblazoned with peacock calls.
You pump up your heart and gift it to him, a pulsating red balloon, along with a pin—Here, it’s complimentary! Why do you do that? asks my friend.*
Why, indeed? Why do we do the things we do when we know they’ll end up the way they will?
Why Onam arrives on Spring’s arm, and why Spring sprints into autumn,** who knows why? I sweep dead leaves into crackling pyres in a corner of the courtyard.
Notes 1 – golden champak, a fragrant flowering tree commonly found all over India 2 – a soft, off-white or cream-coloured handloom cotton sari with gold-threaded borders traditionally worn by Malayali women on Onam 3 – a light and mild curry with flavours of coconut milk, curry leaves and cowpeas exclusive to Kerala cuisine 4 – a traditional Bengali sweet made with fresh curd cheese and date palm jaggery 5 – rice kheer, a popular dessert in Kerala 6 – Translates to “I love you” in Bengali 7 – Translates to “I love you” in Malayalam
* Idea originally inspired by a conversation with my friend Shravan. ** The time and the sequence of the seasons are described as experienced in Kerala.
Jinju S. is an academic, poet and dreamer from Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala. When she isn’t juggling teaching, research, reading and writing with the most demanding and yet most rewarding journey of mothering a little human tornado, she indulges in dolce far niente, her most favourite pastime of all. Inspired by everyday life and the world around her, writing poetry is for her cathartic as well as a way to reach out to people.
Dr. Arya Gopi
1- Atham* As I peel off memory, time sketches monoliths of an elapsed childhood.
2-Chithira Pinched up yellow mukkutti**, traces homecoming journey of migratory souls.
3-Chothi Harvest of remembrances fills the granaries of the days of festal yore.
4-Vishakam I cook delicacies of tears of joy, spices of gathering and pickle laughs.
5-Anizham Snake boats rush cutting the waves of fabled Lethe, to kind mindfulness.
6-Thriketta The tale of three- feet of earth, buries the reign of shadowless egoistic towers.
7-Moolam A jovial swing decorated with the ancestral flowers of love oscillates.
8-Pooradam A consecrated legendary king, more human than human, revisits.
9-Uthradam On the eve of the carnival, an uncertain reverie of unblemished gentleness refill veins.
10-Thiruvonam The resurrection of transferable warmth unfurls from a sumptuous lunch.
*The celebrations mark the Malayalam New Year, are spread over ten days, and conclude with Thiruvonam. The ten days are sequentially known as Atham, Chithira, Chodhi, Vishakam, Anizham, Thriketa, Moolam, Pooradam, Uthradam and Thiruvonam
** the most common flower for Onam Pookalam is Mukkuthi. The dark yellow colour makes the floral Rangoli look more vibrant.
Arya Gopi is a bi-lingual poet works in English and Malayalam with half a dozen published books including four Malayalam poetry collections. Her first English title Sob of Strings was published in 2011. A contributor to major journals, she has won several awards which includes the Kerala Sahitya Akadami Kanakasree Award. A Phd Holder in English literature, she teaches literature at the Calicut University.
(Worldwide Breaking News – ‘God sent morphed ‘Vamana’ the dwarf dupe King Mahabali to submission’)
Coffee sipping Lady at the ‘Cafe-de-Paris’ ‘Hilary mythe’ (Hilarious story), she giggled
Munching ‘hot-dog’ at the 7th Avenue intersection, the NewYorker laughed ‘Cool guy, this Vamana’.
Beer mug in hand at the Munich ‘Biergarten’ ‘Komisch marchen’ (funny fable) grinned the German.
They all had a hearty laugh Time zones apart.
The short diminutive Vamana sneaked in ‘Slithered ‘past the immigration at JFK, ‘Camouflaged’ through the French security at Charle-de-Gaulle ‘Invisible’ to the sharp eyes of German ‘polezei’ Hidden inside the ‘lungs’ of the tourists And then it spread. Silently.
‘Just a ‘diminutive’ flu’ thought the benevolent king His powerful army stood by Watching the sky for missiles And the seas for warships While, the morphed Vamana, the COVID seeped Through the porous health system.
Desolate Paris cafe, Abandoned food cart in New York Deserted parks in Munich Overflowing bodies and understaffed mortuary. The diminutive ‘Vaman’ had won. Lord Vishnu had the last laugh.
