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Good ol’ Amby: Amid news of Ambassador revival, vintage car fans get nostalgic


Growing up in the late 70s and 80s in Mumbai, Sanat Dattatraya Patil had the opportunity to travel in the Ambassador very often. It was among the three popular cars – including Fiat and Jeep –plying on city roads then. “I have a lot of memories with the Ambassador because of my relatives who worked with the government, and my father who had a Jeep and an Ambassador.” Ever since, he always wanted to own one. Fast forward to 2009, Borivali-based Patil, while on a visit to Kerala for a friend’s wedding, happened to sit in a golden Ambassador and that instantly reignited his love for the car. “By this time, there were very few Ambassadors in Mumbai and while travelling in Kerala in the car, I decided I was going to buy an Ambassador in Mumbai.”  The Hindustan Ambassador, known simply as ‘the Ambassador’, was an iconic car manufactured by Hindustan Motors from 1957 till 2014. However, over the years, it completely disappeared from city streets as newer, bigger and comfortable cars arrived. Recently, reports emerged of Hindustan Motor and Peugeot working on the engine and design of a new model of the vintage brand at the Hindustan Motors Chennai facility. With a plan to launch the new model by 2024, Mid-day Online spoke to three Mumbaikars, who took us through the effort it took to get their hands on the original Ambassador. They also reacted to the news of the upcoming electric version in the works. Borivali-based Sanat Patil decided he wanted to buy an Ambassador after he spent time in the car on a trip to Kerala in 2009. He went on to purchase the 1970 model Mark II for Rs 22,000 the same year. Photo Courtesy: Sanat PatilLove letters for AmbyPatil is one such lover of the Ambassador, who came back to the city from his Kerala trip with a mission to purchase the car. He immediately visited Thane, where he had earlier spotted a few dealers. The dealers were astonished by his rare demand and asked, “Do you really want an Ambassador?”, Sanat tells us. They were convinced after his affirmation. Following brief negotiations, Sanat purchased the 1970 model Mark II for Rs 22,000 the same year. Such was his love for the vintage car, the first manufactured in India, that amid his busy schedule, he kept it in the garage to restore it to factory specifications. This meant he had to source parts from all over the country, including Kolkata. He brought it out on the road a year later with happiness that was beyond measure. Now, Patil, who is an owner of two other cars, takes it out once a month for a trip outside Mumbai with friends and family. The lack of an AC in the car doesn’t make it a favourite among non-enthusiasts, the former corporate banker-turned-organic farmer says.  Elsewhere, in Thane, Abhilash Nambiar also had a similar feeling in 2011. Nambiar says the car is visible a lot in his native state Kerala, and in Kolkata, more than any other place in India. “I casually told somebody that I want a good-looking Ambassador in good shape to add to my collection of Jeeps. Suddenly, I realised that there were hardly any Ambassadors here in Thane or even in Mumbai for that matter and ones in good condition were scarce.”  A Jeep aficionado, Abhilash Nambiar added the Ambassador to his collection in 2011 and takes it out every Sunday for a ride. Photo Courtesy: Abhilash Nambiar Fortunately for him, the 47-year-old found one in the Hindu Colony in Dadar almost a month after he spoke to a mechanic in the area. “The owner of the car had passed away and the car was just lying in the basement. So, I paid Rs 4 lakhs and picked it up.” Nambiar fell in love with the car as soon as he sat in it and drove it for the first time, to the workshop for 10-15 km. The Jeep aficionado even rechristened it as a ‘Jeep car’ as while driving it, he felt he was driving his Jeep. “My friend’s father was a great Ambassador mechanic of his time, so I told him, ‘Uncle, you have to refurbish this for me’ because they are very tricky vehicles.”  He goes on to tell us that during his travels he realised why the car was unique – it was because of its monocoque chassis. “If you own the car, you need to take care of it because it will start to rust and has to be painted every three to four years. So, with this chassis, the car starts losing its shape to the extent that you can’t even close the door because it is all one big part,” says the city-based businessman, who owns eight vehicles. His car has an Isuzu diesel engine, unlike the petrol engine owned by Patil. “The beauty is that when you take this car out on a ride, it gives you one of the best ride qualities available. It is much more comfortable than riding any of the modern SUVs today,” adds Nambiar, who fell in love with collecting cars almost 20 years ago. The car, which he fondly calls ‘Amby’ is a 1988 model that he takes out every Sunday.Abhilash Nambiar fell in love with the car as soon as he sat in it and drove it for the first time, to the workshop for 10-15 km. Photo Courtesy: Abhilash NambiarAmbassador like family Yash Samant, another Borivali resident like Patil, has a history with the car. Though he is only 24 years old, he learnt that his family’s association with the car goes back almost 50 years. There weren’t many other options for a family car at the time.  and although it was slow, it was smooth, he says. “The Ambassador we have was bought by my great grandfather in 1977 as a pre-owned vehicle and has been there ever since. It was passed on to my father and now me,” Samant shares. “When I was born, I actually came home in the car.”   The magic of the car has even made the third-generation owner passionate about old-time cars, which he documents on his YouTube channel called 'Fix Paana'. “Classic cars and motorcycles have now become a hobby of mine,” he adds. This isn’t the only Ambassador the family has, as they recently purchased a 1958 Ambassador from a family friend. The magic of the car has even made Yash Samant, the third-generation owner passionate about old-time cars, which he documents on his YouTube channel called 'Fix Paana'. Photo: Yash Samant How about a revival?With the news of its revival circulating in groups of car enthusiasts and collectors, Patil, speaking for the community, says they are quite happy even though there is limited information available. While the 50-year-old says they are happy about the car being electric, “the feel and nostalgia of the petrol engine car” will be missing. “My curiosity is how will they translate this legacy, passion and long history of the Ambassador brand into a new electric vehicle? It will also be interesting to see how they establish the link between the new and the old, which will matter a lot for fans like us,” he adds. In fact, Patil sees scope in tourism too as he has noticed that a lot of foreigners want to travel in this iconic car over others.    However, Nambiar likes to compare the revival to that of the iconic Java motorcycle, which was done by Mahindra and thus he says it would be incorrect to compare the old Ambassador to the new one. “It would be automatic and just a very nice car. The kind of association you would have with the Ambassador of the 80s and 90s is not something you would get in a modern car,” he guesses.  The young fan Samant is hopeful. “The future is electric and it will be nice to have an electric Ambassador. I hope they will retain the aesthetic or the style of the old Ambassador somehow,” he wishes, adding that that shouldn’t be something they do just for the sake of it. 

07 June,2022 04:26 PM IST | Mumbai | Nascimento Pinto
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Busy with home decor? Here's how you can pick the right colour for your rug

Carpets come in a vast range of hues, so it's important to pick wisely and personalise your space. You may select from solid to multi-coloured elements depending on what best fit your needs. Here are a few simple guidelines by Chetan Mathur and Harshvardhan Ruia of Villedomo to help you choose the correct rug colour: Match the carpeting to the decor of your space Each place has its own personality and function. Recognise the function that your room will serve for you and select the appropriate hue. If you want to make a small place appear larger, use bright colours. For such rooms, pastel colours, white, or a combination of pale and bright colours are appropriate. Use subdued blue or green tones in a room that is overly adorned or in a setting where you wish to instil serenity. Monochromes are also a good choice for this type of setting. Choose colours like orange, crimson, or light green for your busy zones where you want a pop of colour. Dark tones of burgundy, cocoa, or navy are also popular for a deep, rich look. These colours add cosiness and warmth to the room while also giving it a classy appearance. When it comes to deciding on a rug colour, follow the fundamentals When choosing a rug, it's generally a good idea to have a colour scheme in mind. Choosing muted tones for a bright colour scheme and a bright hue for a muted scheme can encourage the decor to blend along. For vividly coloured walls, choose tones of grey and light tans. Warm yellow or orange walls are also options for light or subdued walls. The colour of your rug will assist you in drawing the visitor's attention to the appropriate area. If you've already decorated the space, make sure your rug coordinates with the blankets, cushions, and wall art to create a cohesive appearance. The idea is to choose a hue that accentuates the current decor. For decisively furnished spaces If your rooms are monochromatic, you can experiment with patterned carpets. A patterned rug may bring your home to life if you're comfortable mixing and matching patterns. Your furniture can serve as a starting point for this; match the tones of your furniture to the carpeting. Effective methods for deciding on a rug colour The house's flooring is an important consideration when selecting a rug for your room. If your home's floor is dark, you should choose a dark rug to match it. Bright and pastel colours work as well on light-coloured flooring. If you want your rug to be the focal point of your room, use muted walls and flooring and an exotic coloured rug. Bright reds, oranges, and blues -- in fact, any colour combination that sticks out -- will work well together. As a result, the rug will become an immediate discussion starter and offer your space a distinct personality. This story has been sourced from a third party syndicated feed, agencies. Mid-day accepts no responsibility or liability for its dependability, trustworthiness, reliability and data of the text. Mid-day management/ reserves the sole right to alter, delete or remove (without notice) the content in its absolute discretion for any reason whatsoever.

