Queerness is a palette of colours
A rainbow stretches across the sky and we look at it in wonder, but what about all the colours walking on the street?
A rainbow stretches across the sky and we look at it in wonder, but what about all the colours walking on the street?
These are times of audacious modernity, times of chaotic growth- ideas exploding in heads that frantically search to become the new “it”, voices shouting to be heard first, people scrambling to be seen first. Everything is accepted and everything needs to be argued against. We keep pushing and pulling to maintain some dream of a balance, and in the tussle, we don’t find the peace to find ourselves. To love ourselves. To love others.
Queerness is a palette of colours and you’re the painter, ready to dip the brush and find out who you are when you touch the canvas of your emotions. In today’s world, we are told to speak up, to explore, but to find the strength to do that, to find the clarity to even begin the painting, that’s what we often don’t find. A calendar of tragic breakups that you kept secret because not everyone would understand or accept it. The moon and her powerful pronouns, did anyone ask her if she wanted to be conquered by man? Loving and not knowing who to love and how to love, but just loving, be it a him or her or both. Anguished words over the universe that sits inside but you don’t know to tell people, you don’t know how to tell yourself. Because not everyone understands the colours that love comes in. Because maybe even you are yet to understand the colours that love comes in.
This newsletter, through a collation of words and art and history, takes you on a journey of emotions, of sight, a journey of exploration, with a little hope that maybe, you’d find your colours hidden here.
1. Story of my heartbreak by Mayuri Deka
Story of my first break up Was quite cute I loved a girl She loved me back Back then, we didn't know About same sex love We shifted places We lost contact We grew up But yeah, we loved each other And my first heart break was a secret My first love was a secret My first break up was a secret People have so many stories to tell about Their first love first break up first kiss But I could not My first kiss was also a secret Story of my second break up Was sad I loved a girl She loved a man She loved me also some days The insecurity of losing each other The insecurity of not being able to claim our love Drew us apart We cried secretly But yeah we loved each other And my second break up was also a secret My third break up Was pathetic I loved a girl She loved me back By then we knew what our love was called We knew our love was forbidden We became inseparable We fell in love with each other's existence But she needed a baby Of her own flesh And for that, I was not man enough We separated secretly With the two most broken hearts But yeah we loved each other And my third break up was also a secret Breakups are tragic Breakups are unwanted Breakups are unavoidable And in my case, break ups are always a secret!
2. The Moon is Trans by Joshua Jennifer Espinoza
The moon is trans. From this moment forward, the moon is trans. You don’t get to write about the moon anymore unless you respect that. You don’t get to talk to the moon anymore unless you use her correct pronouns. You don’t get to send men to the moon anymore unless their job is to bow down before her and apologize for the sins of the earth. She is waiting for you, pulling at you softly, telling you to shut the fuck up already please. Scientists theorize the moon was once a part of the earth that broke off when another planet struck it. Eve came from Adam’s rib. Etc. Do you believe in the power of not listening to the inside of your own head? I believe in the power of you not listening to the inside of your own head. This is all upside down. We should be talking about the ways that blood is similar to the part of outer space between the earth and the moon but we’re busy drawing it instead. The moon is often described as dead, though she is very much alive. The moon has not known the feeling of not wanting to be dead for any extended period of time in all of her existence, but she is not delicate and she is not weak. She is constantly moving away from you the only way she can. She never turns her face from you because of what you might do. She will outlive everything you know.
3. Why I want What I want by Nidhi Jain
I wrote a few verses for her, and a few for him She fights in bars, with strangers, throwing punches with no power and kicks that hit right at the shins, And then there’s him, in total contrast to her With his heart, so soft like pink cotton candy, reading out poetry with an audience of 5 and cries as easily like a baby of a few months old Why I want what I want? She asks, and then he follows her And I don’t know why I want what I want I sing one love song for her and another for him She presses her lips hard against mine Working like an eraser, removing every residue of his taste or smell off me, sinking her teeth into my flesh Leaving a love bite for him to notice on my collarbone Jealousy flashes and bursts out of her wildfire eyes I witness the same in his eyes the next day, kneading my flesh like it's a dough with his big, strong hands She says I want too much. My heart craves and craves. My desires know no end, and he sat in silence, nodding his large head, agreeing with her on this one note I surrender one half of my heart to her and another to him I stole her lipstick for a date I planned with him She looked at me like I’m the most horrible person in the entire world I bought a lovely dress for her while shopping with him And his eyes call me out on my cruelty But what should I do? Why am I at fault here When my soul is woven and stitched like this. Why I want What I want? Why her name falls on my lips like it’s a prayer while His breath brushes my hair, asking me to choose only one I love her, and I love him too I think of him and draw a portrait of her I speak to her and imagines his reply Why is love not simple? I struggle to say, "You’re the only one for me." Why his image has to exit the moment hers appears Why can’t I have her and have him, too? Why I have to be so greedy, always be a wanton? Why I want What I want? She asks, and then he follows her Why my heart wants to fit in two palms instead of one?
