June is celebrated the world over as Pride Month, with the last Sunday of the month marking the end of the weekend extravaganza that is New York City Pride. In India, the Pride March is held at different times in different cities: Delhi has celebrated Pride in November, and the Mumbai Marches are usually held in August. Each city celebrates Pride at different times but they all work towards a common goal: establishing sexual equality in society and abolishing Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code which criminalises all forms of queer sexuality (even though it doesn’t explicitly use the term ‘gay’, ‘lesbian’ or ‘transgender’).
In 2015, while attending the meetings involved in the run-up to Pride, the volunteers were made aware that although the world knows the main event as the Pride Parade, it is a actually a march: it is an ongoing protest that will continue to be called a march until sexual equality is established in the world order.
Ankita Poddar compiled a list of ten splendid LGBTQ+ themed books to bring colour to your life and bookshelf:
No One Else — Siddharth Dube
The first gay memoir by a solitary author to release in Indian English, this book charts the story of Siddharth as he navigated the choppy waters of his sexuality, starting at the age of ten and onwards. As his life unfolds and he deals with the realities of being a part of a minority community after living a life of privilege, he discovers what it means to be happy in one’s own skin, and how one comes to accept themselves for who they are.
Buy it here: http://amzn.to/2sGFSca
Mohanaswamy — Vasudhendra (tr. Rashi Terdal)
A dangerously blunt book that deals with loss of love and bullying, Mohanaswamy ties together Karnataka and the beliefs of the western world, as Mohanaswamy deals with losing a male lover to a woman and wanting to lead the simple life he sees the ‘normal’ people around him lead.
Buy it here: http://amzn.to/2tjy6mp
A Life Misspent — Suryakant Tripathi Nirala (tr. Satti Khanna)
A memoir by one of the most celebrated Hindi writers, Nirala, talks about a Dalit homosexual, Kulli Bhat, with whom the author forges an unlikely friendship. Crossing boundaries of conventional sexuality and caste based politics, this unputdownable book is an experience, simultaneously hilarious and touching.
Buy it here: http://amzn.to/2rLuz36
Fifty Shades of Gay — Jeffery Self
This is Fifty Shades of Grey, but with all male characters. Deeply inspired by the themes and plot-line of FSOG, the book weaves a tale very, very similar to the original, with subtle nuance and engaging prose.
Buy it here: http://amzn.to/2tI8vDh
My Magical Palace — Kunal Mukherjee
Threading together India and America, a new world and an old, My Magical Palace tells the story of a closeted Indian man, in love with an American man, who is seeing sanskari women fit for an arranged marriage. Set in 1970s San Francisco, the story deals with acceptance and love for oneself over others, and the idea of attaining and maintaining internal peace and harmony, rather than pleasing everyone else.
Buy it here: http://amzn.to/2tjoKap
The Exiles — Ghalib Shiraz Dhalla
A story different from the others on this list, this book is divided into three points of view: those of a man, his wife, and his male lover. The book explains, lyrically, the joy and damnation of love, its beauty and exquisiteness, and the destruction that follows. No one is ever truly free from the clutches of love and heartbreak, neither physically nor emotionally.
Buy it here: http://amzn.to/2tjmhwJ
The Dancing Boy — Ishani Kar-Purkayastha
A tale of finding friendship in the most unlikely place, The Dancing Boy is the story of a young boy who likes to wear saris and makeup, is teased and misunderstood and is abandoned even by his own mother. On befriending his neighbour, he soon learns to accept himself and importantly, to accept friendship.
Buy it here: http://amzn.to/2sGNIT1
Selection Day — Aravind Adiga
Dealing with pressures both external and internal, fourteen-year-old Manjunath Kumar is lost. He is aware of what people want him to be, but he doesn’t know if that is who he really is, or who he wants to be. He plays cricket — although not as well as his older brother Radha — but when he begins to know Radha’s rival, a boy as privileged and confident as Manju is not, everything in Manju’s world begins to change and he is faced with decisions that challenge both his sense of self and of the world around him.
Buy it here: http://amzn.to/2srliKY
Kari — Amruta Patil
Amruta Patil’s graphic novel tells the story of Kari, recently single and still reeling from her breakup with Ruth as she navigates life in cosmopolitan Mumbai. While on dates with men, Kari hooks up with women in the bathroom, shaves all her hair off in support of a friend while attempting selling shampoo and answers back every time she’s asked if she really is gay.
Buy it here: http://amzn.to/2tjmX50
Lihaaf (The Quilt) — Ismat Chughtai
This is one of the earlier short stories written on same-sex love … or is it? Lihaaf tells the story of a madam who liked to be massaged by her female servant, always under a quilt. Written by a Muslim woman in mid-twentieth century Hindustan, this story brought Chughtai under trial for obscenity and promoting homosexuality, but she was let off due to a simple technicality: nowhere in the story is there actually homoerotic love, only implications of the same. The onus is on the reader to decipher what actually happens under the quilt. (See The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde for a similar chain of events post the release of the book.)
Buy it here: http://amzn.to/2rMhylc