India’s first online store selling gay literature has opened. Based in Malad, the store is called www.queer-ink.com and has been started by Fiji-Indian Shobhna Kumar, a self-professed lesbian.
She works within the city’s gay community, counselling people and their families, helping organise the queer rally and working in HIV prevention.
“I had a selfish reason for starting this, as I could not get access to these books,” she explains. “And Amazon would not deliver them. I think they wouldn’t get through customs as they offend Indian sensibilities. There are a few Indian online bookstores, but they take weeks to deliver. I figured other people must be in the same position.”
She started the store herself and has all the stock ready so she can deliver to any metro in two days.
The store sells gay fiction, academic books, books on women’s health, parents’ accounts of dealing with homosexual children and children’s books. But it does not sell erotica.
The 42-year-old currently has 200 titles, half of which are by Indian authors, in a range of regional languages. “They include books about the lives or accounts of parents of gay children.
“The children’s books are not patriarchal stories. They are just about exploring,” she explains. “To me, queerness is not particularly about sexuality, but also radical thought.”
The books are for homosexuals and anyone who is coming out, or wants to know more about these subjects, she says. “It’s about empowering and informing. Gay people want role models, to see their lives reflected in fiction. I think one would hesitate to pick up books like this in a normal retail space, which is why I did it online,” she adds.
The website has a Writer’s Corner, to which people can submit original stories and poems, and a calendar of queer events. “Many gay people would not approach a publisher. I plan to start publishing next,” she adds.
This Friday marks the anniversary of the landmark judgment when the High Court of Delhi decriminalised same-sex relations between consenting adults.
Kumar hopes having more queer books will encourage more informed discussions. “7.5 per cent of any population is gay, which in Mumbai, is a huge number. It’s important that people talk about queer issues,” she adds.