Pawan Dhall

Pawan Dhall

Pawan Dhall is a Kolkata-based queer activist, archivist, researcher and writer. He was a founding member of Counsel Club, Kolkata (1993-2002), among India’s earliest queer support groups, and edited its house journal 'Pravartak'. He worked with SAATHII from 2002-14 on universal access to health and social justice. He is now associated with Varta Trust as Founding Trustee. His latest publications include 'Queer Potli: Memories, Imaginations and Re-imaginations of Urban Queer Spaces in India' (Queer Ink, 2019) and 'Out of Line and Offline: Queer Mobilizations in ‘90s Eastern India' (Seagull Books, 2020).

  • This graphic is a collage created with key illustrations used in the articles in this month’s issue of ‘Varta’ (November 2017). The long descriptions of each of the illustrations can be found in the respective articles, that is, ‘Cinema, Commerce and Causes', ‘Government Letdown on Transgender and Intersex Rights Legislation’, ‘PIL in Calcutta High Court to Push for Transgender Rights’, and ‘Voicing Out Stasis in Transgender Lives’. The collage is enclosed in a thought cloud, which is placed on a background with brown colour. Collage credit: Pawan Dhall
    Vartanama Nov '17

    Down, but not out!

    By Pawan Dhall

    Three of the articles in this issue of 'Varta' talk about the continued hardships faced by transgender and intersex people in India. All jab us in the eye at how far...

  • This graphic shows a pair of scales with the left scale weighed down. The balance beam, tilted to the left, along with the central vertical stand, appears like a giant ‘T’ (as the first letter of ‘transgender’). A circle placed right at the centre of the balance beam just above the central stand can be visualized as a human face and makes the entire pair of scales look like a person with their arms stretched out, with one side weighed down. Just above the left scale is a thought cloud with text that says “Human Rights Violations”; a similar thought cloud below the right scale says “Court Verdicts, Boards, Bills . . .” The sense conveyed is that human rights violations are weighing down transgender people’s lives despite progressive court verdicts, legislations and welfare bodies for transgender communities in India. The pair of scales is shown inside a frame that implies confinement or lack of freedom. The entire graphic consisting of the scales, thought clouds and frame is itself placed inside another cloud shaped figure. The graphic colour scheme – a mix of deep blue for the scales, black for the text, and light and deep shades of grey interspersed with white for the other elements and the background – conveys a negative mood but not complete doom. Graphic credit: Pawan Dhall (graphic based on Clip Art by Microsoft Office).
    Happenings Nov '17

    Voicing out stasis in transgender lives

    By Pawan Dhall

    A trans* community hearing organized last week in Kolkata captured numerous grievances and complaints of government inaction across West Bengal. Pawan Dhall reports

  • This rectangular banner-shaped graphic symbolizes completion of 50 issues of the ‘Varta’ webzine. Simple in design, it has the Varta Trust logo to the left and stylized text saying “50 issues” to the right. All over are scattered heart symbols in different colours. The entire graphic has a wavy sheen to it in different light and dark shades of gold. The overall effect is one of positivity and stolidity. Graphic credit: Rudra Kishore Mandal
    Vartanama Oct '17

    Varta@50 says thank you!

    By Pawan Dhall, Rudra Kishore Mandal

    Fortunate is the editor who gets to compensate the lack of inspiration for his 50th editorial with a thank you note!

  • This main photograph provides a daytime close-up shot of a zebra crossing on a Kolkata street. On the far end the zebra crossing ends at a pavement which has no cut and slope provided for wheelchair users or easier climbing for people with physical disabilities. In the picture, to the right, a man uses the zebra crossing – he is faced away from the camera. To the left, there are three individuals standing on the pavement next to a lamp post. The pavement surface itself seems quite even, but it does not seem to be tactile in nature which would have helped people with visual disabilities. Superimposed on the photograph, to the left, is a quote from Prof. Mainak Ghosh that says: “Raise a voice about universal design! Sit down one fine evening with a cup of coffee and make a check list – am I facing any physical, cognitive or organizational difficulty at home, office or elsewhere? And if it’s not very personal, talk about it, write a blog, discuss it with your friends, family and colleagues . . .” Photo credit: Kaustav Manna
    Insight Oct '17

    Universal design: Your life depends on it (part 2)

    By Pawan Dhall, Kaustav Manna

    Concluding part of Pawan Dhall’s chat with Mainak Ghosh, Associate Professor, Architecture, Jadavpur University on how universal design relates not just to products and built spaces, but also to our...

