Happiness is political (so is hugging)

This main photograph shows a musical game in progress at the ‘Kolkata Rainbow Carnival 2018’ held in February this year at Triangular Park. The photograph is made up of several small panels. Each panel shows couples balancing themselves and dancing on a piece of paper placed on the ground. The paper is supposed to become smaller and smaller as it is folded at the end of each round of music. But the couples must try and continue to stay on the paper and dance to the music being played. The couple or couples who manage to stay on the paper till the last round of music become the winners. The panels show different couples laughing, dancing, holding on to each other and even hugging in order to stay on the piece of paper. Carnival crowds and stalls can be seen in the background. Photo credit: Prosenjit Pal

Clickhappy! May '18
Merrymaking and cheer apart, ‘public hugs’ were an integral part of the ‘Kolkata Rainbow Carnival 2018’ held earlier this year. Prosenjit Pal went click happy, while Nikita Kabra captured sound bites at Triangular Park in South Kolkata on February 18

The main photograph above shows one of the several carnival games in progress – couples needed to balance themselves and dance on a piece of paper that kept getting smaller as it was folded at the end of each round of music. The couple or couples who managed to afloat on the paper till the last round became the winners.

In the end, it was quite inevitable that the couples would have to hug each other in order to balance themselves on the paper. Thankfully, no moral brigade, unlike the recent Kamala Girls’ School and Kolkata Metro incidents, brought up questions of ethos, culture et al.

The craftwork . . .

This photograph is made up of four smaller panels of equal dimensions. Each panel shows a display of handicrafts at the carnival. Clockwise from top left: An array of rainbow coloured wax candles in glass containers; figurines of an owl and Lord Buddha and a pen holder made up of jute fibre and thread work in different colours; heart shaped badges with a mosaic pattern and rainbow shades lying in a wicker basket; and a row of cocktail glasses painted in a variety of patterns and motifs. Photo credit: Prosenjit Pal

Another photograph with five smaller panels of different sizes: A square panel on the left shows a display of assorted jewellery – mostly necklaces and earrings made of beads and shells hung on a thick cord or pinned on a sheet of thermocol propped up against the side of a stall. Next to the first panel is a big rectangular panel with the painting of a steam engine in the forefront. Two women are seated in the stall behind the painting. Several items of stationery and jewellery are on display on a table placed in front of the two women. Below the first two panels are three smaller ones that show displays of some booklets and brochures, Bengali literature on music, and more paintings (mostly water colours showing rural scenes). Photo credit: Prosenjit Pal

Listen to what Abir and Jaydip, two of the carnival participants had to say about why they were there: “A carnival is a place where different people meet and get to know each other – this carnival is an opportunity for the larger public to mingle with and get to know queer people and see their work.”

Posters with a cause . . .

This photograph shows a poster on display at the ‘Kolkata Rainbow Carnival 2018’. It simply says “Baandh Bhenge Dao”, a line borrowed from a Bengali song written by Rabindranath Tagore. Translated, it means ‘shatter the barrier’. The lettering of the poster is in white, red and yellow on a black background. There is an imprint of a hand painted in red, yellow and green next to the text. The poster has a shiny laminated surface. Photo credit: Prosenjit Pal

The poster text is a line borrowed from a Bengali song Baandh Bhenge Dao written by Rabindranath Tagore; translated it means ‘shatter the barrier’.

Sound bite from Amrita Sarkar – she came from Balasore, and was busy volunteering with collecting donations for the carnival.

Hear what Avinaba Dutta, one of key movers and shakers who made the carnival happen, had to say: “When we were making preparations for the carnival, we didn’t expect such an overwhelming response . . . we’re hoping to inspire someone else to organize the carnival next year!”

Food for soul and body . . .

The next photograph is from a food stall at the ‘Kolkata Rainbow Carnival 2018’. The stall seems to be selling ‘chaat’ and other Indian savoury food items. A number of plates, pots and other utensils, spices, and condiments like coriander leaves, chillies and lemons can be seen on a table inside the stall. Two individuals, a woman and a man wearing aprons, can be seen behind the table ready to serve visitors. Another woman to the left of the table is busy examining paper work inside a box file, while a young, bespectacled man can be seen in the forefront to the right helping himself to a plate of delicious ‘chaat’. Everyone in the photograph is in a happy mood. The back wall of the stall is decorated with colourful cloth patchwork and hangings. Photo credit: Prosenjit Pal

Inspirational words from Anjana at the Adamant Eve Reimagined Cafe stall: “I’m participating as an ally. I believe there should be no marginalization, and this a perfect platform to bring people together. There’s been a great response and I’ve had to refill and cook more than once for the stall. People have been so kind – it’s wonderful.”

The decor . . .