07 June,2022 12:37 PM IST | New Delhi | IANS
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Soups, pets and books: Here’s a weekly round-up of’s top features

As Mumbaikars wait for the monsoon showers and we prepare ourselves to switch between the changing weather in the city, a list of soup recipes for hot and cold climate is a savior we all need. While we talk about food, it is important to note that the rising inflation has swelled the prices of basic ingredients in our dishes such as the tomato. We ask city chefs to suggest substitutes for such items, without compromising on the taste of the meals. Talking about weather conditions, our guide on how and which sunscreen to use fixes your doubts about including a sunscreen in your skincare routine. For mental health awareness month, clinical psychologists offer clarity on basic questions about therapy, which enhances our understanding about how it works. With the rising obsession of Indians with purebred dogs and cats, animal welfare activists and experts tell us how breeding hurts animals’ health and why adopting stray animals is a better option. This week for our Shelf Life with Mid-Day, we look at ‘Turn a Page Library’ in Nerul, which focuses on encouraging more children to develop the habit of reading. Bowl of goodness: Try these hot and cold soup recipes by Mumbai chefs that suit any season Mumbaikars have been experiencing the peak of summer heat. The weather is sending mixed signals in the city but that doesn’t mean you can’t make the most of both summer and monsoon. There’s time yet for steaming cups of tea and deep-fried snacks, which may be enjoyed in a month from now. In the meantime, a bowl full of soup is the perfect way to warm up for the rains. City chefs handpick recipes for soups for hot weather as well as cool climes. Read more: Mental Health Awareness Month: Clinical psychologists explain what therapy is and how it works According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 25 percent of the global population will suffer from neurological or mental disorders in their lifetime, and this number continues to grow worldwide. The pandemic and the consequent lockdowns contributed to increased levels of stress and anxiety across age groups. We spoke to two clinical psychologists to further our understanding of therapy and how it helps. Read more: The pedigree problem: Here’s how the fixation with purebred pets harms animals The fascination with pedigree dogs and cats has boosted the culture of shopping for pets in India. When purebred pets are brought home, while the animal survives, they are exposed to internal and external conditions which make their everyday survival difficult and greatly affect their quality of living. Recently, an animal welfare documentary ‘The Tails of Boo-Boo & Cuddly Poo’ mentioned at the Dadasaheb Phalke Film Festival 2022, encouraged people to ‘adopt, don’t shop’. Animal welfare activists and experts featured in the documentary tell us how it endangers pets and why adopting an indie is an ethical option. Read more: Dreaming of tomatoes and lemons? Chefs tell us how to reduce grocery bills and cook thriftily during inflation With inflation at an all-time high, cooking daily meals on a budget means one will have to sit down and work out how they can afford ingredients or find alternatives for them. Keeping this in mind, city chefs have shared their favourite substitutes for daily staples, hacks for using affordable produce as a stand-in for exotic ingredients, as well as tips to make supplies last longer. Read more: This is the only sunscreen guide you will ever need Social media is rife with conjecture surrounding sunscreen, which makes the hunt for this skincare essential tedious and confusing. Experts answer important questions about sunscreen, bust myths, and suggest how to pick one that suits your skin Read more: How this Navi Mumbai resident revived a library so children could continue reading For the tenth part of our Shelf Life series, Mid-day Online visits Turn A Page library which is on a mission to get more children into reading.  Vijaya Hariharan, once a member of a 10-year-old library nestled in a Nerul street, saved it from closure in 2017 and began running the space independently. Read more:

05 June,2022 11:59 AM IST | Mumbai | mid-day online correspondent
Vijaya Hariharan took over the library in 2017 and since then, she has been encouraging more people to read in the neighbourhood. Photo Courtesy: Nascimento Pinto/Mid-day file pic

How this Navi Mumbai resident revived a library for the area's young readers


Such was Vijaya Hariharan’s love for her local library that when its owners decided to move on in 2017, she stepped in and kept it open. The neighbourhood’s lone yet impressively large library had come as a saviour for the Belapur resident and independent travel consultant, back when her son took a liking to reading books more than a decade ago. The membership excused her having to regularly buy expensive books for her speed-reading child. “When the previous owners sent a message to all the members telling us she was leaving and if anybody wanted, they could take over, I jumped in. Within a day I decided to take over without anything in my pocket. Then I started the struggle of putting the funds together and purchased it in 2019,” She explains. “I had a fear that if nobody took over, the library would shut down permanently.”  After the pandemic interludeHariharan makes it clear that the library isn’t a profit-making enterprise but more of a social service – it is her way of doing what she can for the community. Her desire to run it stemmed from how much development she has seen in her 15-year-old son over the years since he first started reading. After the Mumbaikar took over, she renamed the library to ‘Turn A Page’ from ‘Just Books’ in 2019, and the pages have surely been turning. Currently, the library stretches across 1,500 square feet, houses close to 18,000 books and has 300 members. The library stretches across 1,500 square feet, houses close to 18,000 books and has 300 members. Photo Courtesy: Nascimento Pinto The pandemic years, however, dealt their fair share of blows. Memberships were close to 500 before it. Many people returned to their hometowns or ended their membership over fears that they would get Covid from contact with books that others had touched. Some of the older members even passed away. “There is an old age home nearby and five-six of their residents used to visit us, pick up a book on their walk and return. Unfortunately, some of them passed,” says a teary-eyed Hariharan, while reliving how she shared many conversations about their lives, sickness, Covid-19 and treatment.  Building a library for children Even though Hariharan is sad about the loss, she finds hope in the children who have been coming back. It is visible in the fact that there is a steady stream of children who enter the library with their parents or siblings, as we speak to her, on a weekday. While some sit down to read, others scan through the many titles in the children’s section to pick a book. On occasion, Hariharan even suggested a few books for a young reader, who wasn’t sure what he should read next. Books by Sudha Murthy are currently a huge favourite among children, she tells us, along with Enid Blyton and David Walliams. As far as books and comics are concerned, Geronimo Stilton, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Amar Chitra Katha and even Archies are picked up regularly. Members are greeted by handwritten notes on every wall with interesting quotes or instructions about using the services of the library.   The visiting children are clearly a sight for Hariharan’s sore eyes. She explains, “Post-Covid, many parents complained saying they had purchased the Kindle for their children but they weren’t able to read on it. There were no pictures to hold their attention. Their screen time also increased because they were doing their school on screen, watching movies on the screen and weren’t going down to play. So, everybody was happy when the library opened.” During the pandemic, she says the library even gave all its members double the number of books because they didn’t think it would last so long and that the readers would have something to keep them occupied for about a month. “We gave extra comics to children and were emptying the library. We thought, ‘What would the children do at home?,” she adds. Her own son took 25 books one day before the lockdown, when they were giving books to people.Members are greeted by handwritten notes on every wall with interesting quotes or instructions about using the services of the library. Photo: Nascimento PintoHowever, she feels like parents need to do more because reading should be an essential part of a child’s day. “If you give a book to the child, they will sit down in a chair and not move from there,” she says. Even as parents complain that children are always in front of the television or mobile screen, the fact that they don’t do anything about it irks her. “They don’t take the mobile from their hand, and hand them a book instead. They prefer spending Rs 500 at the mall but don’t want to invest in a library membership of Rs 400 that will get them 20-30 books a month,” she laments.  Even though her library sees a 50-50 membership of children and adults, Hariharan iterates that getting more children into reading is her aim. “There is a lot to learn from books. Children will learn empathy, manners and even how to deal with bullying. It helps the child learn and think alternatively. I see that in my child,” says Hariharan. Even with the recent rise in Covid cases, Hariharan hopes she can host creative writing and storytelling workshops, treasure hunt games, book readings, author and book club meets with the members as soon as possible to make the space as lively as she can on any given day for the residents of Navi Mumbai. 