  • The photograph shows a panel discussion in progress at the launch of a set of five standards to support corporate bodies in preventing discrimination against queer people in the workplace and beyond. The standards have been developed by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. The event took place at the Godrej global headquarters in Mumbai on October 12, 2017. The document on the standards was titled ‘Tackling Discrimination against Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Trans, & Intersex People: Standards of Conduct for Business’, and was launched by Fabrice Houdart, Human Rights Officer, Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. The panel discussion preceded the launch and featured Radhika Piramal, Managing Director, VIP Industries Limited; Nandita Das, Actor and Filmmaker; Gauri Sawant, Transgender Activist; Meenakshi Ganguly, Director South Asia, Human Rights Watch; and Keshav Suri, Executive Director, Lalit Suri Hospitality Group. The panel was moderated by Salil Tripathi, Senior Adviser, Global Issues, Institute for Human Rights and Business, London. Photo courtesy: Communication Design Team, GCPL
    Happenings Oct '17

    Queer inclusion: Business not as usual

    By Pawan Dhall

    The business world in India has an opportunity to adopt a benchmark to prevent discrimination against queer people in the workplace and beyond. Pawan Dhall reports on the launch of...

  • Word cloud roughly in the shape of a diamond to highlight the issues talked about in the article below. There is key emphasis on the word ‘vigilance’, which stands out in big point size and red colour in the centre. Other words, all in blue or red colour, include ‘criticism’, ‘diversity’, ‘gender’, ‘health’, ‘law’, ‘legislation’, ‘medication’, ‘mental’, ‘policy’, ‘rules’, ‘sexuality’, ‘standards’, ‘therapy’ and ‘transgender’. Graphic credit: Pawan Dhall
    Vartanama Sep '17

    What price vigilance?

    By Pawan Dhall

    A new media acquaintance wondered what the focus of this issue’s editorial would be. He was sure I would write about journalist Gauri Lankesh's murder. Well, he wasn’t wrong.

  • The photograph shows Prof. Mainak Ghosh of the architecture department of Jadavpur University speaking during a presentation on universal design at a workshop on gender and disability. The photograph is accompanied by a quote from Prof. Mainak Ghosh: “Universal design is for both abled and disabled people. It’s not for just some special groups or legal compliances. It’s for everyone, everywhere, any time!” The workshop was organized by Sruti Disability Rights Centre in Kolkata in June 2017. Prof. Mainak Ghosh is standing and making a gesture with his hands to emphasize a point. He is quite tall, spectacled, and dressed in violet shirt, black trousers and brown belt. Behind him can be seen curtains, an air-conditioner and parts of a white board and a screen. Photo courtesy: Sruti Disability Rights Centre
    Insight Sep '17

    Universal design: Your life depends on it (part 1)

    By Pawan Dhall, Kaustav Manna

    Could there be anything more universal than ‘universal design’? Pawan Dhall chats with Mainak Ghosh, who is Associate Professor, Architecture with Jadavpur University, and discovers how it relates not just...

  • This photograph shows a scene from NGO Civilian Welfare Foundation’s annual walk in Kolkata to celebrate the cause of the Paralympics. A walker is seen standing with a poster that says “Born to Be Free” and has the sketch of a para-athlete in a running pose drawn in the centre. Birds can be seen flying in the background of the poster, as also a kite soaring in the sky. The text and the graphics are rendered in eye-catching red and black. A few other walkers can be seen next to the walker holding the poster. This year’s walk in South Kolkata on August 28, 2017 attracted nearly 300 participants, including a number of para-athletes who won medals for India in the Paralympics held last year in Rio de Janeiro. Photo credit: Pawan Dhall
    Vartanama Aug '17

    Freer, hardier, sexier

    By Pawan Dhall

    Freer, hardier, sexier! How about that as a motto for achieving a better life for everyone? A motivation where the contest is with our limitations in becoming a more just...

