Books of the week: From I’m Afraid of Men to Laxmi Tripathi’s Me Hijra, the best of Indian queer writing
We love stories and there’s nothing like a good book that promises a couple of hours of absorption Every Sunday, we’ll have a succinct pick of books, across diverse genres, that have been newly made available for your reading pleasure.
We love stories, and even in the age of Netflix-and-chill, there’s nothing like a good book that promises a couple of hours of absorption — whether curled up in bed, in your favourite coffeehouse, or that long (and tiresome) commute to work. Every Sunday, we’ll have a succinct pick of books, across diverse genres, that have been newly made available for your reading pleasure. Get them wherever you get your books — the friendly neighbourhood bookseller, e-retail website, chain store — and in whatever form you prefer. Happy reading!
Anirvan is a student at an elite all-boys’ boarding school in the late twentieth century. He’s drawn to the spiritual music and silence of Hindu monastic order running the school. As he dreams of being a monk himself, and starts to form an intimate, unspeakable bond with one of his fellow students. Slowly, questions surface about the meaning of celibacy and the ties holding the very brotherhood as one. Anirvan also gets dragged deep into the world surrounding the school amidst prostitutes and politicians. Will he and his lover share a life together in a world that doesn’t accept their love?
In his memoir So Now You Know: Growing Up Gay in India, Vivek Tejuja recounts what it was like to navigate through 1990s Bombay fuelled with heteronormativity. He was eight when he realised he was gay with the release of the Anupam Kher starrer Mast Kalandar, where Kher plays the stereotypically gay character Pinku. Tejuja tried to get as far away from that visual identity as possible. Incorporating Bollywood, books, and Bombay elements, Tejuja recounts growing up with a funny, poignant air.
Vivek Shraya is a trans artist, musician and teacher. In I’m Afraid of Men, she talks about how masculinity was imposed on her growing up, and continues to haunt her as a woman. Not neatly fitting into either gender’s stereotypes, Shraya recounts the way she willed herself to perform masculinity. She relates the bullying and cruelty she endured as a child and the daily micro-aggressions she must steel herself against each day as an adult. In the book she outlines the damage caused by homophobia, transphobia and misogyny, and explores how gender may be re-examined for the 21st-century sensibility.
Ason was born into a conservative family who celebrated finally having a son. They refused to acknowledge his confusion about why he felt like a girl, inadequate in his own body, and attracted to boys. As he tries to understand why he feels so incomplete, he embarks on the journey of becoming Manobi, a woman. In an honest story of extraordinary courage, Manobi sets about defining her identity. In A Gift of Goddess Lakshmi, she recounts the story of her transformation from man to woman and keeping up with her academics during this upheaval.
Laxmi Tripathi starts her autobiography, Me Hijra, Me Laxmi, with the emotions she experienced at a very young age as a boy, born Laxminarayan Tripathi to a high-caste Brahman household. How he slowly started wearing female clothing and eventually accepted and asserted his sexuality; how he discovered his true identity, as Laxmi. She traces her love affairs and her dancing, the taunts and abuse she faced. She recounts the time she was the first Indian Hijra to attend the World AIDS Conference in Toronto and eventually finding respect and dignity, all the while fighting for hijra rights.
Guthli is a happy child who likes fairies but is told to wear her own boy’s clothes instead of her sister’s frocks. “Why do you keep saying I’m a boy when I’m a girl?” Guthli asks her mother. With bright illustrations, the story gently tackles questions of gender identity, including Guthli’s feelings, her family’s confusion and the looming tension of Guthli’s future.
Originally published in 1999, on the occasion of its 20th anniversary, Facing the Mirror foregrounds the incredible challenges and beauty of the queer movement, presenting its history. Ashwini Sukthankar has collected the otherwise forgotten, often distorted, sometimes triumphant stories of the lesbian experience from across India. Through poetry, fiction, and essays, this collection brings together early stories, going as far back as the 1960s.
Read an excerpt from the book here. Read more about the book here.
A collection of short stories, poems, plays and prose extracts, the book explores gay identity in South Asia. Originally published in 1999, it shows the true meaning of ‘yaarana’ or the male bond. The collection ranges from Ashok Row Kavi’s autobiographical extract on growing up in Bombay to Vikram Seth’s story The Golden Gate and from Mashesh Dattani’s play Night Queen to the poetry of R Raj Rao, Dinyar Godrej, Adil Jussawalla and Sultan Padamsee. Apart from the pieces written in English, there are also translations from Hindi, Gujarati, Marathi and other languages, all exploring the dynamic of a man’s love for a man.
Courtesy : Firstpost