This photograph shows the main signage of the ‘Kolkata Rainbow Carnival 2018’ – a colourful poster with a rainbow coloured heart sign and butterfly cut-outs pinned on the margins. The poster says “Kolkata Rainbow Carnival 2018”. The writing and the graphics are done on white chart paper. The poster is pasted on to the back wall of a performance stage for the carnival. The back wall is made of mustard coloured fabric. Photo credit: Prosenjit Pal

The photograph shows an example of innovative decor at the ‘Kolkata Rainbow Carnival 2018’. Numerous colourful butterfly cut-outs pinned on to threads hang from a large hoop-like ring made of a light material. The hoop itself is suspended in mid-air from an overhead plastic wire such that it is parallel to the ground – thick threads tied at several equi-distant points on the perimeter of the hoop bunch together in a common knot on the overhead plastic wire. More threads criss-cross from the perimeter and form a mesh supporting each other. Butterfly cut-outs hang from these threads as well. Several of the threads meet at the centre of the hoop, and a small fluorescent bulb connected to a wire hangs from the centre. This is a day time shot with the entire arrangement looking bright and cheerful against a blue sky. Part of the photograph frame to the left corner is taken over by the branches of several trees in the background. Photo credit: Prosenjit Pal

Another decor shot from the ‘Kolkata Rainbow Carnival 2018’. In the background is a row of paintings hanging from slender ropes running across two adjacent walls made of fabric. In the forefront is the lower part of a large paper lantern like creation hanging from the roof. The creation has a frilly design made of yellow, orange and white paper, and is fluttering in the breeze. Several white flowers made of ‘shola’ pith hang from threads attached to the creation – these hanging flowers take up the centre of the photograph and are the focus of the shot. The entire arrangement is housed under a shelter with an asbestos roof supported by wooden pillars and beams. Photo credit: Prosenjit Pal

At the Varta stall . . .

This photograph is split into several panels; all show the displays at Varta Trust’s stall at the ‘Kolkata Rainbow Carnival 2018’. Publications on gender and sexuality, greeting cards, stationery, jewellery made of beads and shells, t-shirts, posters and food stuff (cakes) are displayed on a table in the stall. Some items are displayed hanging on the walls of the stall. One panel shows a visitor providing their contact and feedback in a register. The material displayed was provided by Varta and its partner agencies – Queer Nazariya, Delhi; RAHI, Delhi / Kolkata; Responsible Charity, Kolkata; Sienna, Kolkata and Sruti Disability Rights Centre, Kolkata. The greeting cards, jewellery and food items were provided by a few volunteers of Varta. Many of the items were for fundraising (their suggested donation tags can be seen displayed prominently), while others were for free distribution Photo credit: Prosenjit Pal

Varta webzine digests, research publications, posters and bookmarks from Varta were available together with queer archival year planners from Queer Nazariya, Delhi; leaflets and badges from RAHI, Delhi / Kolkata; stationery donated by Sienna, Kolkata; and t-shirts and handbooks on disability rights from Sruti Disability Rights Centre, Kolkata. A standee calling for old clothes donations from Responsible Charity, Kolkata was also on display.

Slices of cake, greeting cards and jewellery with beads and shells made by Varta’s volunteers were also a part of the attractions in the stall. Many of the items were for fundraising through suggested donations while others were for general distribution. See short video here.

This last photograph shows part of the Varta team posing outside the Varta stall for a photograph with smiles and pouts. From left to right: Trustee Kaushik Gupta (with a camera in hand), volunteers Sudeb Sadhu, Nikita Kabra and Sudha Jha, a visitor to the stall (name not known), and volunteer Souvik Ghosh. In the background, Founding Trustee and “Varta” Editor Pawan Dhall can be seen raising a cup of coffee as a toast inside the stall. A variety of Varta posters and banners can be seen framing the stall, which is lit up with a fluorescent lamp. A part of the neighbouring stall with a volunteer sitting inside is also visible. Photo credit: Prosenjit Pal

The last photograph above shows the Varta team posing for a photograph. From left to right: Trustee Kaushik Gupta, volunteers Sudeb Sadhu, Nikita Kabra and Sudha Jha, a visitor to the stall (name not known), and volunteer Souvik Ghosh. In the background is Founding Trustee and Varta Editor Pawan Dhall.

The carnival was organized by the West Bengal Forum for Gender and Sexual Minority Rights. In the past, other queer support forums in Kolkata have also organized similar events, like Kolkata Rainbow Pride Festival (2011) and Sappho for Equality (2012-14).

Read also Queer Cheer at Rainbow Carnival in Kolkata by Nazia Khan published in the March 2018 issue of VartaEditor.

Author Photo

Prosenjit Pal

When not researching Parkinson’s disease as part of his PhD from the University of Calcutta, Prosenjit Pal is busy with poetry, painting, music, films, bird watching and admiring trees.

Author Photo

Nikita Kabra

Nikita Kabra is a to-be dance movement practitioner, avid reader, expressionist writer and a human rights champion. They’re also a die-hard runner with a strictly healthy diet and soft corner for desserts.

Comments So Far

  • Image Sudha Jha   sudha_jha_india@yahoo.co.in 08-05-2018 | Reply

    Happy reading, mesmerized and reminded the day of carnival

    • no replies
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