04 June,2022 11:33 AM IST | Mumbai | Nascimento Pinto
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The macro impact of microaggressions experienced by LGBTQIA+ individuals

Do you remember the last time you said “that’s so gay”? What might have been a joke to you, can be triggering to an LGBTQIA+ individual. In this binary-obsessed cis-heteronormative world, such words and actions are casually used. For anyone who falls on the spectrum of gender and sexuality, this societal imposition deeply impacts their quality of life. “Living in a cis-heteronormative world, it is assumed that people are cis-gender and straight. People who do not fit in that narrow box have to bear discussions and conversations about their sexuality, gender identity and love life,” says Richa Vashista, a queer affirmative mental health practitioner. When cis-gender heterosexual (cis-het) individuals are innately coded with negative or inaccurate narratives, discrimination takes root. Whether it is intentional or not, queer individuals are subjected to microaggressions in their everyday lives. “Microaggressions comprise comments or actions that subtly and often unconsciously or unintentionally express a prejudiced attitude towards members of a marginalized group. Which means that often intent doesn't matter - the actions still cause harm. For example, when someone says ‘You're a lesbian? But you're so pretty. I'm sure lots of guys would want to date you.’ The assumption that someone is a lesbian because they haven't been ‘picked’ by a guy is ridiculous,” explains Vashista. Remarks that would be considered ‘casual’ or ‘just for fun’ and which reinforce cis-heteronormativity are often an unavoidable yet frustrating part of the daily lives of LGBTQIA+ individuals. To deepen our understanding, we spoke to people across the spectrum about their lived experiences, as they share the microaggressions encountered, and the stressors experienced on an everyday basis. Asmita MeshramShe/they25, Genderfluid BisexualNagpur A social media consultant in the queer mental health space, Asmita Meshram is bisexual and genderfluid. Hypersexualisation of queer women is a common occurrence, but the fetishisation of bisexual women runs deeper. “In a world which fetishises bisexual women, there is constant objectification and invisibilisation when interacting with cis-gender heterosexuals,” observes Meshram. The intrusive questions about her sexuality never seem to end. “We live in a very homonegative environment so these microagressions are ever-present. People are quick to ask how two women have sex, and the proposal of a threesome becomes a part of the conversation in the first few minutes. Men want intimate details of my relationships with women so they can sexualise it. When I tell them I'm queer at a bar, it's invisiblised and they think I'm saying it to ward them off,” shares the Nagpur native. The 25-year-old says that intersectionality is often overlooked but shapes the experiences of LGBTQIA+ individuals. She explains, “Sometimes queer phobia will intersect with patriarchy, and this is where I’m marginalised as a bisexual and as a woman.” Invisibilisation of bisexuality happens on multiple levels, even in queer spaces. “Invisiblisation of sexuality on the family front happens because I like men too. There's always this hope from my family that I might end up being in a hetero relationship so ‘my life would be easy’. The pressure to conform to the binary is constant. But I'm still gay, so it doesn't matter if I end up with a guy. It's still a queer relationship because I'm queer. Just because I'm dating a guy doesn't mean I'm straight. There's a lot of biphobia in the queer community too though where bisexuality is seen as just experimentation which is surprising because queer spaces are meant to be inclusive and they sometimes aren't.” When asked how straining the ever-present microaggressions can be, she says, “It is exhausting. I feel like ignorance has becomes a survival tactic now. If I walked around with the weight of every biphobic, misogynistic, casteist thing that gets said to me, I'd never get out of the house.” Like many queer women, Meshram has developed her own coping strategy. “As a queer, Dalit woman, I very rarely have the privilege to show anger, and being confrontational may not be an option as I don't know how I may get harassed once I speak up.” Responding to the idea that people might just be curious, she concludes, “In the day and age of the internet, resources about the community are easily available. If people really want to know they can literally Google it. I'm not putting in emotional labour for someone who at the end of the day doesn't care and just wants to play devil's advocate because this conversation doesn't have any real implications in their lives.” Meghna MehraShe/her25, AsexualNew DelhiActivist and author Meghna Mehra founded the All India Queer Association in 2019 to make space for diversity across the spectrum. In a cis-heteronormative world where sex is given so much importance and attention, the value of an individual is tied to the act, according to Mehra. “As an asexual individual, especially as a woman, there is a constant reminder that you are not valuable if you aren't having sex and procreating. A woman’s worth being determined by what she can offer—sex or a child—is a patriarchal concept, and affects all women. Also, while dating, often heterosexual men harass or bully one to have sex and asexual men are usually in a hurry to get married without knowing much about each other.” Asexuality is beyond comprehension for most cis-het people who do not blink before subjecting individuals to offensive remarks. The 25-year-old has been told that since she is repulsed by sex, her partner will cheat on her, and has been asked if she is an amoeba instead of a human. She shares, “People have told me what a waste of a body it is to not have sex. It impacts me deeply, as sometimes confrontations have turned sour. We as a society still expect women to not argue or correct others.” When asked how heavy is the weight of the asexual identity on her mental health, Mehra poses, “There is no weight of the asexual identity, but there is the weight of the stigma and discrimination that heteronormativity brings to us.” Sujitha He/they26, Transgender non-binary pansexualBengaluru A freelancer in the HR solutions space, Sujitha is a trans non-binary pansexual. At the intersection of these identities is an individual who simply wishes to live his life without facing prejudice for who they are. “I absolutely hate that I live in a world where people are strictly conditioned into maintaining the cis-het normative ideas of a family and making a binary out of everything. Inanimate objects like clothes, accessories, and even toys for children have a gender assigned to them: masculine, and feminine,” shares Sujitha. Everyday interactions are laden with misgendering which takes a toll on mental health. The Bengaluru-resident shares, “I'm furious that someone concludes what my gender is based on my appearance, i.e., secondary sexual characteristics, in socially acceptable language. A random stranger would immediately resort to ‘ma'am’ upon looking at me or hearing my voice on the phone. Now, do I want to get into my gender and pronouns with random strangers every time this happens? Even if I wanted to do that, assuming I have infinite energy, is the concerned person interested in a lecture on gender or would they want to go about doing their job? They don't have malicious intent to hurt me. What am I supposed to do with my anger and my feelings?” Cis-heteronormativity is so deeply coded in the society that it can be difficult to overcome completely unless a dedicated effort is made. “I have been misgendered by my own friends, inside my own home. The same feelings of anger and frustration remain but cannot be directed at specific individuals. Because I know it's a systemic issue. Cis-het ideals are shoved down our throats since our childhood. The people we see, the media made for us to consume, institutions actively enforcing the gender binary (e.g., schools making ‘boys’ and ‘girls’ sit separately).” Even the everyday assessment of whether to be offended or not can be straining and lead to self-doubt. “Am I a bad person for being angry? Am I a hypocrite for not correcting (at least my friends) each and every time they misgender me? Does this mean I am okay with being misgendered? I struggle with feelings of confusion and bitterness, and the worst part is that I don't know what to do about it or at least when I'll be able to figure it out for myself,” says Sujitha. When it comes to trans bodies, people often feel entitled to ask intrusive questions and even touch having no regard for consent. “I had the misfortune of meeting a TERF cis-lesbian recently. She shamelessly asked about the sex of a previous partner. I wish this was a one-off incident, but unfortunately, it wasn't. I wonder why complete strangers want to know about other people’s genitalia? And if I say that this is creepy, I will be called dramatic or invalidated some other way,” shares Sujitha. The fact that someone’s identity is up for debate is in itself an act of discrimination. “Honestly, for the sake of my sanity, I do not engage in ‘discussions’ about my identity after the point where things turn hostile towards me. But even being silenced like that takes a toll. It makes me feel like I'm somehow a lesser person and that everyone would be much happier if me and people like me did not exist,” concludes the 26-year-old. Richa VashistaShe/herMental health professional Microaggressions are daily reminders of the queer phobia that runs deep in our cis-heteronormative world. Stressing on their impact on LGBTQIA+ individuals’ mental health, Vashishta shares, “Microaggressions can cause a lot of trauma, and can affect one's mental health. They can cause depression, anxiety, anger and aggression. Often this can lead to falling into patterns of unhealthy coping mechanisms including binge eating, excessive drinking or substance abuse issues.” How one chooses to confront or cope with microaggressions is also a major stressor, “Confronting a person is filled with uncertainty. They could become defensive and turn it around on you being too sensitive and not willing to ‘take a joke’. They could also play the victim and state that they would never say anything homophobic or transphobic, or they may get angry to the point of being aggressive. Ignoring such situations may lead to anxiety, depression, self-doubt, shame, anger and other emotions. It's a lot of cognitive load and emotional labour,” explains Vashista. There is no one right way to cope with such a situation, according to Vashista. She explains, “The right response is whatever you choose to do in a situation where you face a microaggression. You don't need to put yourself in a possibly dangerous situation nor do you need to engage in the labour of educating someone else if you don't want to. And if you chose to explain why the microaggresion was wrong or confront the situation, that's okay too – as long as you are comfortable with your decision. Remember that your decision and choices are valid.” When asked how allies can bring more awareness with respect to their actions and words, overcoming the systemic queerphobia that exists in ‘casual’ everyday exchanges, Vashista says, “Try to use more gender-neutral language when you speak on the day-to-day - say partner instead of boyfriend or girlfriend, sibling instead of brother or sister, etc. When you hear someone being phobic or harassing others – confront them and call out their actions. It is important to support the queer community without speaking for them. Understand that not all queer people have the same experience, and their lived experiences are valid. Let queer people take the lead when it comes to representation—don't try to take queer spaces away from them.” Also Read: The price of pretence: LGBTQIA+ individuals share their lived closeted experiences