The King’s last wish ‘Allow me to visit my colourful land once a year’ was granted A prayer for a vaccine still remain unanswered.
Dr. Tiny Nair is the Head of the Dept of Cardiology at PRS Hospital, Trivandrum. Apart from poetry, he also writes creative features as well as op-ed columns for various national dailies.
The reason for posting this picture will become clearer as this post progresses.
One of the major films released in 2020 was Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan (SMZS). It dealt with Homophobia in the small towns of India. The film talks about two gay men who live in a big city and travel to a small town for a cousin’s wedding. The father of one of the men catches them kissing and is traumatized and nauseated. At one point, he even turns on a pressure pump to douse his son, ritually cleansing him. What ensues is a laugh riot that tries to lighten the rather bleak prospects that the situation presents. And of course, marriage is at the centre of the narrative. (This film was deliberately held back from the feature on queer films because, it had a more prominent role to play here.) There are many marriages at the heart of SMZS. Predictably, none of them are perfect. The climax of the movie occurs at a wedding. And the smiles on your faces at the very end come with the announcement on TV that Article 377 has been repealed. It is a cathartic moment in the film, as the police had taken cognizance and barged into the house claiming that there were homosexuals in there. They are coaxed into waiting for the verdict and offered sweets when the news of the repeal does come through. The police leaves because there are no grounds for arrest anymore. Just like that. the film served to show how the verdict provided a respiratory relief for the millions who were struggling to live under these oppressive laws that among everything else, robbed people of their privacy.
In the film, the parents of the boy had decided to get him married to a girl to ‘cure’ him of his homosexuality. After all, in the movies, and I suppose, in society, marriage is seen as the panacea for everything from extravagance, debauchery, malnourishment to madness. In the end, the parents of one side reconcile, see the couple off at the railway station. All is well.
I was thinking, if the verdict repealing 377 had also legalized same-sex marriages, maybe, the protagonists would have been married then and there. But that was not to be. Particular care was taken to ensure that the verdict pertained to the repeal and nothing but the repeal. Just as the verdict on age of consent was supposed to discuss only that and not look into marital rape.
While the repealing of 377 was received with great celebrations all over the country, there was always the question of what next? And perhaps the answer to that is in the lines that follow. At the time of writing this post, a very strong movement is brewing among the queer community members which is bound to have a polarizing effect. Lawyers Menaka Guruswamy and Arundhati Katju are filing a petition in the Hon. Supreme Court of India, for legalizing same-sex marriages in the country. I suppose, in what can be called the groundwork, on 26 April 2020, the lawyer couple delivered a lecture for the Oxford Union Society about the rights of LGBTQ people in India. They discussed the importance of marriage in a society in India. They called it the Marriage Project. And I found myself agreeing with them when they said that India is a marriage society. It is apparent in the way our films, our advertisements, our spending patterns and our economics are structured. Film after film has the dream of a daughter’s wedding and the attendant struggles forming the central plot, Parents dreaming of getting the latest in designer jewelry populate our ads, the lady selling disinfectant is a mother and also a doctor- but primarily a mother. Shops sell wedding silks, wedding collections, there are special items of jewelry for members of the groom’s family- in case it is part of the custom to gift them something when the bride’s family go visiting- jewelry that is cost effective, looks heavy but is hollow. Like obligatory actions. There have to be at least 500 people fed and pampered at the wedding or else the families are social nobodies. And all these performances are aspirational and steps towards social and class mobility for those that subscribe to such ideas. And by that, I mean almost everybody from the lower upper class down.
Thus, when marriage is endemic to social structures, how can it be that people who constitute 5-7 percent of the population of this country are denied this right? It is a fact that after the repeal, a large number of LGBTQ individuals have come out to their families and also, there has been an upswing in the number of families that have become inclusive. This naturally makes it possible to want to take the next big step in a relationship.
The way I see it, there are two main reasons for demanding legal standing. 1) legal 2) social.
Legal: As mentioned before, India being a marriage society, recognises only the legal rights of a spouse or a blood relative- no matter how distasteful the relationship be. Take for example the matter of the Provident Fund. One has to compulsorily nominate someone to be the nominee. In the case of unmarried subscribers, it can be the parents. But upon marriage, the spouse automatically becomes the nominee. As a colleague once remarked, even if the spouse goes to jail for murdering her, the money from the PF will still go to him. The same is the case with something as simple as opening bank accounts, purchasing medical insurance under the family scheme, nominating someone for life insurance benefits, leaving behind assets. It can be frustrating to say the least to understand that though you have the spending power, your agency as a person is defeated. That the very people who reject you benefit from the privileges you never intended them to have, wants to make you outlive them.
