The Supreme Court's decision to strike down portions of the draconian Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code has heralded a new age in India; one where the LGBTQI community is one step further in the fight for equal rights. It marks the start of more large-scale changes in education, employment and marriage, as well as bringing to an end the wide-scale discrimination that queer people face.
Literature has been at the heart of the LGBTQI movement, whether as a form of protest or simply a means to express that which society deems unacceptable. Aditi Angiras and Akhil Katyal, editors of an upcoming anthology of queer poetry from South Asia, share some of their work written over the years, which explores love, identity, and language, among other themes.
Art by Namaah K
My Mad Girl's Love Song
there are days when i really miss you, sylvia
nights like these i wonder, what if
things were different that one night
and you had met me
at that party. 1956, february 25.
between the jazz and poems and
drinking whiskey and ginger wine
walking on air, like a holy high
you'd stumble and step on my toes
so we'd end up dancing all night
you'd quote me my poems
and i'd court you, more poems
where you'd not need to be you
and i'd not need to be hughes
to be huge with the ladies
"I dreamed that you bewitched
me into bed (oh sylvia)
And sung me moon-struck,
kissed me quite insane."
head in the clouds, you'd got me
singing "oh na na, what's my name?"
now that we're sober, tell me
dear sylvia, would you still die
with your head in the oven
or, stay, six years later, to
hold my hand at the stonewall riots?
Say, won't you write me a poem
to tell me we're real, alive not dead
loving like fuckers, fucking like lovers
so i'd stop feeling that ....
(I think I made you up inside my head.)
— Aditi Angiras
Dilruba: A Ghazal
I must have been nine when I first saw Dilruba,
the show 'Shrimaan Shrimati', year 1994. Dilruba,
who loved his neighbour's wife, quite inexplicably,
'coz the joke was the limp-wristed, see-saw Dilruba.
In one episode they said he was born on 6:6:1966,
such a 'Chakka', the whole room was like "Haw Dilruba!"
The worst is I remember I found it funny, I laughed
and yet felt a dread that took years to thaw, Dilruba.
Each morning, the school ground was fifty yards of fear,
a senior had yelled, "Hey," as if finding a flaw, "Dilruba!"
And yet they named him 'that which ravishes the heart,' this
was also his meaning, Akhil, just that you never saw Dilruba.
— Akhil Katyal