03 June,2022 07:06 PM IST | Mumbai | Maitrai Agarwal
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Price of pretence: LGBTQIA+ individuals share their lived closeted experiences

'Badhaai Do' starring Rajkummar Rao and Bhumi Pednekar received accolades for portraying 'lavender marriage'—a marriage of convenience entered into with an intention to conceal the socially stigmatised sexual orientation of one or both partners. While lavender marriage is an extreme case of pretending in order to conform to societal expectations, many closeted LGBTQIA+ individuals have to resort to everyday acts to mask their identities—from having to hide their same-sex relationships to staying silent in the face of homophobia.   Being in the closet or being out aren’t absolute binaries in the queer community. Many LGBTQIA+ individuals come out to their close ones yet choose to keep their lives private when it comes to society owing to the hetero-normative culture which often permeates home, school, work, and other significant aspects of life. This more often than not may involve pretending to be cis-gendered heterosexual (cis-het). spoke to queer individuals who shared their lived experiences, and delved into the multifaceted implications of pretence and how it impacts their wellbeing. Anni (name changed on request)He/him24, PansexualMumbai “I still remember the first time I realised I liked men. I was 18 and curious, searching on the internet for gay dating applications. Upon downloading Grindr (a dating app dedicated to queer men), I came to know that I am not alone, there are many other men who are also interested in men. I learned from people what it meant to be queer, and even happened to meet my present-day partner after overcoming initial hesitation,” recalls Anni. “I was beyond happy after the first time I met him. There was this feeling of completeness I hadn’t known till then. We started dating, but the reality of our relationship existing behind closed doors never left us. We were afraid of being judged by society and our parents, but as days went by, the burden of keeping our love secret started weighing heavily upon us. We couldn’t do things that heterosexual couples did, even holding hands in the park, or catching sunsets at Marine Drive while laying my head on his shoulder was unthinkable,” admits the Mumbai-resident. “Archiving his chats, and not posting our photos on social media might not seem to be a big deal, but all of those actions were intended to hide ourselves. The endless societal backlash we experienced in public spaces has been extremely heart wrenching, and makes us fear if our families will cut off ties with us. We wonder if they will kick us out of our homes, take us to therapy to cure us of our queerness. People have tried to scare us by saying our parents might even kill us,” shares Anni.   As they gather the courage to overcome their fears and apprehensions, Anni and his partner have decided to keep their relationship hidden. “We decided to be a beautiful secret in each other’s lives, which I think is a huge compromise. I still cannot sleep peacefully at night. I still have to ask him to not hold my hand when we are in the proximity of my home.”    “I guess many of my queer friends go through similar challenges. We all want to change it by spreading awareness among people, especially our families, so all of us can live the way we want. I know that change comes with a price, but maybe we aren’t ready to pay it just yet,” concludes Anni.  Maya (name changed on request)She/her27, QueerGoaBeing in the closet—to whichever degree—can be a complex existence. The never-ending pretence that straight-passing LGBTQIA+ individuals have to partake in on an every-day basis impacts quality of life. “The act of coming out is a never ending process for most queers. Each time you meet a new person, whether cis-het or not, straight-passing queers have to decide whether we wish to reveal our true selves. Alongside the harrowing incessant fear of being found out, being forced to make this very decision repeatedly is a constant stressor in my life,” says Maya.  The Goa-resident is closeted for the world including her family, but is out to her inner circle of friends, who happen to be cis-het. “Even the best intentioned liberal friends of mine reacted with a startling amount of indifference when I first came out to them. In their speech of ‘it doesn’t really matter’, they failed to grasp the gravity of it all. The fact remains that even those who love me the most fail to have a nuanced understanding of the weight of my intersectional identity, of being a queer woman. It is one thing to ignore the hatred and malice that comes your way from strangers, but the indifference is what makes one feel isolated—as if even those who love me do not understand me.”  Ruminating on the ramifications of pretence, she shares, “Pretence is a double edged sword for the queer community. Under threatening circumstances, pretending may ensure physical safety, and help to avoid altercations and unpleasant conversations, however, at the same time it is also a persistent denial of self. For example, using gender neutral pronouns while referring to a romantic interest or significant other, might pass unnoticed by cis-gender heterosexuals, but is a conscious effort to mask identity. Whether it is through an outright lie or by omitting the truth, the choice is to intentionally deny who I am on what can be an everyday basis. I have spent years navigating the conflict I have felt as I wanted to be straight passing in certain circumstances at the same time felt pain when someone assumed me to be cis-het. Such acts are extremely disorienting.” Stressing upon the privilege that comes from being straight-passing, she says, “It is important to acknowledge that not everyone has the privilege to pretend, and pass off as straight-passing, thereby benefiting from cis-het privilege. My agency to reveal my truth lies with me, and helps me protect myself in seemingly unsafe spaces. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t trauma that comes from everyone assuming that I am cis-het.”  Sujitha He/they26, Transgender non-binary pansexualBangalore It was somewhere in 2016 that Sujitha admitted to himself that he was pansexual. “I had witnessed the casual queerphobia and misogyny thrown around first-hand. I used to feel guilty because I thought I was a perverted monster, and never considered coming out in certain spaces.” The hetero-normative assumptions regarding his identity didn’t help. “Meeting new people is exhausting. Most people assume I'm a cis-woman based on my appearance, and mis-gender me.” Hetero-normativity is a systemic problem which impacts LGBTQIA+ lives. “I blame the system which actively benefits from enforcing hetero-normativity and the gender binary. The individuals who make the assumptions are just a product of this system. Some people like to get a little more personal, asking me about my previous or current romantic partners, again assuming that (a) I'm a cis-woman, (b) I'm monogamous, (c) I'm heterosexual. For example, when they assume that my previous partner (who is also transgender non-binary) is a cis-man, I laugh on the inside. While it is amusing, the erasure is heartbreaking.” At times, queer individuals adapt strategies to be subtle about acknowledging their identities in public spaces. “I speak three languages: Tamil, English, and Hindi. Hindi is an aggressively gendered language, while Tamil and English are just a little bit forgiving. I discovered a life hack that I use all the time now. Since Hindi is not my first language, I use masculine gendered words to talk about myself. And people just assume it's because I don't know Hindi well enough. Of course, there have been people who have tried to ‘correct’ me, but I insist on using what they consider the incorrect gender.”  The intersection of Sujitha’s identity beyond his gender and sexuality is important to him. “I want to acknowledge that I am privileged in several ways and that doesn't negate my trauma.” Contrary to plans, Sujitha had to come out to his parents (not by choice) and younger sibling in 2018, but his workplace is still a no-go. “My relationship with my parents has been super weird. My father kicked me out of the house in 2019 (I've never been there since) because I had shaved the hair on my head. Honestly, I don't think my hair says anything about my gender, but even so, just the idea of me not conforming to feminine body standards made my father do that after claiming that he loved me for decades.” Coming out to his family enabled him to live a life where he could be closer to his truest self. “Being out has been liberating. It was a difficult journey to get to this point. It took a lot to even realise that there's nothing wrong with me. I don't have the bandwidth for pretence anymore. It takes too much effort and I'm the one who has to live with the consequences of my choices. I don't want to accommodate others when they're not going to be affected by me.”  The importance of representation for the LGBTQIA+ community cannot be reiterated enough. “Younger queer people, even the closeted ones keep messaging me online to say how good they feel seeing me live my life. My ex once told me that just by existing, I was showing younger trans people that a life like mine was a possibility.” Richa VashistaShe/HerMental health professionalTo pretend to be someone they’re not is not a preferred state of being for most. “One may feel the need to pretend to be someone they're not because they are not fully comfortable with who they are, or when they fear for their safety. Their internalised bias may prevent them from expressing who they are openly, or if a person feels like they may be attacked if they disclose their identity, they may refrain from sharing the same. A fear of losing access to resources including social status, economic stability, access to housing, and even losing familial affection can force someone to pretend," explains Richa Vashista, a queer affirmative and trauma-informed mental health professional who has been working at the intersections of gender and sexuality since 2014.  For LGBTQIA+ individuals, the task of pretending in their everyday lives is exhausting. “When someone is trying to come off as straight passing and they succeed, it can lead to experiencing many conflicting emotions at the same time - anger, betrayal, guilt, shame, sadness, frustration. After all, the only reason why someone would ever be able to 'pass' is because we live in a cis-hetero-normative world. A person is more easily able to 'pass' when they are indulging in stereotypes or norms dictated by a cis-het society. This can create a sense of despair or hopelessness, and can even lead to a decline in their mental health - triggering depression, anxiety, panic attacks and more. All of these stem from a feeling of not having the freedom to be themselves or express themselves the way they want.”  Living in the constant fear of being found out is a stressor that negatively affects quality of life and mental well-being. Talking about the most prominent feelings and negative behaviour patterns that can arise due to being in the closet, she says, “A person still in the closet may feel a myriad of emotions. They may feel anger and sadness with the world for not being more accepting, they may feel guilt for hiding things from their loved ones, shame for not being 'normal', distrust towards others, pain and fear for not being able to share their truth.” When asked how constant lying (either explicitly or by omission of truth) impacts self-worth, Vashista shares, “People who are still in the closet may reflexively use gender-neutral language when they speak. A gay person might avoid references to gender altogether: "I went out last night with someone I've been dating for the last few weeks. We went to a movie in their neighbourhood." A heterosexual person listening to these words might automatically assume a heterosexual relationship was being discussed. It can be painful to keep this aspect of oneself hidden. Constant hiding brings barriers in trust between friends. It also makes it difficult to recognise one's own strengths. It can be difficult to feel one's actual accomplishments as reflections of one's own abilities.” Also Read: Repeating one’s truth: Why coming out is a never ending process, not a one-time event

