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

confused, inebriated

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

gendertrouble final (1)


Gender Trouble

when the girl kisses the ugly frog

it turns into a charming prince

but in my fairy tale i think

i swallowed mine like a pill

now it beats me like an angry heart

on the days it wants to get out

— Aditi Angiras


In the Urdu Class

I confused my be with pe.

He asked me to write ‘water’,

I wrote ‘you’.

Who knew they’d make them so close,

Aab (آب) and Aap (آپ).

Both difficult to hold on to.

— Akhil Katyal


main tenu phir

I Will Meet You Again

translated from Amrita Pritam's Punjabi poem 'Main Tenu Phir Milangi' by Akhil Katyal

Main Tenu Fir Milaan Gi

Kithey? Kis Tarah? Pata Nai

Shayad Terey Takhayul Di Chinag Ban Ke

Terey Canvas Tey Utraan Gi

Ya Khowrey Terey Canvas Dey Utey

Ikk Rahasmayi Lakeer Ban Ke

Khamosh Tenu Tak Di Rawaan Gi

I will meet you again

Where? How? I do not know -

maybe as a bit in your imagination

I will come to your canvas

or like a cryptic line you draw,

silently, keep gazing

at you.

Yaa Khowrey Sooraj Di Loo Ban Ke

Terey Rangaan Wich Ghulaan Gi

Yaa Rangaan Diyan Bahwaan Wich Baith Ke

Terey Canvas Nuu Walaan Gi

Pata Nai Kiss Tarah? Kithey?

Par Tenu Zaroor Milaan Gi

Or like the ray of the sun

I will mix in your colours,

and sitting in their arms, become

that which you draw.

I do not know how or where

but I will meet you


Yaa Khowrey Ikk Chashma Bani Howaan Gi

Tey Jeevan Jharneyaan Da Paani Udd-da

Main Paani Diyaan Boondaan

Terey Pindey Tey Malaan Gi

Tey Ikk Thandak Jahi Ban Ke

Teri Chaati Dey Naal Lagaan Gi

Main Hor Kujh Nai Jaandi

Par Aena Jaandi

Ke Waqt Jo Vii Karey Ga

Aey Janam Mairey Naal Turey Ga

Maybe I will be a spring

and like water, fly to the wind -

those droplets of water, I will

rub on your body, and

like a coolness, I will

lie on your chest.

I don't know much

but this I know,

in time, when I go,

all I have done will go

and when this body goes

everything goes,

but the threads of memories

are like the atoms in the universe,

I will cherry-pick those atoms,

weave those threads

and I will meet you again.

Aey Jism Mukda Hai

Tay Sab Kujh Muk Jaanda

Par Chaityaan Dey Dhaagey

Kaainaati Kana Dey Hundey

Main Onhaan Kana Nuu Chunaan Gi

Dhaageyaan Nuu Walaan Gi

Tey Tenu Main Fair Milaan Gi.