Nazia Khan was busy shooting moods and moments at the recent ‘Kolkata Rainbow Carnival 2018’. The fair was organized by the West Bengal Forum for Gender and Sexual Minority Rights on February 18, 2018 at Triangular Park in South Kolkata
We met while others raised a hollow toast,
to lonesomeness and petty nothings.
We left unheard, silently in giggles.
You and me know what it is like to be anonymous.
Invisible in white clouds and dark mazes,
unlovable and unsung.
While others raised a hollow toast, we met.
She read it to her love and asked,
will you be my lover?
For the rest of my life, the other one whispered.
And they hugged each other for some more time.
This might sound like a fairy tale. But hey, what’s life without one or two mushy love stories!
Last month, Kolkata, the ‘City of Joy’, witnessed some of the love stories at a rainbow carnival, the fourth since the very first one organized by queer support group Sappho for Equality in 2012.
From internationally recognised book fairs to pithe-puli utsavs (trade fairs dedicated to sweets and pancakes in winters), this city has an appetite for all sorts of carnivals. Even Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s government encourages all individuals and communities to take part in small business and trade fairs.
This mela, organised by queer collective West Bengal Forum for Gender and Sexual Minority Rights, aimed to provide an ‘open space’ for everyone. It was in the nature of a small trade fair to encourage and support people with non-conforming genders and sexualities. But it was also a politically charged space.
It was quite a crowd, but chilled out and laid-back, happy spending a Sunday afternoon in a queer carnival. People played games and presented dance, drama and poetry performances, even as the stalls selling craft items, food and drinks did brisk business.
The idea of blurring gender in a country where patriarchy and misogyny still hold sway is a courageous one. Of course, when an event like this carnival takes place, there will always be some onlookers with a voyeuristic eye. And yet, an event like a queer pride march, a film fest or a carnival allows more and more queer people to be visible to the society that we live in. This definitely plays an important role in generating social acceptance.
But what kind of visibility are we looking for and what kind of visibility can we get? With the absolute rise of DSLRs, high end mobile photography, and a selfie-obsessed generation, we are being watched all the time. So is the idea of being visible comforting? Does the presence of a camera pointing at someone because that person is ‘different’ make the person happy? A friend came up with these questions as I tried to capture diverse images. But can we really be anonymous and visible at the same time? Are we not here today to be visible in the first place! The conversation went on.
“You see, it’s the concept of an open space where all can fit in with their own differences, where religion, gender, economic class or social status doesn’t matter – this is what we are looking for. The visibility of this idea called ‘queer’, not the faces or name calling,” concluded a friend while munching on a delicious fried chicken momo.
While we were having this discussion in one corner, a charming young bearded boy, with dreamy kohl in his eyes, started singing John Lennon’s “You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.” Sometimes life syncs so well. I wanted to get closer to this dreamer and listen to him more peacefully, but got distracted by my friend fighting for extra mustard sauce to go with the fish chop. I had to reset my priorities, and switched to securing the food and a steaming cup of coffee.