03 June,2022 07:05 PM IST | Mumbai | Maitrai Agarwal
Representative Image. Pic/iStock

Documenting queerness: Online archives are filling the gaps in LGBTQIA+ history

History is a complex, evolving entity that shapes society today. Yet the mainstream narrative often omits diverse stories that fall outside of societal boxes. Throughout history, the existence of LGBTQIA+ individuals has been questioned and brushed under the carpet. As has the complex intersectionality of religion, gender, colour, financial status, and caste in the Indian context, which reflects in the diverse lived experiences of queer folk today. spoke to queer Indians archiving overlooked aspects of LGBTQIA+ history to understand the significance of such documentation and affirmative representation Rafiul Alom Rahman, 29 (He/Him)Founder of The Queer Muslim Project Based out of Meghalaya currently, Rafiul started The Queer Muslim Project in 2017. Pic/ Rafiul Alom Rahman The Queer Muslim Project was started by Rafiul Alom Rahman to archive and amplify narratives that represent Muslim queers. “Too often if we don’t tell our stories, other people tell them, and they don’t tell them well. When I set out to start TQMP, there were hardly any stories that represented Muslim queers. I believe archiving voices and stories is very important because it is directly linked to affirmative representation and I wondered, why are we not hearing from the community? The objective is to enable people to tell their stories, to be agents of their stories, and not mere characters in other people’s stories,” shares Rahman. Stressing on the relevance and multi-faceted nature of queer history, he adds, “When you don’t have documented heritage, who do you fall on? If you don’t have a fulcrum, what holds you? What does queer inclusion even mean? Is it only for cis-upper castes, or also for diverse local identities which exist outside the western definitions of LGBTQIA+? I see a lot of young people in their early 20s, who have been exposed to a different kind of rainbow activism post-377. There is a big disconnect between what exists and what has historically happened. It is very skewed and superficial, we don’t know what the struggle has been, there is some bit of documentation but I don’t think it is very widely accessible.” Archiving different aspects of history, for example the Partition, has gained traction in the recent past. However LGBTQIA+ history leaves much to be desired. We must understand the gap that is created when stories of generations of queer people are lost. “There is dearth of documentation of queer history across South Asia. There aren’t enough resources to support such projects. A dedicated focus on queer archiving is missing. At TQMP, we train people to relook at popular culture and shape opinion through art and culture. To archive and talk about personal narratives that aren’t visible in mainstream media is the need of the hour,” observes Rahman. TQMP is a catalogue of diverse queer Muslim voices across the world, which creates a safe space for LGBTQIA+ individuals to find community. “Identifying with these universal queer experiences makes people realise they aren’t alone. Looking at our page gives people hope,” says Rahman. "It is one thing for people from the community to connect to pages like this but what is heartening to see is that a lot of allies are connecting and engaging with our content. Seeing cis-het individuals trying to understand queer identities, seeking the right kind of information is a stepping stone. This is how larger social change will be brought about,” concludes Rahman.  Kumam Davidson Singh, 32 (He/They)Founder of 'The Chinky Homo Project' Kumam Davidson Singh started a digital queer anthology that archives the lived experiences of queer Northeasterners. Pic/ Kumam Davidson Singh “There is little to no coverage by the mainstream media, entertainment, and art fraternity. Independent and queer centric media and allied platforms, mostly the blog counterparts, NGOs, and collectives working on issues of gender, sexuality, HIV and LGBTQIA+ issues seem to be picking up of late. But there is a lack of consistency in reporting. Also, the absence of ground reporting calls into question the very nature of representation. So, it is very important for artists, community voices and leaders to work towards self-representation,” says Kumam Davidson Singh, founder of The 'Chinky' Homo Project. 'The Chinky Homo Project' started by Kumam Davidson and Pavel Sagolsem is a queer narrative blog of Northeast India which seeks to explore, discuss, and archive the lived experiences and narratives of people living in the cusp or intersection of both subjectivities. “We seek to record, archive, and disseminate testimonies, fictions, photo essay, and myriad forms of digital expressions from LGBTQIA+ people belonging to the region vis-a-vis the absence and stark invisibility of literature and other forms of expression of being queer in or from the region in general as well as LGBTQIA+ mainstream discourse in the country,” shares Singh. Based out of Moirang in Manipur, Singh seeks to create a space where representation and determination of Northeastern queer identity lies in the community’s hands and is painted with their own struggles. Talking about his blog’s efforts in documenting contemporary queer lives, “Under the project, we have been collecting testimonials and experiences of people and with the help of it, generating dialogue and creating peer support for queer migrants from the Northeast. We mostly rely on informal conversations, WhatsApp and email exchanges. The documentation is based on friendships and community networks. We also rely on auto-ethnography, but most of the stories are self-documented.” Archiving and amplifying personal stories becomes challenging when dealing with multiple languages. “Given the availability of more resources, bringing in visual arts such as photography, videography, and other artworks on queer issues has been under discussion for a while. Making it multilingual and giving a wider representation and readership across is another goal of the project. For now, it’s a real challenge to keep it multilingual, so we are relying on the translation of testimonials from the original to the English language. The other challenge is to document testimonials from more remote corners of the region where coming out, English language, and queer advocacy are distant realities.” Speaking about the intersection of dual marginalisation, Singh adds, “Northeast is a complex entity very much at the periphery of the country, geographically and otherwise. This peripheral identity is an issue the region and its people continue to grapple with. One of the repercussions of being in the periphery is the struggle to voice oneself and be heard. So as a person from Northeast, one’s identity and life experience in relation to oneself and the country may be marked by elements of invisibility and misrepresentation. And if one is queer from the region, it may be an added struggle in self-determination and representation.” Meghna Mehra, 24, (She/Her)Founder of All India Queer Association Meghna has studied political science and understands social issues from a gendered perspective. Pic/Meghna Mehra Activist and author Meghna Mehra started AIQA, a queer Marxist union working for empowerment of the LGBTQIA+ community, in 2019. They aim to spread awareness, provide mental health services and fight for working rights of the community through their multiple chapters across the country, from Punjab to Mumbai. Their online presence has helped connect thousands of