  • The photograph shows a collage of a few newspaper and magazine articles on queer issues. Two of the prominent ones are headlined ‘LGBT Andolan Je Bhabe Mool Strotay’ (Growth of LGBT Movement) and ‘Who Said it Was Simple’. The first written by Pawan Dhall was published in the newspaper ‘Ei Samay’ in December 2012, and the second by Sthira Bhattacharya was published in the ‘Kindle’ online magazine in July 2013. Visuals in the articles include a photograph of participants in a queer pride walk in Kolkata, and another one of an individual clapping their hands like often Hijras and other transgender persons do (such clapping is termed as ‘thikri’ in Bengali and often signifies assertion and protest). Photo credit: Pawan Dhall

    Memories in media outings (part 4)

    By Pawan Dhall

    In 'Kolkata’s Queer Movement: A Recollection of Media Outings – Mid-1984 to Mid-2013' Pawan Dhall remembers his personal queer-story over the years (concluding part)

  • This main photograph shows an evening view of Dundee city in Scotland from the Law, a hill formed by an extinct volcano that is also the highest point of Dundee. The word ‘law’ itself in Scots means ‘hill’. In the foreground, several clumps of a white flowering plant can be seen on the slope down from the viewpoint, which is on top of the hill. Further below is dense foliage of trees in darkness. Further below are the city lights of streets and buildings right up to the Tay riverside. Across the blue expanse of the Tay River is the Tay Road Bridge that connects Dundee to Fife on the far side. The bridge is lit up almost like a white band across the river. More hills can be seen across the river and then a partially clouded grey skyline. Photo credit: Pawan Dhall

    Planes, trains, automobiles, access and history

    By Pawan Dhall

    Four taxi and two private car trips, five bus trips, as many train rides (above and below ground) and six flights – in all I undertook 22 point-to-point journeys on...

  • This main photograph shows a collage of copies of the ‘AIDS Sex Knowledge’ or ‘ASK’ column published for young people by Kolkata-based social communication NGO Thoughtshop Foundation in 1996. The interactive column was published in the ‘Voices’ youth supplement of ‘The Statesman’ every third Thursday. Four editions of the column from February to April 1996 dealt with queer issues with inputs from Counsel Club, one of India’s earliest queer support groups. The photograph shows snippets of the column from these four editions – reader questions, myths and realities pointers, and reader comments on gender and sexuality. The full column name is displayed prominently – ‘AIDS Sex Knowledge for Young People’ with the tag line “If you don’t ask, you’ll never know, will you?” The ‘Voices’ masthead is also prominently visible. Photo credit: Pawan Dhall

    Memories in media outings (part 3)

    By Pawan Dhall

    In 'Kolkata’s Queer Movement: A Recollection of Media Outings – Mid-1984 to Mid-2013' Pawan Dhall remembers his personal queer-story over the years

  • Quote: The posts, some of them pretty insightful and perhaps even cathartic for the writers, have attracted considerable likes, laughs and comments. All good in the spirit of freedom of speech, and some of these posts may even compel a few of the Adarsh Gay Bhakts and Sanskari Homos to introspect on their double standards and biased outlooks. But as they say, too much of a good thing need not be good.
    Vartanama Jun '17

    One foot in the door

    By Pawan Dhall

    Adarsh Gay Bhakt, Sanskari Homo, Adarsh NRI Homo . . . a quick search on Facebook will take you to some of these posts that have been doing the rounds...