There is also the significant question of end of life decisions. Something that is automatically granted to a spouse or in the absence of them, the next closest family member. People you might have been estranged from for decades. These matters need immediate redressal. The way that the Indian legal system imagines human relationships need to undergo a radical change. Failing this, marriage seems to be only recourse. There is the option of fighting for partnership rights. Something akin to the rights granted to live in couples. Here again, the woman is protected under the Domestic Violence Act. The children born of these unions have inheritance rights under the provisions of a certain religion.
Social: The queer community is generally seen as permissive. People with no set of ‘family values’ who flit from one partner to another. This is in fact one of the major reasons why they are seen as being vulnerable to immune compromising diseases and discriminated against. AIDS was once called the gay disease. Marriage will help normalize the community, make the people more relatable. The idea that they are just like cis-gendered people and share the same marital issues like anyone else, might just work in their favour. As mentioned in a previous post, there have been people who travelled to the US or Paris to get married because gay marriages are not legal in India, but are legal in the places their spouse hails from. At least one of them thus enjoys spousal rights.
The move to litigate with regard to legalizing same se marriages has been a polarizing one. In my conversation with Manvendra Singh Gohil, founder of the Lakshya Trust, LGBT influencer and the first openly gay Indian royal, who is himself married, he feels that pushing for Anti Discriminatory laws is more important that looking at the issue of marriage. In a survey conducted, he reveals that only 37 percent of the Indian population is accepting of LGBT rights. In the light of this, he thinks that it is more important to work with society to create acceptance for the community. Without this, any move to legislate in this area could actually backfire.
The interesting part of marriage laws is that it does not specifically prohibit same sex marriages. It does specify that men and women can get married. But it doesn’t say that marriages can take place ONLY between men and women. It is a cheeky interpretation, sure, but it is certainly not invalid. Sridhar Rangayan, the director of KASHISH Mumbai, who is in a relationship for the last 25 years, too felt that anti discriminatory laws are extremely urgent as these would make a great deal of difference in the lived realities of people. These views have been echoed by Kishor Kumar, the author of the first gay autobiography in Malayalam- Randu Purushanmar Chumbikumbol (When Two Men Kiss), he also adds that anti discriminatory laws would help provide greater security and that marriage is not the priority for those living precarious existences. Having said that, he feels that these two movements ought to go side by side as he sees same sex couples getting married in a decade.
I would like to point out the relevance of the picture that headlines the post. It is at this point that the current rules governing adoption, surrogacy and Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) will come in for hard scrutiny. It has been possible for a number of rich and famous to have babies via surrogacy in foreign countries. There are surrogacy clinics abroad that specialize in helping couples or single parents get babies. But for the average same-sex couple, or the economically distressed queer, these options will certainly not be viable. This would mean that to help people further cement their self-image in their own or in society’s eyes, it s imperative that these laws be re-examined and kinder provisions be introduced. The problem is that it will take a lot of unlearning to wash away the grime of suspicion surrounding the intentionality of queer people. This is where the sensitization that Gohil was talking about comes into play.
Heidi Sadiya, one of the well-known journalists from Kerala and transwoman activist felt that there would not be many hurdles in the path to legalise same sex marriages and that it would help the members of the queer communities to strengthen their commitments to each other. She remarked on her experience of getting married to her transman partner. There were no provisions for Transgender in the register and they had to sign as male and female.
Vihaan Peethambar, Trans Activist & Board member – Queerala, an LGBTIQA+ organization opines that marriages in India are structured to be procreative- one that yields children. This becomes weaponized in the hands of heterosexual people or those who for any reason are forced to/willingly abandon their relationship with a transgender individual. There have been instances of annulment being sought on the grounds that their transgender partner is impotent or hid their identity. One must look at the ways that the term ‘family’ can be reimagined in a way that is inclusive of people with diverse gender identities and sexual orientations. “Although, I increasingly see LGBT+ people with some amount of privilege seeking these benefits compared to others for whom this is not the priority now, either way, the focus should be on bringing in legislation that is gender agnostic and does not replicate the cis-hetero social contracts and systems,” he concludes.