queer individuals and furthered the conversation surrounding gay rights. While extensive conversations happen on their social media channels, they have a space dedicated to highlighting queer icons—individuals with great accomplishments throughout history. “Every time someone comes out, society dismisses them stating this is a new thing, or that Marxists can’t be queers, but that is why knowing history is so important. Queer individuals have always existed,” poses Mehra. For generations, queer erasure has been the norm. “Members of the LGBTQIA+ community need to know who all have been here before us. Frida Kahlo, revolutionary communist painter, was bisexual. How many know of this? The sexuality and gender identities of many prominent figures have been brushed under the carpet for far too long,” says Mehra. These examples are important because representation matters immensely to the queer existence. “When I was a teenager, I used to wonder what’s wrong with me, why don’t I find men attractive. Unless we see examples of humans we can identify with, queer children and adults will continue to wonder and feel lost.” Parth, 24, (He/Him)Volunteer with AIQA Mumbai, Psychologist and mental health research assistant “When I was questioning, it was very difficult, because I had nobody to look up to. Society tries to fit queer individuals in binary boxes, which hurts everyone. I couldn’t even access mental health practitioners because section 377 was still in place, and social media is all I had because mainstream media has lacked queer representation,” shares the Mumbai-based psychologist. Accepting his sexuality and identifying as bisexual came after much exploration for Parth. “It is difficult for individuals to explore the queer lived experience as they lack the insight needed. If I had access to more documentation, I would believe this is nothing new.” Advocating for the need of different narratives, he adds, “I think we need documentation of history because we need role models like Alan Turing, who was castrated for being gay even after his contributions in the WW2. You erase that human, you humiliated them, stripped them down of their dignity for their existence. We don’t need only positive stories, we need realistic stories of struggle, so queers of today understand that we’ve had to fight for our rights, we weren’t served these on a silver platter. Reading about them gives me hope that these people fought when times were tougher.  There aren’t enough narratives to go ahead, we need diverse icons to identify ourselves with, we need hope that we can also be a part of society and bring about change.” Also Read: Repeating one’s truth: Why coming out is a never ending process, not a one-time event

03 June,2022 07:04 PM IST | Mumbai | Maitrai Agarwal
Pranav Naik on one of his cycle rides in the city. Photo: Pranav Naik

World Bicycle Day 2022: How the pandemic made more Mumbaikars mount a cycle

Architect Pranav Naik has been among the torchbearers in Mumbai for cycling both as a recreation and as a means to commute. Encouragingly, over the last one year, he has observed a steady increase in the number of cyclists in the city. The rides are getting longer too, he says. “Initially, we started counting the number of cyclists seen as a part of the cycling groups and noticed that in South Bombay, from 8 cyclists per hour earlier, it increased to as many as 40 cyclists,” he explains. “Towards Carter Road in Bandra, the number rose from 20 to 100 and even 200 at one point and that is when we decided to stop counting as it was becoming difficult to keep track.”  Among the many things the pandemic has changed is the way we travel, especially in Mumbai. Cycling for pleasure and to run errands has been on the rise. Cycling groups, which were earlier limited to the suburbs, have emerged in South Bombay too, says Naik, and before the recent lockdown, they did group rides three-four times every week.  Santacruz-based Andrew Jacquet is one of the many Mumbaikars who took up cycling in the last one year and while it was for fun earlier, the motive has now changed. “I started cycling actively in August last year, and there were quite a few people with me but even though they backed out eventually, I decided to continue and cycle around for fun. But because of the pandemic I started using the cycle to even run errands at the shops close by. I didn’t want my parents to go out for groceries.”  Andrew Jacquet who uses the bicycle to run errands in Santacruz. Photo: Andrew JacquetUnfortunately, 27-year-old Jacquet fractured his hand in a cycling accident and even though his parents aren’t keen on him using the bicycle again, he intends to continue. Jacquet voices his concerns says, “The roads in Mumbai are not the best for cycling so it is not encouraging. I limit myself to cycling for errands but hope I can do longer rides soon as things become better.”  Another such emerging cycling enthusiast is Abhishek Takle from Chembur. The 33-year-old took up the activity only after he moved to Goa, with its cycle-friendly roads, in December 2020. “I started running in 2016 but never considered cycling for fitness purposes. But I decided to give it a try after I moved to Benaulim and have been doing it ever since successfully. So, some days when I feel a little lazy to exercise, I just take out the cycle and go for a ride, as the roads are inviting here, unlike Mumbai.” He has been going for rides as long as 20-km and intends to go further as his interest in the activity grows.  Abhishek Takle stops during one of his rides in Benaulim in Goa. Photo: Abhishek TakleNo city for cyclistsConcerns about the roads in Mumbai, which make cycling difficult, had been taken up with the authorities last year. Naik was one among a team of cyclists and architects in the city along with to submit a mobility plan to the state government and the municipal corporation.  Their dossier contained a detailed plan of solutions for the short, medium, and long terms. He reveals that the officials, including the new municipal commissioner Iqbal Singh Chahal, weren’t too interested. “We contacted them several times… but we did not receive a reply,” adds Naik.  The lukewarm response didn’t deter the team from continuing with its ‘Cycle Chala City Bacha’ programme. The ongoing initiative aims to make cycling the favoured mode of transport across all 24 wards in the city and to make Mumbai the cycling capital of India by 2030. With bicycle councillors in several wards in the city and a bicycle mayor, Firoza Suresh, the team intends to make cycling a mode of transport to work, says Naik, who rides his bicycle to work himself. Apart from unsafe roads and the absence of accessible cycle tracks, there are more concerns. Naik adds, “We found out that there will be cycling tracks on the Coastal Road, which we are all against. Moreover, the tracks aren’t connected because they are circular and as an adult cyclist, it does not make sense. So, we have told them that they can be circular but the circular tracks need to be connected.”  These various issues are the reason why cycling hasn’t been fun for 36-year-old Naik, who has been riding seriously for the last seven years. Although he rides on multiple routes, because of construction work for the Coastal Road Project and the metro, he isn’t able to enjoy the spectacular sea view anymore. Also Read: Beginner’s guide to cycling in Mumbai Shop Now SR NO Product Shop Now 1 Hero Kyoto Cycle Shop Now! 2 Strauss Cycling Helmet Shop Now! 3 BISMAADH Mens Headband Shop Now! 4 7Trees Adult Motorbike Transparent Goggles Shop Now! 5 Nivia Radar Bottle Shop Now!