4. पत्थर हो जाने के बाद (धर्मेश)
लोग यह सुन-सुन कर थक गए मैं कह-कह कर नहीं थका मैं अपने भीतर महसूस करता हूँ एक विशाल अकेलापन वैसे ही जैसे ईश्वर ने महसूस किया होगा धरती के सृजन के पहले दिन कोई भी नहीं जिससे वह बोल सके जो उसकी बात सुन सके संभवतः इसीलिए ईश्वर ने चुना पत्थर का होना मुझे नहीं मालूम यह उसके लिए दुखद रहा होगा या नहीं हाँ, मुझे इतना मालूम है कि पत्थर हो जाने के बाद बहुत सरल हो जाता है जीवन जीना वह रह सकता है सदियों-सदियों तक आग, बारिश या धूप में बिना प्रभावित हुए हाँ, यह भी है कि पत्थर हो जाने के बाद किसी की देह का ताप नहीं गर्म करता उसे किसी के भी आँसुओं से नहीं पसीजता उसका हृदय किसी प्रेमी से न मिल पाने पर नहीं हो उठती उसकी आत्मा कंपित
We are the children of nature, and by definition, that requires us to be dynamic. Always changing. The sun gives way to the moon, the buds twist and furl into flowers, and just like that, our bodies shift and change. We are always growing, breaking and bending, stretching and reaching, our bodies giving us the canvas we need to create art.
We aren’t just flesh and blood, not just bones and joints- we are a mass of things that bleed, of things that ache, of things that can break. Our bodies give us so much, and we hide so much within the spaces- the spaces between our fingers, the space in our mouths, the fold of our stomachs or under our thighs. They are our canvases, our paper to write stories on and make them our own. We break ceilings and stereotypes using them, we make them beautiful in special ways, and that’s what artist Dheeraj Kumar draws inspiration from.
Want to see the colours one can pull from under your skin, from behind your ears, and decorate you with? Read on to find out!
The landscapes of the human body, an interview with portrait artist Dheeraj Kumar
Dheeraj exposes the landscapes of the human body and the many hidden nooks and crannies that carry traces of untapped and concealed emotions through elaborate staging and meticulous contortions. In his work, the body becomes both the subject and the object, rendered into abstraction, reminiscent of organic rocks and boulders but still retaining humanness, albeit in an unsettlingly intimate way that elicits the viewer’s primal instinct to touch and experience the sensory pleasure of bare skin.
Anonymous male bodies have been a recurring theme in his work. He uses the body as a canvas, superimposing various styles of ornamentation ranging from botanic floral drawings to masks and markings inspired by Rangoli art. Dheeraj draws on his own experiences with the human body to represent it free of the constraints of society’s and his own cultural upbringing’s rigid gender conventions.
We had a chance to interview him and understand his perspective and art. You can read the complete interview here “The landscape of the human body, an interview with Dheeraj Kumar”
We are bundles of a hundred different stories, an amalgamation of millions of words that we pick up as we walk through the sandy beaches of time. Our life is strung together by wreaths of sentences that we join, sometimes loosely, sometimes firmly. Just like each body is unique, each one’s story is unique. Often, these stories are birthed onto paper, these stories, these ideas, they’re given voices, and that’s how literature is born.
According to Mohsin Zaidi, in an interview by Penguin, 'Stories help shape cultures and if you hear no stories about something that is a part of you then, to my mind, that part of you can't possibly develop and mature at the same pace as the rest.' And thus, queer literature is so important- it gives these colours that we are made of a voice, one that people all around can use to express themselves in whatever way they want. It becomes a liberation for many, pouring out all their hidden hues and using them to make the script. A piece of literature is the gift that gives to both, the writer, and the reader- a form of expression for the writer, and a hand that reaches out to the reader. It helps both grow, nurtures them both, helps them seek and find their true colours- there’s a reason why words are said to be one of the most powerful tools ever discovered.