  • This main photograph shows a snapshot of a Bengali article titled ‘Chhaichapa Fire’ (Fire That Would Be Worthless to Try and Douse) by Sanjukta Basu published in ‘Ananda Bazar Patrika’ newspaper on April 3, 1999. The photograph shows a portion of the article text (including the headline), with a black and white sketch (by artist Debasish Deb) more or less centre stage. The sketch shows two women with long flowing hair and sharp facial features holding and looking at each other. A one-line article introduction below the sketch translates into “Homosexuals in the heart of the city are forming clubs to seek social acceptance, writes Sanjukta Basu”. The sketch may not be remarkable by many standards, but the article in question created quite a buzz in the queer activism circles in Kolkata in the late 1990s. It helped the city’s queer support groups reach out to thousands of individuals through letters and one-on-one meetings. Photo credit: Pawan Dhall
    Commentary Jun '17

    Memories in media outings (part 2)

    By Pawan Dhall

    In Kolkata’s Queer Movement: A Recollection of Media Outings – Mid-1984 to Mid-2013 Pawan Dhall remembers his personal queer-story over the years. This four-part series of extracts is being published in...

  • This graphic is a sketch made with a variety of coloured pens on off-white paper. Within a frame made of curvaceous lines, a genderqueer person with long crinkly hair seems to peep out from the left hand side of the frame. They have big eyes wide open, a large diamond shaped ‘bindi’ on the forehead, and a necklace on a bare chest. The figure has been drawn in blue and red coloured pens. To the right of the frame is a mish-mash of outlined patterns like flowers, leaves and other geometric figures. These are done mostly in red and pink, with snatches of green, violet and other colours. The genderqueer person’s face with its sense of magnetism dominates the sketch. The graphic has been placed on a black background to enhance its intricate details. The graphic is dated November 3, 2016. Graphic credit: Anupam Hazra
    Vartanama May '17

    State stupor in trans inclusion

    By Pawan Dhall, Anupam Hazra

    Sumana Pramanik is a young trans woman who lives in the Nadia district of West Bengal. Keen on a legal gender identity change, she approached a First Class Magistrate for...

  • This first (main) photograph shows a bespectacled and curly haired Dr. Rohit K. Dasgupta smiling into the camera. It is daytime, and the photograph has been taken outdoors. Behind Dr. Rohit K. Dasgupta the river Thames and a few buildings of London can be seen. There is a bridge across the river and a small ship in the waters. Towards the right, a few people are walking on a rather gravelly river bank. Dr. Rohit K. Dasgupta is wearing a brown jacket and a scarf with a checks print. The photograph is accompanied by a quote of Dr. Rohit K. Dasgupta, which says: “I wasn’t planning to stand as a parliamentary candidate. But when Brexit happened, it was absolutely devastating for an internationalist like me. I have made England my home for the last eight years, and as an academic I also think it’s a civic duty for us to be engaging with the public. That was the reason I threw my hat into the ring . . .” Photo courtesy Dr. Rohit K. Dasgupta
    Insight, People May '17

    Voice of reason with Kolkata connect in UK polls

    By Pawan Dhall

    Comparative literature studies to researching and teaching gender, sexuality and digital media; Kolkata to London; and now a step into the UK general elections arena on a Labour Party ticket...

  • This main photograph shows a snapshot of the article ‘Out of the Closet’ by Purnima Dutta published in the ‘Plus Four’ section of ‘Amrita Bazar Patrika’ on January 18, 1994. The photograph shows a portion of the article text, with a big graphic centre stage – the side profile of a human face in black, with only the outline of an ear standing out in white. The article title is printed also in white on to the face, and the word ‘closet’ is positioned such that the letter ‘O’ forms a ring in the ear lobe (indicating the trend at that time of gay men wearing an earring in one of the ears to hint at their sexual orientation). To the right of the graphic, there is a photograph showing copies of queer journals 'Pravartak', 'Bombay Dost' and 'Arambh'. A quote from the article next to the graphic says “For the bold new generation of gays, the fight is on . . . the fight for acceptance, as distinct from tolerance”. The graphic artist’s name is unknown. Photo credit: Pawan Dhall
    Commentary May '17

    Memories in media outings (part 1)

    By Pawan Dhall

    In Kolkata’s Queer Movement: A Recollection of Media Outings – Mid-1984 to Mid-2013 Pawan Dhall remembers his personal queer-story over the years. This four-part series of extracts is being published in...

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