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 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

    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...

  • Graphic shows a screen grab of a home video made by the author’s father, late Prakash Chandra Dhall, with digital liquefy effect. The screen grab has images of the author as a toddler in his mother’s arms (along with a few children from the neighbourhood) in the verandah of the author’s childhood home. But these have been modified such that the entire graphic appears to consist of wavelets of water with multi-coloured reflections. Graphic credit: Pawan Dhall
    Vartanama Apr '17

    Recurring dreams, random thoughts

    By Pawan Dhall

    Recurrent and vivid dreams of water have fascinated me since years, perhaps even childhood. I see water in my dreams as blue, black, transparent; still, moving, flowing; peaceful, playful, terrorizing,...

  • Photograph is a close-up shot of a number of visiting cards from the author’s collection scattered on a surface. These are the cards of ‘Akhbar-E-Mashriq’, an Urdu daily newspaper published from Kolkata; late anthropologist Dr. Moni Nag; Moulin Rouge Restaurant, Park Street, Kolkata; People Tree, Parliament Street, Delhi; Pride Publications Private Limited, Bombay; and Reshma Lodge, Station Road, Midnapur. There are two other cards – one that shows a few Chinese alphabets (the rest of the details are hidden by the other cards); another unnamed card that shows a black and white sketch of a tall, slender and sharp-featured white woman dressed in Victorian style clothing, including a large hat. Some of the cards are on glossy paper, others on cardstock (thick) paper often used for business cards, and one is on handmade paper. Most cards are horizontal in orientation. Photo credit: Pawan Dhall

    (Re)visiting cards

    By Pawan Dhall

    A friend’s request for information about hotels in Midnapur town leads Pawan Dhall to look into rarely used visiting card diaries, and the cards trigger memories of the queer scenario...

  • Quote: Irom Chanu Sharmila may have stepped away from the politics of polls, but her politics of resistance will live on. Like subterranean water – not visible, nonetheless there – a deep aquifer of silent energy, quietly influencing life above ground.
    Vartanama Mar '17

    Incremental change

    By Pawan Dhall

    Civil rights champion, political activist and poet Irom Chanu Sharmila may have lost in the recent Manipur Legislative Assembly elections. But all is not lost. Perhaps her defeat was expected,...

  • Word cloud in the shape of a ‘yes’ tick mark on the theme of transgender socio-economic inclusion – it includes words like ‘transgender’, ‘trans*’, ‘gender’, ‘woman’, ‘man’, ‘genderqueer’, ‘fluid’, ‘equity’, ‘economic’, ‘inclusion’, ‘court’ and ‘verdict’. Graphic credit: Pawan Dhall
    Happenings Mar '17

    Government banks can’t write off trans inclusion!

    By Pawan Dhall

    State Bank of India told to include ‘transgender’ option in its examination forms. Kolkata, March 16, 2017: After the West Bengal Public Service Commission (WBPSC) in December last year, today the...

  • Photograph shows a poster on the back of an auto-rickshaw parked on a street in Hyderabad. The poster says: “Increase your sex limit, solve internal problems – else take your money back; trusted by million peoples”. The text is accompanied by a silhouette of a man and woman hugging each other and looking into each other’s eyes. The couple is standing on a sea beach, with the waves rushing on to the shore and the sun setting in the background, giving the sky a golden glow. A phone number is provided for people to call the service provider, but the name of the service provider is not legible. Photo credit: Pawan Dhall
    Vartanama Feb '17

    Time for adult sex education?

    By Pawan Dhall

    So the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India has launched an adolescent health resource kit that includes information on sexual and reproductive health, mental health, violence, substance...

  • Art in museums, films, ropes and charpoys

    By Pawan Dhall

    I think I’m passing through a happy hours phase. No, not for guzzling beer or cheap Internet services; rather this is about being invigorated by the arts in all their...

  • Clickhappy! Jan '17

    Kolkata queer pride musings

    By Pawan Dhall, Prosenjit Pal

    The organizing of ‘Kolkata Rainbow Pride Walk’ has often generated heated debates. These have thrown up many pertinent questions time and again on how inclusive and effective the walk is....

  • Dance Jan '17

    ‘Queen-size’ show coming to Kolkata

    By Pawan Dhall

    Pawan Dhall previews a choreographic presentation queer not just in content but in form too Three hundred and seventy-seven acts of intimacy between two men . . . on a...

  • Insight, People Dec '16

    Court battles for ground level transformation

    By Pawan Dhall

    A conversation with primary school teacher Atri Kar who recently succeeded in getting the West Bengal Public Service Commission (WBPSC) to include ‘transgender’ as a gender option in its application...

  • ‘Yahan se shahar ko dekho’

    By Pawan Dhall

    Christmas is in the air, and the New Year is nigh. Given as we are to stock taking this time of the year (as if there’s not a New Year...

  • Clickhappy! Dec '16

    Cinema, erotic poetry, music and moves

    By Pawan Dhall, Prosenjit Pal

    Prosenjit Pal and Pawan Dhall were at the ‘Hang Out with KRPF’, a queer evening of arts and adda graciously hosted by Alliance Française du Bengale, Kolkata on December 2, 2016...

  • Happenings Dec '16

    Small step, big victory!

    By Pawan Dhall

    The West Bengal Administrative Tribunal directs WBPSC to include 'transgender' in its forms. Kolkata, December 5, 2016: Transgender rights received a strong morale booster in West Bengal today! Atri Kar, a...

  • Vartanama Nov '16

    Keep the fire burning

    By Pawan Dhall

    In childhood I remember using an assortment of toys to construct entire cities complete with houses, offices, markets, hospitals and roads busy with humans, animals and cars. Some of these...

Skip to content