Saturday, June 30, 2007

Kolkata, June 24, 2007

While my acquaintance with the city has, until now, been limited to a few sporadic trips, it's always a pleasure to visit Kolkata and catch up with my friends, many of whom are colleagues from our local office at Salt Lake, volunteers, or members of partner NGOs and collectives.

Last Sunday I got to attend the first day of this year's Siddhartha Gautam Film Festival, an annual event in honour of the late lawyer and human-rights activist who was one of the first to raise the issue of rights of HIV positive people in the country. The film festival kicked off Rainbow Pride, a week of events celebrating queerness and raising visibility of gender/sexuality issues in the city.

In the photo below are Dr. Tirthankar Guha Thakurta (right) taking questions after the screening of his film Strangers in the Rain, with actor (and SAATHII colleague) Anupam Hazra on the left. The provocative film, which is sure to raise the hackles of conformists of all stripes including gay ones, portrays an unconventional relationship involving a woman and two men, none of whom are married to each other, who decide to raise a child together.

Unfazed by the film, however, was the lovely lady below, and I'm referring to Smt. Chakraborty, Rajarshi's mom, who was there to attend an extraordinary meeting of parents, relatives, and friends of LGBT people.

Unfortunately I couldn't attend that meeting, as I had to leave for a book launch organized by Seagull at their resource center. The book in question, edited by Brinda Bose and Subhabrata Bhattacharya, is an anthology of writings from literary, activist, arts, and health perspectives, that examine the politics of sexuality in contemporary India. As one of the contributors (my essay, Putting the 'B' back in LGBT, looks at the constructions of bisexuality in HIV/AIDS discourse as well as in queer politics), I got to be part of a panel discussion, meet old friends such as Shohini Ghosh, and was among those visibly relieved that the book had finally been birthed, after an extraordinarily long gestation. The first copy was received by the legendary jatra performer Chapal Bhaduri.

On the way to and back from the book launch, I got to catch up with Santanu, Anupam, and Shoma, all from SAATHII's Kolkata office. We attempted unsuccessfully to find a table at the Dhaba, and ended up turning heads outside the restaurant with our photography session as we waited for Pawan to come and pick me up in a cab (I was staying over at his home).

Having bade farewell to Santanu et al., Pawan, Tirthankar, and I ended up stopping over at the home of another friend Kallol; and, after a late-night adda that spanned everything from astrology to mining, had a pre-departure photo-session (P=L, K=C, T=R):

Pawan and I returned to his home close to midnight, and gorged on delicious aloo parathas made by his mom. I left early Monday morning for Chennai, but not before another photo session...

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