03 June,2022 05:57 PM IST | Mumbai | Nascimento Pinto
Shubhreet Kaur and her husband have adopted the gender-equal parenting approach to raise their two daughters and sensitise them about the queer community. Photo Courtesy: Shubhreet Kaur

Mumbai-based parents share tips on inspiring LGBTQIA+ sensitivity in children

When Shubhreet Kaur’s elder daughter Karma was three, she used to play with a Lego set where Minnie Mouse was a firefighter who saves Daisy Duck. After Minnie saves Daisy, they move on to take care of a baby. “At that age she might not know what ‘husband’ and ‘wife' is. For her, they are a family. She does not know what ‘LGBTQIA+’ means but she already thinks it’s cool that two women are raising a baby together through play,” explains Kaur.  Kaur, 36, is a mom-blogger who documents experiences about parenting and traveling with a child. Her blog — titled Raising Karma — also emphasises the importance of raising a LGBTQIA+ sensitive child and adopting equality-based parenting. According to research published in the Annual Review of Psychology: “Studies suggest that most children develop the ability to label gender groups and to use gender labels in their speech between 18 and 24 months.” Gender-neutral parenting is slowly gaining momentum in urban India. Kaur says, “We wanted to raise our children in a very gender-neutral and gender-equal environment, where they don’t think that a particular thing is the mother’s job or another thing is a father’s job. They should know that any activity or chore is interchangeable.”  Another aspect of equal parenting that Kaur and her husband have been practising is introducing concepts of sensitivity towards the queer community to their children. “It is very important to create an environment where kids know what equality stands for,” she says. “Once they grow a little older, they are bound to learn certain stereotypes – which can be controlled only to a certain extent by us. But to mitigate that impact, I think you need to start young and that makes a difference.” Learning begins at home For sensitising a child towards gender issues and the queer community, the progress has to be made by raising them in a more liberal environment that embraces diversity. “Right from the beginning, it is not about this or that community. We need to move towards the idea of gender neutrality right from childhood,” says retired English professor Nilakshi Roy. She is a part of the peer-parent group, Sweekar. It is a support group, which was formed in 2017, for parents of LGBTQIA+ children.  Nilakshi Roy (right) with her daughter Koninika Parents need to be careful about their own behaviour so that a child grows up to be sensitive and respectful towards the queer community, Roy opines. Sometimes they project signs and signals – like laughing at a homosexual character in a movie or film, or using language such as tomboy or other offensive terms to describe a person – that influences a child’s behaviour. “They need to be taught that every human being – irrespective of their gender or sexual orientation – needs to be treated with respect and love,” she says.  Then there are other ways to increase the exposure to learn and make them aware about the queer community. “There are many gender-sensitive reading materials as well as movies available on the internet. They can show these to a child and help them gain knowledge and sensitivity,” she says. Kaur agrees, recommending illustrated books such as ‘The Different Dragon’ by Jennifer Bryan and ‘Daddy, Papa, and Me’ by Lesléa Newman, which depict same-sex parents raising a child together. Kaur feels play is another good medium to introduce sensitivity to a kid. “They may not understand the term “LGBTQIA+”. But what you can expose them to is the family format. Through play, you can make them understand that a family can be made of two fathers or two mothers and they are raising a child,” says the Mumbaikar. The old tendency to guide a child towards gender-specific toys needs to be done away with, Roy cautions. “First thing a child gets conditioned to is the idea that if he is a boy, he has to behave a certain way. If a certain culture is developed around the child and they are told to behave in a heteronormative way, kids will immediately develop prejudices,” she says. In Kaur's home, they are careful not to link gender with certain styles of clothes or activities. “My husband lets my daughter apply nail polish on him when she wants to. If my younger daughter wants to put hair clips on his head, he engages with it. These are simple things which help a child to learn to avoid labels,” she says. She also advises that if a boy wants to try on his mother’s clothes, he shouldn’t be discouraged. They are trying to understand why their mothers and fathers do certain things. Kaur adds, “Play is a very good way to introduce them to the fact that happy families don’t always come in pairs of a man and a woman.” Kaur recommends against waiting to know if their child is straight or gay or transgender before introducing diversity and inclusivity. “By making them aware at a young age, you are raising a child who is less likely to be a bully, one who will reach out to misfits, one who is driven by compassion and most importantly, they will come to you tomorrow for your guidance if they are fighting an internal and external battle because they feel they don’t fit in,” Kaur notes. Such learning can be encouraged naturally by letting the child mingle with different people and be a part of a varied social group. “Let them go out and meet people from different communities. This will help them to interact and accept everyone as equal and normal,” observes Roy.  Keep teaching yourself too While it is important to teach children about being sensitive towards gender well as the queer community, parents themselves need to learn too. Roy says her daughter Koninika, who came out as bisexual in 2014, taught her a lot about the queer community. In fact, it was Koninika who encouraged her mother to join Sweekar. So, Roy feels parents need that adjust their attitude and admit that they also need to keep learning.  “Parents can even take the help of professionals to train themselves,” Roy says. “Times have changed. There are so many terms which were normalised earlier but cannot be used now. Today, there aren’t just two genders, there are many. Every day new judgments and laws are being made. Parents need to keep up with the current scenario.”  Even though our country is much more aware about the queer community now, there is a lot of work to be done. Parents like Roy and Kaur are doing their bit to create awareness and support the LGBTQIA+ community, but to become a more inclusive society, we need more people to learn and join the cause. An optimistic Roy believes things are changing for the better.“I am very hopeful of the newer generation, especially young parents today. They know much more than the older generation and are much more sensitive than us.” Books worth introducing to your children, as recommended by Kaur: ‘The Different Dragon’ by Jennifer Bryan ‘Daddy, Papa, and Me’ by Lesléa Newman Movies that parents should watch, as recommended by Roy: Milk (2008) directed by Gus Van Sant Danish Girl (2015) directed by Tom Hooper Also Read: A Pronouns Primer: How to ask for and get pronouns right when addressing diverse gender identities

02 June,2022 05:24 PM IST | Mumbai | Anuka Roy
Late Mumbai-based filmmaker Riyad Wadia (in pic), who lived with HIV and passed away in 2003, was the subject of Anindya Kar's first post on his Instagram page 'LGBTQIAP Plus History of India' in 2016. Photo: File pic