While the move is being met with a sense of ambivalence, in a sense of the term, the path is already cut out, with Sonu and Nikesh, a couple having filed a case in the Kerala High Court in 2020 after their secret marriage in a temple in Kerala in 2018 could not be registered. It is natural to wonder about this obsession with marriage. It is generally not all that it is made out to be- if the number of wife, husband mother in law jokes are anything to go by or that in murder cases, the spouse is a natural suspect, or that as per the provisions of the Act, the husband is responsible for anything happens to the wife. I suppose the charm lies in the luxury of choice. one of the slogans at Pride marches have to do with Aazadi- Freedom. To marry or not marry. In a very tangible sense, legalizing same- sex marriage in India brings estranged, dispossessed citizens closer to the Constitution that ideally must be watching over them and watching out for them. The art for this edition is courtesy Mr. Harikrishnan G., of Manorama Publications. It features Anjali Ameer, transperson, holding a baby. Anjali is also the first transperson to star as protagonist in a mainstream movie in Tamil or in any language in India.
Better known to friends as SK, he rebels against any line drawn across humanity. He manages an FB group named Ezhuthani (എഴുത്താണി) for those who look beyond likes and dislikes. He teaches, writes and teaches writing.
Skies Belong to Others
(For Shalu, a transgender, who was brutally murdered)
He was not from my caste or my religion My clan or country, my creed or my region But he belonged to the same gender as me And no girl was more attractive than he.
I met him on the side walk in the city On a day I thought the world had no pity. I was on a crossroad watching the passers by I got no smile from those who passed by
Then he came by, walked beyond where I stood And then turned around as if he understood. He smiled at me and in his smile I saw A human being, well refined and not raw
We fell in love, at that very first sight Losing to our will after a good fight He came over and held my hand long Years later, to this hand I still do cling
He always did whatever I told him to do Aped my mom with her countryside hairdo Painted his nails deep red and lips purple And send through my body many a ripple
He tried high heels and made his cheek redder Learned to raise his pitch and sang like my sister We shopped for things we didn’t need at all In his green chiffon gown he looked so tall
He taught me what love is and what it is not In a way that no one had ever taught or thought He made me let go of my past and enjoy the now I was sure we would tie a knot somehow
One wall broken, others were crumbling They soon fell around us with such a loud rumbling At everything around us he used to wonder They were things to admire and points to ponder
From our small room in my bungalow He used to stare at the green valley far below While I lay on our bed and stared at the roof He sang some songs, his love’s melodious proof
As we hugged the future we had always sought He drained my mind of many a worrying thought And left it blank for me to brood over The eternal bond among what’s near and yonder
His ruby lips, his long arms and hairy body Were just the things God had sent for me His eyes twinkled with my naughty thoughts As he read them clearly always on my face
I don’t know what he saw in me that fell him But as he sat with me and I looked at him In his eyes I saw myself, a figure I didn’t recognize My real nature, I could never love or realize
And one day the news channels hollered in glee The death warrant for many like him and me We soon saw walls built of skulls and bones of innocent humans, the most unfortunate ones
The lawmakers held up the constitution And swore like a whore against prostitution We found them a merciless institution Which gave much pain but nothing for restitution
The cops were at my heels and we had to flee I saw death in his eyes and he held fast to me Had there been a cliff to jump from I would have ended it all and died with him
But before we had spent a month underground Our love life had to buried deep underground When they caught and bound us in legalities I couldn’t see him as blood had blurred my vision
Evil, said they; an angel, I cried Handcuffs and whips had just arrived They let me go, because I looked awful Him they caught because he looked awesome
I saw the judge eyeing him hard on the sly And the rest of the crowd drooling viciously Everyone wished for a dark hour at noon And there did befall a strange darkness soon
I wondered who was chanting scriptures In a courtroom in pitch darkness at a time like this Then I heard a scream and a wail in the court They had stabbed him right through my heart.
Akshay A. S.
Akshay A.S is pursuing his Post Graduation in English Language and Literature at Mahatma Gandhi College, Trivandrum. A self-confessed Instagram poet, he is also an excellent artist and has collaborated with us for some of the art work this month. The poem is a tribute to love that seems not to recognise insurmountable hurdles and is blindly optimistic. It is a nod to the Beatles who have influenced Akshay a lot.
