#CelebratingPride : Indian Literature on LGBTQ+ Theme

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As the world celebrates the pride month amidst a global pandemic, the pomp and show it exhibits didn’t decline at all but witnessed a shift from physical to the digital world. It has been two years since Article 377 got scrapped in India however, the community still struggles to normalize the queer culture in the country. The same discrimination has also kept trespassing into the world of literature for decades. Though Indian literary circle has soared up in the number of works on the LGBTQ theme but not enough tales are available in the words of Indian Authors to make normalization a cent percent reality.

Here is the list of books by Indian authors for a better understanding and glance into the intricacies of ‘queer life’ in India. The list ranges from ‘Indian English’ texts to Regional texts, to graphic novels and erotica.

  1. Married Woman (2002) by Manju Kapoor- The protagonist in this book narrates the tale of a ‘Married woman’ Astha, a mother of two, who realizes her sexual preference and falls for a woman. This book sheds light on what all it takes to come out in a country that still considers homosexuality a taboo.
  2. Funny Boy by Shyam Selvadurai Tamil- With Sinhalese tension of the 70s and 80s as the backdrop, it’s a coming of age story that revolves around a Tamil boy residing in Colombo. Divided into six phases, it deals with the protagonist’s viewpoint from discovering his homosexuality to escaping from his riot-hit city to another country.
  3. Loving Women- Being lesbian in underprivileged India edited by Maya Kapoor – A unique anthology consisting of ten real-life accounts of a queer woman belonging to the working class in North India. The book offers a deeper view of the LGBTQ lives and homosexuality dragging in the aspects of caste, class, religion into one big picture.
  4. The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy- The complex character of Aftab (born male) sails through a series of hurdles in order to come to terms with his own sexuality and transition into Anjum, an intersex Muslim woman. As Anjum struggles to protect her community during communal riots, the narration escalates to deal with two major subjects of communalism and gender identification. An intriguing read! After all its Arundhati Roy.
  5. Me Hijra, Me Laxmi by Laxmi Narayan Tripathi- The autobiography of transgender rights activist Laxmi Narayan Tripathi weaving her journey from coming to terms with her identity to obstacles in her eventual transition and activism into an emotional thread.
  6. Kari by Amruta Patil- A mature one of its kind graphic novel that navigates the tale of Kari, a lesbian woman, and her search for her identity in the chaos of the urban world that is treacherous, discriminatory and cruel. The illustrations of Kari’s thought process are indeed gripping and this beautiful piece of art may even leave the readers thinking whether they read a ‘graphic novel’ or ‘graphic poetry’.
  7. Close, Too Close- The Tranquebar Book of queer erotica edited by Meenu and Shruti – With a foreword by LGBTQIA+  rights activist Vikram Doctor, this erotic anthology strives to dismantle the misconception that queerness is ‘big city’ phenomenon.
  8. The Boyfriend by R. Raja Rao- Revolving around a passionate fling between a young Dalit boy and an elite journalist, the book has a lot to offer on the themes of casteism and homophobia.
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A curious case of normalization and regional texts

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The phenomenon of being a queer person is widely taken to be urban and restricted within the English speaking community which is purely a misconception. Most of the queer literature that the Indian writers lately rolled out is in English which adds up to the prevailing misconception even more. In a society like ours, where normalization for the same is really slow-paced, the need for LGBTQ  texts in a regional language increases even more in order to make every stratum of the society well-versed with vivid queer identities. In a country like ours, where many people continue leading their lives without even realizing their sexual preferences and needs, the availability of LGBTQ literature in regional languages may prove informative and enlightening as well. Though we do have a handful of regional texts available to read considering the vast population and vivid languages included in the same map there’s a lot more needed to bridge the gap.

  1. Ismat Chugtai’s Lihaaf (Urdu)– A significant work of Lesbian fiction that was followed by several controversies back in 1942. Set in 19th century Lucknow, the plot revolves around the relationship between an unhappily married begum and her female companion. Chugtai literally got people baying for her blood for her audacity to write about homoeroticism back in those times.
  2. Vasudhendra’s Mohanaswamy (Kannada)- This Semi-autobiographical piece is a collection of 10 short stories with the protagonist named Mohanaswamy, which allows the reader to peep into the world and difficulties of middle-class gay men in rural and Urban India painting a stark contrast to each other.
  3. Pandey Bechan Sharma aka Ugra ‘s Chocolate (Hindi)– An anthology of stories that depicted homoeroticism and was found too explicit by his critics. The work often tends to leave the reader confused on Ugra’s take on homosexuality.
  4. Bindhu Madhav Khire’s Manachiye Gunti (Marathi)- An anthology of stories is all about parents coming to terms with the queer sexuality of their children. A beautiful and captivating read! The book has been translated into English as well.
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A special mention- Vijay Tendulkar’s play ‘Ek Mitrachi Goshta’ which came out in 1980 swirled many societal taboos upside down with its intriguing story of two lesbian lovers at a time when even the word ‘Lesbian’ was alien to many. The play first got translated and published in 2001.

Image Source – Zora Medium

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Lariba Ashfaq Ahmed
Lariba, a literature student at Kamala Nehru College, is a bibliophile and an outgoing personality. She always strives to back every instance with reason but is a dreamer as well. Quite a rare combo.Her Best - friends are Coffee and Amitav Ghosh books. Dive deeper into Lariba's perspective of things. Check out her work.

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