Before walking inside, I was expecting a day full of thoughts, thought-provoking thoughts. After all, that was Delhi International Queer Theatre & Film Festival 2016 (DIQTFF 2016). But after stepping inside the very building of NCUI Auditorium only, I was told to fill a form. The one question which started driving me crazy and still doing that was, what is your reason for attending this fest. The reason I have was not on the list.
And I started digging myself till the last three years of my life:-
Q- Why do you want to study something like Culture & Media Studies? There is no such course. There will not be any job for it if even the course exists.
A- Why not Cultural Studies? Are you guys, afraid of it?
Q- You must be studying how our culture is great?
A- No just the opposite. We question in it if one culture is right then why is it so and if the culture is wrong then why. We study about love, sex, lust, LGBTQAI, extra-marital relations, a child outside the marriage, unmarried mother, tribal community, life without condition, etc.
But all this passed soon.
Like Keval J Kumar has written in his book “Mass Communication in India”, that how communication is as important as food, shelter, and even oxygen, I also wanted to impart my activities with my loved ones. So, whenever I tried sharing my work and study like I got a challenge to make a short film on LGBTQAI through my smartphone, or I am analyzing any banned documentaries, all I heard was “we just can’t understand what you are doing. Why don’t you study something normal?” My people started taking me as anti-social and anti-cultural now, just because I support LGBTQAI; inter-caste, inter-religion and love marriages; tribal people and all.
The people around me asks me the very obvious question like are you one of them like LGBTQAI or will follow any unnatural culture? When I answer them, “No I come from a so-called Straight Society but still feel what if they will start discriminating “us – The Heterosexuals”. They just laugh and move on in life. I sometimes, want to share my happy times with my family and friends but they reply “your views are quite unaccepting as you are living in utopia. Who will accept such stupid ideas?” And all these pointing fingers make me feel uncomfortable. We have been living in such constructed society.
But my optimism is still intact when I hear my mother correcting her own terms in front of me, from “abnormal people” to “one who have a different choice than us”. My mother is an interesting woman. She loves to read and what she can’t read by herself or if she has any doubt about it then she discusses with me. When I told her I am attending this Theatre & Film Festival then her reply was quite surprising and sweet “यह एक अच्छा अनुभव होगा”, (FYI: – earlier she has no idea about the LGBTQAI) and I smiled. If she can understand and accept it then why can’t we do that?
By the way, I have completely forgotten about my reason to attend the Fest. I want to leave my uncomfort far behind by sitting with the community as we accept it or not but whenever we see a transgender at a traffic signal or train asking for money, we get scared with a creepy look on our faces. I am still unable to shed that mask from my face which says I am cool with my society comprising of homosexuals and heterosexuals.
Although, the moment I entered there I had one more issue in my mind that what if people will treat me like LGBTQAI, they can be judgmental, right? But after seeing few voices getting a platform, I realized before others judging me, I am being judgmental about them and the term “LGBTQAI” which is not at all a disease or shame to rest in the closet but if someone thinks of me as one that will not be offensive at all. We are suffering from the disease of Homophobia.
Piyush Mishra later joined the fest and the host asked him “how you feel while meeting someone from LGBTQ”, his answer was plain and pointed, no sympathy or pity for others, “कुछ भी नहीं लगता है, अंतर क्या है, कुछ भी तो नहीं”
After a week from the fest, the coincidence was one day, I got a call from a very dear friend of mine. After exchanging the usuals, she said: “Now, I want to give you a heart attack”. It was terrifying but still, I held my breath and only uttered “shoot”. The all she came up with “A few days back, I have found out that I am Bisexual”. I was like “Ah! Okay! Congratulations! You know your identity now. Such a great thing for a good life”.
And all went well in our conversation. I teased her with her recent crushes, new Girlfriends in her workspace. Lastly, my friend said “I am feeling good after revealing my true self in front of you. Even, I also felt a sense of relief that I did not over-react, just accepted what she said.
Sadly, there is no official demographics for the LGBTQAI population in India but the Indian government submitted figures to the Supreme Court in 2012, according to which, there were about 2.5 million gay people recorded in India. No official demographics…? Oh! I just forgot about shhh……Section 377.
Most of the time, we vaguely connect it with culture, custom or religion that our religion does not allow such illicit stupidity (That’s what the culturally sound folks call it, right?). But how can they forget about the folklores on Lord Vishnu as Mohini and Lord Shiva as Ardhanarishwara? 96 member-states of the United Nations have sponsored the declaration in support of LGBT rights in the General Assembly, in the UNHRC, or in both. But countries like India is still deaf and dumb.
P.S. : – When I moved out from the fest I was much more empowered as a person, as a human only and my purpose of joining the fest got served correctly. Few of organizations’ names were quite interesting there ‘Harmless Hugs’ and ‘Love Matters’. Yes, only love should matter and we should offer harmless hugs to all.