Of sons and Lovers
To my right, His guitar weeps, Faint enough to go unnoticed.
It must have been five minutes ago, Or five centuries, for all I know, When I texted my Father Telling him I was gay. He asked me if I was okay. He told me to stay put, That he was going to come get me And take me back home to safety. Back to my cramped closet, perhaps.
The phone now lies face down Beside a green carnation on the quilted bedspread. I nuzzle in closer, into the arms Of the person I call Home, Who himself never left his own closet. He sleeps in there now With his dead-beat skeletons, the bones Stowed away from his own Dad.
At 25, he’s 3 years older than me But his parents still treat him like he’s 3. He tried telling them 3 years earlier That their only son slept with men, Fell in love with them, Ran his fingers through their hair And on late nights, high on yellow submarines Played them songs from his favorite band On the guitar that his dad bought him On the day he turned eighteen, Because he was worried about his boy And thought he might need ‘help’ with women. Maybe just a nudge, In the right direction.
Instead, He turned left And found me. He tried telling them the truth And failed miserably. But he opened up to me And so did I. I slept with him, Fell in love with him, Ran my fingers through his hair And on late nights, high on yellow submarines, When he sang me songs From that 60s band that he oh-so loved, I stole kisses from him Every time he paused to take a breath.
Yesterday, all our troubles seemed far away. Today, they charge straight at me, Domineering the driver seat of an 87′ Fiat, Checking his vintage Rolex every five minutes To make sure he is not too late to save his son From surely impending doom. Father has a tough time letting go of old things. I could never tell what he was more frightened of – The idea of change or that he couldn’t understand the new.
“I told you not to tell him so soon”, He whispers into my left ear. An informed opinion With an air of erstwhile experience. I remain silent.
A story he once told me finds its way back to me, Of how his father threatened to leave his mom And as she sobbed into the arms of her son, As I did now, She told him love would find a way. She now tells her son To hide his love away.
To my right, His guitar weeps. I cannot help but notice.
Shruti is a prolific poet and has been published by a number of Indian and South Asian journals. She is passionate about poetry, music, teaching, Assamese culture, mental health, nature and environment. Her poems, for her, are spiritual and open up her deep and abiding connection with her beloved, who is sometimes God. She seeks a tangible connection that can set her free.
She told me you cut those long black tresses suli in Axomiya, falling to your waist since a time before I can remember. She showed me a picture of you with new frizzy hair. I wish I could have collected your beautiful fallen hair I wish I could have preserved a piece of you which you no longer wanted.. I wonder how your juda stick will feel from disuse and neglect now Will you discard it, throw it away? Will you keep your hair short now, send out short hair pictures? Or let it grow long again? My hair is emotion for me. I caress it, twirl it, fiddle with it constantly When I am upset. You are the only person Who could make me cut it. On an impulse, I want to cut my hair to be like you. To keep you in me. To forsake the hair Instead of forsaking you. Hair is precious, But you are priceless. But that would Be silly. I will preserve the old you for a while longer My long black waist length tresses like yours Tied up with a stick the way yours used to be, Can I keep my hair and keep you too, I wonder?
Someday I will cut my hair like you (Only you can make me do it). Some of my hair turned white with PhD anxiety. Sometimes, when macabre and gloomy, I think of killing Myself, and presenting all my long cut-hair to you as proof. I will cut my hair short when it’s mostly white Like yours, or maybe like your sister’s I will prance around with hair, blue, purple and green. So my hair is growing ripe and white and I am about to turn 32 You were 32 when I met you first. It’s been fourteen whole years.
Birthing the Body
“You dress just like your mother”, you said. “Why?” I was flummoxed. I had never thought I dressed like my mother I had hardly thought about the way I dressed at all. I wore whatever people gave me I privileged the inner over the exterior I thought fancy clothes as being frivolous I did not know that I repeated the age-old privileging of mind over body, man over woman, spiritual over physical
You taught me how to own my body To play with it, experiment the purpose of dressing is to feel beautiful not only to look Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery And my physique was similar to yours The dark skin, the long face, the lean frame, and the long black rippled hair So as I darkened my eyes, put up my hair, slipped in danglers, pierced navel and nose and inked a tattoo like you, Truthfully the most beautiful woman I have ever seen I started to fall in love with the image I saw in the mirror My body, and the way I adorned it, owned it Even when thoughts and emotions were in disarray
Instead of dressing like my mother, I started dressing like you If my mother birthed my body, so equally did you.