Queer Literature through the lens of 1950s
Art and literature climb out of the womb of desperation, either to express or communicate the tides that relentlessly push you against the world; it is as much a plea as it is an invitation. Nothing exists as intimate and vulnerable as ink smudged on paper, as words forming themselves into sound, as stories taking space in the world and yet so many shelves lay only crowded with ignorance. Queer literature is as much for the allies as it is for those who belong to the community. In allowing it to ourselves, we form a more humane and sensitive understanding of the struggles that lie outside the legal battles, of identities that are continually obscured by societal provisions and the lives clouded under the guise of normality. How far can humanity walk while stomping on hearts it doesn’t understand?
Read the complete article Queer Literature - through the lens of 1950s by Resham Sharma here
मछली मरी हुई - राजकमल चौधरी
राजकमल चौधरी पर भूमिका में देवीशंकर नवीन एक स्थान पर लिखते हैं - ‘’ राजकमल ने समाज में फैली उद्दाम विकृतियों पर क़रीने से रखी चादर को बड़ी खीझ के साथ खींच दिया। इस अनावरण के क्रम में जो वर्ग नंगा हुआ, उसके लिए राजकमल का अग्राह्य हो जाना कौन सा आश्चर्यजनक है !”, समाज में फैली रोज़मर्रा ज़िंदगी की विकृतियों का नग्न रूप है राजकमल की कहानियों और उपन्यास में। उन्होंने अपने समय के जनता पक्ष और ख़ास तौर पर अभिजात्य वर्ग की उन कमियों को चित्रित किया है जिसे प्रतिष्ठित वर्ग के लोग छुपा-छुपकर चलते हैं और रोटी के लिए संघर्ष करते गलियारों में पूजनीय मूर्ति की तरह स्थापित भी रहना चाहते हैं। ‘मछली मरी हुई’, मेरी दृष्टि में १९६० के दशक वाले भारत में, राजकमल चौधरी द्वारा लिखा गया समय से आगे का उपन्यास है जिसमें उन्होंने शानदार शिल्प और भाषायी प्रयोग के साथ कलकत्ता के महानगरी जीवन का सजीव चित्रण प्रस्तुत किया है, साथ ही समलैंगिकता को भी पूरी संजीदगी से रखा है। निर्मल पद्मावत जैसा विरला पात्र हिंदी साहित्य में अभी तक मुझे देखने को नही मिला। पुस्तक के प्रारम्भ में ही राजकमल शीर्षक के विषय में लिखी भूमिका में स्त्री समलैंगिकता यानी ‘लेज़्बीयन’ पर टिप्पणियाँ रखते हैं, जिनसे हमें अंदाज़ा लग जाता है कि काफ़ी खोज बीन के बाद ही लेखक ने इस विषय का चुनाव किया है। उनमें से कुछ ये रहीं -
१- “ लेस्बियाँ - अर्थात् समलैंगिक यौनाचारों में डूब गयी हुई स्त्रियों के बारे में, ख़ासकर हिंदी में, बहुत ही कम लिखा गया है। भारतीय स्त्रियों के निजी चरित्र को नंगी आँखों से देखने का अवसर और ‘संयोग’ हम लोग को मिल नही पाता है। कहीं पर्दादारी के कारण और कहीं दूसरी जगह बेपर्दगी के कारण !”
