The theme of LitLuminous’, the annual literary fest of Kamala Nehru College’s English Department, is always related to pop culture, such as “Harry Potter”, “Game of Thrones”, etc. However, this year, we, final year students in the department, decided to do something different. Inspired by one of our literary theory lectures, we chose a theme that is important not just to literature but also holds relevance in our daily lives. “LGBTQ: Literatures Going Beyond The Quotidian.”
Maniza Khalid, a core team member of LitLuminous’ 17, explains, “by providing a platform to critically discuss LGBTQ+ narratives in our immediate surroundings, we wanted our fest to broaden mindsets and call for creating a safe space for the LGBTQ community.” Both teachers and students in our department feel strongly about the injustices meted out to the LGBTQ community and this fest is our way to sensitise students and make the university an inclusive space.
In a country where homosexuality is still criminalised, it is important to question and contest social, religious and political discourses which seek to alienate an entire section of our society. The aim of LitLuminous’ 17 is to counter the view that being queer is something ‘new’, ‘unnatural’ or a ‘western imposition’ – illogical arguments that a majority of our country still believes in. By tracing the history of the community in a variety of both classical and contemporary works, we aim to explore not just literature produced by and about the community, but also analyse the representational politics in its depiction in the media, documentaries, visual arts, and popular culture.
The fest endeavours to create an opportunity for unearthing lost voices and narratives of people with non-binary identities and in the process, create a space for all attendees to understand them better. For doing this, popular gender rights activists Divya Dureja, Vikramaditya Sahai, Amalina Dave and Rajorshi Das will discuss the reinforcement of stereotypes within the LGBTQ community, the social pressure on individuals to adopt a permanent sexual/gender label and the dialogue between gender identity and sexual orientation.
LitLuminous’ 17 has also called for literary papers on the topic LGBTQ Representation in South Asian Narratives in order to explore the history and development of the community. Many South Asian countries have homophobic stances, which is why narratives of LGBTQ people aren’t focused on enough. Thus, the fest will bring these effaced narratives to the forefront. At the same time, it will highlight and discuss works that have done justice to the history of the community. Wayne Wang’s film “Snow Flower” (2011), set in Nepal, Visakesa Chandrasekaram’s “Frangipani” (2014), Parvez Sharma’s “A Jihad for Love” (2007), Devdutt Pattanaik’s rereading of the Hindu mythical character Shikhandi and “Other Tales They Don’t Tell You” (2004), Bruno Morandi’s photographic series “Hijras of Pakistan”, Xulhaaz Mannan’s LGBTQ magazine “Roopban” in Bangladesh, Ruth Vanita’s poetry, etc.
We have also organised fun events such as fanfiction writing, treasure hunt, slam poetry and an online photography competition. For one of the events, we sought poetry on the LGBTQ community. As a part of this, we received a poem with the lines: “Your love is indecisively bipolar.” My love isn’t bipolar, your thoughts are just unipolar. I feel these lines give a glimpse to how powerful LitLuminous’ 17 is going to be!
We’ve received support to hold the event not just from our own college but from students of other colleges as well. The fact that so many people are encouraging us, gives hope that someday, the LGBTQ community will feel as comfortable and safe in the university as they deserve to. If LitLuminous’ 17 manages to end homophobia on campus even by a percent, we, students of the English Department of KNC, will feel that the event was successful.