Darshit is a Post Graduate student in English Language and Literature at Mahatma Gandhi College, Trivandrum, Kerala. He occasionally dabbles in poetry. This poem stemmed from the suicide of a person he knew. It shows sensitivity towards the pain and isolation caused by homophobia.
Confessions of a Dead Friend
Hey there, Do you remember me from class 10? Yes! The boy with glazed eyes, Sore jokes and fat cheeks. Who sat next to you Because elsewhere, His presence was underappreciated.
Sorry I couldn’t give back, That Crimson-Red slam book of yours. Though, I almost finished it. Almost. Well somewhere in between, “My dreams” and “My ambitions”, I “literally” hanged. Had to. Because I was unwelcome here or anywhere. unattended. uncommon. They said, I WAS DIFFERENT TO BE WITH. They meant Difficult. I smiled differently, I walked differently, I cried differently, Well not something proud to be, They said. Them; classmates, their parents, My mates and my parents. Same thing, They all said. That I was twisted. All over. From genes to nails. From jeans to heels. I was corrupted By Evil, Satan and all other names, In that pocket dictionary they could find. Well they gave me an instant hard on! Even I was very interested in some names, that granny cock! this pussy mouth! what cuntless cunt! Well, some imagination they have got!
They had their ways to get to me. From paper planes to washroom walls. Foul play at soccer games, To twisted elbows and broken nose. From being stripped naked and cold, To harsh, piercing and still colder stares. They looked, laughed and labelled Me, ‘A prize of witchcraft’. They never grew bored.
After a point, Even I came to see what they saw, Every time as I rushed past a mirror. Sometimes heard myself calling names they did. And started to hate and hurt myself more than they ever could.
Strange, When I hanged, I saw all those faces at my funeral. Clutching a rose with their right hands. High sounding words and false claims. they called me “dear” and few of its other synonyms. O’ dear,how strange! suddenly I was missed. A feeling I never got to meet until I last exhaled.
You. You were not like others. You smiled when they scorned. You taught me simple arithmetic. Though I still can’t count. You stayed. You cared. You laughed at my jokes, When they laughed at me. You cared even less that, I wore no skirts, grew no boobs And pretty much looked like a boy. Though I behaved like none. You remained ignorant to names, Smirky smiles and God knows, what all gossips! You simply stayed. You made a choice. But I couldn’t stay. I couldn’t make that choice. because I wasn’t left with any. I couldn’t wake up everyday just to hunt myself more. I couldn’t bear this dead weight of being different. being wicked. of being me. So I jumped, off the stool and gave in. As simple as that.
Now Why did I tell you all this? Consider this as a late entry to your lost Crimson-Red slam book. Or as mere confessions of a dead friend.
While stuck in traffic jams at busy intersections, I have often wondered where all the people who are similarly stuck are headed to. I like to imagine their professions; their homes and what impulses propel them to where they might be going. I think about their lives and desires and wonder if they are someone by day and someone else by night. I think about the places they could have visited, the gatherings they might have held, their laughter and the silences that may have ensued when they held their breath in wonder or passion or love or in a combination of all of these. Sometimes, they notice and look quizzically at me. And I look away. It has never grown old, this guessing game. But for a lot of people, the Gaze has become a way of life. Something to contend with, to deal with, like natural calamities, hunger or diphtheria.
Queer is a term that is used for anything strange or out of the ordinary and what can be stranger than the cravings of love? But apparently, some queerings are queerer than others. And so, today, the word queer has come to predominantly mean desires that do not conform to heteronormative codes of social presentation and sexual behaviour. It is interesting that non-binary, gender non confirming, self-determined individuals are called Queer in a world that has for eons asked people to change existing suffocating systems, overthrow unjust regimes, choose mercy over crucifixion, spill blood for liberty, equality and fraternity, break chains because there is nothing else to lose, make salt, unsee skin colour. It is ironic that real change has always come from queering the ‘norms’, leading to nations being formed and men becoming founding fathers while there are these other queers who lose their livelihood, their nation, their human rights. Apparently, some queerings are indeed queerer than others.