२- “संसार के लगभग सभी ‘सभ्य’ देशों में पुरुषों का समलैंगिक आचरण क़ानून द्वारा वर्जित है। स्त्रियों को, अधिकतर देशों में यह स्वाधीनता अब तक मिली हुई है। पेरिस, न्यूयार्क, टोकियो- जैसे शहरों में सम्पन्न और स्वाधीन स्त्रियों ने अपने लिए ऐसे ‘क्लब’ और आरामघर बनाए हैं, जहाँ अपनी ’प्रेमिका’ के साथ एकत्र होकर, वे विभिन्न उपायों और उपचारों से समलैंगिक सहजाचार करती हैं। क़ानून इन्हें रोक नही पाता।
प्रतिष्ठित अमरीकी जज, मौरिस प्लोसोव ने अपनी किताब ‘सेक्स एंड द लॉ’ में यह सवाल उठाया है। पुरुषों के लिए जो सहजाचार वर्जित है, स्त्रियों को उसकी आज़ादी क्यों मिली हुई है ? इस प्रकार के यौन सम्बंधों के प्रति प्लोसोव और अन्य अनुदार विद्वानों और विशेषज्ञों के मन में आदर नहीं है, उदारता भी नहीं। लेकिन, ये औरतें इच्छित (‘पर्वर्शन’ की हद तक) यौन - कार्यों की स्वाधीनता माँगती हैं…”
३- “हमारे देश में जनाना ‘क्लब’ नहीं हैं और न ही यहाँ की ‘देसी’ औरतों को आधुनिक तौर - तरीक़ों से यह सब करने - सहने की जानकारी ही है। हमारे देश की औरतें समलैंगिक आचरणों में लिप्त रहकर भी, अधिकांशतः समझ नही पातीं कि वे क्या कर रहीं हैं, और इस मतलब से कर रहीं हैं… करती हैं अवश्य, लेकिन नींद में, नशे में, अनजाने कर लेती हैं। और, अपने कुसंस्कारों और अंधेपन में जकड़ी हुई, अधिक ‘धार्मिक’ और अधिक ‘संत्रास’ बनी रहती हैं।”
हालाँकि भारत में वर्तमान समय में धारा ३७७ को हटा दिया गया है। मगर यह उपन्यास इसलिए भी विमर्श के धरातल पर रखा जा सकता है, कि समलैंगिकता को बीमारी की तरह बिलकुल भी नही देखना चाहिए। यह एक नैसर्गिक आकर्षण से उपजा चयन है, जिसकी स्वाधीनता अमुक व्यक्ति की है।
More to read
The Privilege of Love, Rituparno Ghosh’s Chitrangada by Aishwarya Roy
The World That Belongs To Us: An Anthology of Queer Poetry from South Asia
Art is one of the purest forms of self-expression, a manifestation of all the colours you have inside of you in tangible form. Be it a painting or a doodle, be it a patterned skirt stitched by trembling fingers or a brilliantly coloured eyeliner wing, art reaches out to one and all. It forms a way that one can tell their story in whichever way they choose, building their narratives in the way they want. And that’s what visual art does- proudly, defiantly, tells the world its story, compels one to look, and inspires one to, in their own gentle ways, dip their fingers into the palettes hidden within themselves.
Self-expression through Visual Art
When I say that I am an experimental photographer what I mean by that is, I truly believe in the process of making things and how things evolve from one thing to another. Rather than having a definite and researched concept, I trust in the process and branch out to subsidiary concepts according to the directive, resulting in a visual essay which aptly celebrates the process of it. Which is what I believe, everything that one visual artist or any artist in general needs, is the honesty and authenticity of the work. Sometimes, it’s just a feeling, a sensory feeling per say, which is inexplicable yet can be felt visually.
I dip my hands in multifarious mediums and amalgamate genres according to the need of the narrative. I prefer concepts that are abstract and oscillate around the psychosis of the subject. Mystery is yet another element I use to intrigue the viewer's curiosity, challenging them into seeing something they don't. Photographs have always been a visual diary for me.
- Disha Gupta, An experimental photographer, pursuing her BA (Hons) English from University of Delhi. She likes to dip her hands in multifarious mediums complementing the need of the narrative.
See more of her beautiful visual art at her Instagram- @dishagupta16
“All good things must come to an end” but that’s only for better things to begin, and this marks the end of the second instalment of the two-part issue of our newsletter, through which, we have hoped to bring recognition and appreciation to some under-appreciated but extremely talented queer artists who continue the paint their skies with their colours every day. We hope that this newsletter brought to you pieces of art that will leave you in awe and help you learn more about the colourful community that exists all over the country. Keep celebrating yourself, keep celebrating your truth- and keep finding your colours.
Poems India pledges to be a queer-friendly space for artists from around every corner of the world. We take on ourselves the responsibility to bring forward the stories the heteronormative society keeps nudging away. The month of love has come to a halt but let the kindness in you always be humane enough to accept love outside genders. Art travels, and we, at Poems India, promise you another artistic tour knocking at your inbox very soon.
Editor: Abhinav Dasgupta / Contributors: Resham Sharma, Dheeraj Kumar, Aishwarya Roy, Disha Gupta, Shivam Tomar