This Instagram page chronicles overlooked events from India’s LGBTQIA+ history

Anindya Kar knows, painfully, that “history keeps repeating itself”. For instance, the book he is currently reading – Siddharth Dube’s ‘An Indefinite Sentence: A Personal History of Outlawed Love and Sex’ – mentions that gay rights lawyer Siddhartha Gautam and the author were thrown out of a Delhi pub in 1989. Similarly in the late 2010s, Kar’s gay friends had been asked to leave from a club in the same city. “We never acknowledge or correct ourselves. We never change,” rues Kar, who runs the Instagram page LGBTQIAP Plus History of India (@lgbthistoryindia).  Gautam, a Yale alumnus who was one of the early members of the ‘AIDS Bhed Bhav Virodhi Andolan’, and one of the authors of the ‘Less Than Gay: A Citizen's Report on the Status of Homosexuality in India’, is the subject for a series the account is doing for Pride month. The group had been among the first to launch a legal fight for the rights of the queer community. “Siddhartha’s story is one of those inspirational and amazing facts I stumbled upon while looking for content for the page,” says Kar, an ally who is also assistant director and chief medical officer at the Advanced Neuropsychiatry Institute in Kolkata.           View this post on Instagram                       A post shared by LGBTQIAP Plus History of India (@lgbthistoryindia) He picks out less-known or forgotten episodes from queer history which highlight the progress that has been achieved and show the way forward. Take the example of an ‘All-India Hijra Conference’ which was held in Agra in the year 1981, where around 50,000 members of the transgender community from both India and Pakistan had come together. Or the now-defunct Pravartak, an early gay magazine that ran in India in the 1990s, which had a popular classified column where queer people used to write letters to each other through a P.O. Box number mentioned in that space.  “History owes an apology to the members of this community [LGBTQIA+] and their families,” justice Indu Malhotra, who was part of a five-judge constitution bench that delivered the Supreme Court verdict decriminalising Section 377, had said in 2018. However, there isn’t enough documentation of India’s LGBTQIA+ history. Kar had noticed this back in 2016 and that was one of the reasons he had started the Instagram page then. “I was writing a paper on LGBTQIA+  health issues and I was searching for an Indian perspective and history in that matter,” says the 29-year-old. As he started researching, he came across many rare facts about the Indian queer community. That is when the idea came to his mind that it should be documented. “The concept of pride comes from the US and we celebrate Pride month because of the Stonewall Riots in 1969. However, I thought we need to  present the events of the LGBTQIA+ community in India, and that’s how people will get to know more about our history and will take pride in that as well,” he says.  His first post was about late Mumbai-based filmmaker Riyad Vinci Wadia. He was openly gay and belonged to the illustrious Wadia family, the owners of the yesteryear production company Wadia Movietone. Back in the day, their action films starring Fearless Nadia, who belonged to the same family, were extremely popular. Wadia was living with HIV and had died in 2003. “When I was researching for my paper, I came across this social media page called AIDS memorial. But the page had received a lot of criticism due to the lack of representation from India and other ethnic minorities,” he says. “Since I was writing on the topic of HIV, I started looking for gay men here who had died of the disease and that’s when I came across Riyad’s story. That is why I chose his story to be my first post.” The aim of the page is to bridge the information gap about the queer community with material that exists but was forgotten over the course of time. From highlighting how Deepa Mehta’s film ‘Fire’ – one of the first mainstream movies to show lesbian love story – met with protests from various political parties for the portrayal of same-sex relationship to sharing the harrowing experience of AIDS activist Dominic D'Souza for being HIV positive, the page throws light on the difficult journey of the queer community in India.  Dr Anindya Kar His posts consists of notes, texts, videos and news articles highlighting important events and personalities that helped shape the LGBTQIA+ movement in the country. It includes ancient as well as contemporary histories, from both the Indian population and diasporas, and even depictions of queerness from different cultures and mythologies. Speaking about the process of curating his posts, he says, “I look at what the current discussion or news is about. For example, if there is a debate about same sex marriage, I would post something about Indians who have experienced it,” he says.  Though his research is mostly dependent on verified websites, news articles, and books, Kar says that most of the earlier information he had on the queer community was through conversations he had with his friends from the LGBTQIA+ community.  Looking back, Kar says there is definitely much more awareness about the community now compared with when he started his page in 2016. “When I started, my goal was to speak against Sec 377. After the decriminalisation order, I have seen that there is more curiosity and genuine concern to learn and understand the community better,” he says. His vision for the future of this page is to organise an exhibition of the information he has gathered, once the situation is better in the country. The money the exhibition fetches, Kar wants to utilise to help improve mental health and HIV-related medical facilities for the LGBTQIA+ community.  Also Read: 'Our archives are memories of our human, institutional, and national progress in the global sphere’

02 June,2022 05:24 PM IST | Mumbai | Anuka Roy
A person waves a flag representing the LGBTQIA+ community at a parade. Photo: istock

How Mumbai’s LGBT+ community reacted to The Vatican's same-sex marriage stance

The Vatican said this week in an official note that the Catholic Church could not bless same-sex marriage because it cannot “bless sin”. The statement was issued by the Vatican’s orthodoxy office, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and approved by Pope Francis, according to an AP report. The statement said: “God does not and cannot bless sin: He blesses sinful man, so that he may recognize that he is part of his plan of love and allow himself to be changed by him.”   In India, on September 6, 2018, a five-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court decriminalised consensual same-sex relationships by reading down Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code. But a little less than a month ago, in the context of gay marriage, the government of India told the Delhi High Court that living together as same-sex partners was not comparable to the Indian concept of a family unit. In its statement, the government said, “In India, marriage is a bond between a biological man and a biological woman.” It said in the landmark 2018 judgment, the Supreme Court decriminalised Section 377, but said that it has only decriminalised “a particular human behaviour”, but “neither intended to, nor did in fact, legitimise the human conduct in question”.  However, The Vatican’s two-page statement, which was released on Monday, has upset members of Mumbai’s LGBTQIA+ community. reached out to them for their views on the development.   City-based stand-up comedian Navin Noronha expressed his frustration with the Church’s decision. He said he was a practising Catholic till 2014, but walked away from the Church and is now an atheist. Noronha says he has been “actively speaking against the Church in his comedy or writings because its views are archaic, and women and queer people don’t feel comfortable with them”.  Reacting to the Vatican’s statement, Noronha said, “I feel there has been a weird holding back by the Catholic Church. When the new pope was chosen, I always deep down knew that the posturing was going to run out sooner or later.” He adds that there has been a two-fold agenda since the new pope was elected, which was: “How do we appeal to younger people? So let’s say gay people are cool and welcome in the Church, but now when it is about officialising same-sex weddings, it is not possible”. Daniel Mendonca Daniel Mendonca, another member of Mumbai’s LGBTQIA+ community and an active part of the Church, is an intersex activist who believes that even though same-sex unions aren’t blessed in the Church, just because they don’t approve it, doesn’t mean that such marriages don’t exist (note: legally, India does not recognise same-sex marriage).  “For me, if they say that homosexuality is something we accept but we can’t bless it, then in some way, it means that you have not accepted us as human beings,” Mendonca says. She adds, “If a family is ready to accept two individuals for what they are and who they are, I think the blessing of the Church will not matter because if they believe that God is loving and accepting, then God does not discriminate based on gender. By saying that, I mean that God does not discriminate in the matter of marriage.”  Mendonca is a Sunday school teacher and is also a part of the Parish Pastoral Council at the Divine Mercy Church in Bhayander East. She has also been a part of the National Council of Churches in India (NCCI) on a forum for gender identity, sexual orientation and sexual characteristics. She explains that the Church is made up of people, and since there are different languages, cultures, food and tastes that exist within the people, the Church must understand that there are different sexualities and feelings that exist within these boundaries. “Just by saying that you don’t agree to it, it is creating haters, because God himself hasn’t come down and said it. It is because of such discrimination that people leave the Church,” she adds.    Jerry Johnson Jerry Johnson, a city-based corporate communications professional, says the Catholic Church has been on the wrong side of ethical issues in human rights, and again now, is on the wrong side of love. “I think by not blessing same-sex marriages, the Church is advocating dishonest marriages, promoting dishonesty and the suppression of women trapped in unhappy marriages with gay men," he says. Johnson has co-authored a book, ‘I Am Divine. So Are You’, which deals with affirming the dignity of LGBTQIA+ lives within the frameworks of Indian religions. reached out to the archbishop of Mumbai, Cardinal Oswald Gracias, for his comments on the Vatican’s latest stand and the reactions from the LGBTQIA+ community in the city. This article will be updated with his statement if and when we receive his response.  The Vatican’s note indicated that the decision was not intended to be a form of unjust discrimination against gay people. There has been an international debate about the acceptance of the LGBTQIA+ community by the Church for decades. However, the debate took a positive turn after the election of Pope Francis in 2013, when he came out in support of the community. “If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge?” Pope Francis had said, according to a BBC report.  Meanwhile, in Japan, the Sapporo court on Wednesday said the failure of the government to recognise same-sex marriages is unconstitutional, according to a report in the Japan Times. It is a first and thus a landmark ruling in the country, where the Constitution defines marriage as being based on “the mutual consent of both sexes,” according to a Reuters report. However, the court refused to pay the petitioner couples 1 million yen, which they had asked for in acknowledgement of the pain they had suffered by not being able to legally marry. As of January 2021, same-sex marriage is legally performed and recognised in at least 29 countries worldwide.

02 June,2022 05:09 PM IST | Mumbai | Nascimento Pinto
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