Inevitably, the term queer leads one to sexuality, that most private yet most public aspect of one’s identity. I often feel, that the secrecy surrounding sexuality must be dispelled so as to help people lead better lives. The people from the LGBTQIA+ communities I have spoken to have told me about the sense of claustrophobia and disgust they have felt at themselves as they led a life of lies. The truth, the coming out has set them free. I suppose it is this freedom, this happiness that radiates out of them that often ‘people’ set out to extinguish.
It was one such act of violence that led to the birth of Pride marches the world over. On 28 June, 1969, the New York police raided the Stonewall Inn, a bar that was the meeting point of the city’s LGBT community. Soon the rallying cries from New York were echoed all over America, leading to the first Pride March in 1970. Soon queer communities the world over held Pride marches and today, a Pride March is as much a personal validation as it is a political and economic one. The Rainbow Flag, designed by Gilbert Baker debuted at the San Francisco Gay Freedom Day Parade on 25 June, 1979. The first Pride march in India was held at Kolkata on 2 July, 1999, with 15 members of the queer community participating. It was called ‘Friendship Walk’. Well, they were friends walking together, and also it was the safest thing to do too. Call it something innocuous and also find strength in numbers.
This sense of community, apart from the political need for solidarity, is also indicative of the absence of a strong support system from families and social agencies. There are generations of gender non confirming individuals who have lost their life chances and led precarious existences because they wanted to live as who they really were. There are also those people who were too frightened to admit their realities and lived out their lives in dingy closets. There were hardly any happy stories. The draconian regulations of the Article 377 stifled any reasonable aspirations of being accorded dignity.
While the striking down of the law has helped the communities gain greater traction in the politico-social spectrum, the acts of violence have not seen a radical decline. For example, there are hardly any convictions in crimes against Transpeople. The new Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019 is as confused as it is confusing. While homosexuality has been decriminalized, the practical applications of these judgements, such as right to marry or to pass on property have not been discussed.
It is rude to have to pass legislations to ‘grant’ someone’s fundamental rights and cruel to dictate who should love or marry whom. Yet, people do that, day after day. And think nothing of it. Or think they are doing the fabric of society a favour. All the while, they stomp on names, erase smiles, block glances, break embraces, interrupt quiet cups of coffee and feel good about protecting the rich culture of this great nation- or some nation.
It is from this toxic environment that poems of remarkable beauty have emerged. All this month, we will be featuring poets who are queer or allies. We have some of the best names in contemporary queer poetry and some others who are sure to make a name for themselves. Do join us as we bring you some of the most exciting poets all this month. Breaking with tradition (also note the colour of our logo), we have decided to have ten posts (if not more).
A note on the illustration accompanying this post that has been conceptualized by the editor and designed by Ms. Sarah Saju Kallungal, a Business Skills Trainer at TCS. There is more of her work on Instagram at toons_of_sarah. She responded to our call and created a wonderful work of art. Obviously inspired by The Game of Thrones, the picture is an attempt to depicts the infinite range of sexualities and the fact that heterosexuals are just one among the spectrum. It also points to the ‘wearability’ of gender. The never-ending, carnivalesque possibilities of sexualities and genders and the sheer time saved due to no more moral policing might help make the world a more livable place. Imagine a planet where you would be able to wake up and decide who you want to be for the day. And later returning and placing your identity back on the shelf, only to become someone else the next day. Or don’t. The power lies in the beauty of choice. That choice is a fundamental right above all and everything else. Don’t listen to those that say this merry go round of genders and sexualities will render society unstable. It’s as bad as getting married for the sake of family honour!
All this month, we will be talking of issues of particular relevance to the queer communities. Apart from poetry, we will also be showcasing queer cinema, music and art. We think it important to interrogate the politics of space, to discuss the need for affirmative spaces along with the implications of legislations and the ethics of regulatory practices in self-determination. And of course, we will talk of love.
This blog is curated and edited by Sonya J. Nair. While not curating or editing, she serves as the Head of the Department of English, All Saints’ College, Thiruvananthapuram. Her area of expertise is Gender Studies and she holds a Ph.D in the subject. Her research into the transgender festivals of South India with particular reference to Kerala and Tamil Nadu has earned her many friends among the community and she is currently working on a biography of a celebrated transperson.
For the team at SamyuktaPoetry, the Queer Pride Month is a celebration of all that is different, powerful and resilient. By that definition, we celebrate poetry. The colours await.