This bookshop in cyberspace is queer...literally! It caters to the country's alternative community of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and trans-gender (LGBT) people and stacks up on genres like history of queer life, erotica and queer lingo.
Called Queer-INK, the e-store will be formally inaugurated on July 2 and is a tribute to the LGBT community, commemorating a year of the Delhi High Court verdict decriminalising homosexuality, said members of the LGBT community associated with the project.
The brain behind www.queer-INK.com , Shobhna S. Kumar, said the book shop was the result "of her close association with the LGBT community".
A social activist with 20 years of experience in human rights advocacy in the US, Australia and India, Kumar had been working with the "LGBT communities and spearheading HIV/AIDS projects" in India for the last eight years.
The Delhi High Court, in a judgment on July 2, 2009, had observed that Article 377, which criminalises homosexuality, violated Article 21 of the Constitution, which states that every citizen has equal opportunity of life and is equal before law.
The ruling ended an eight-year-old legal battle to empower sexual minorities. A year later, the mood in the community is still upbeat, specially with a book-store to celebrate the victory.
The shop describes itself as a "partnership between two women (one of them being Kumar) with more than 20 years of experience in corporate and non-profit sectors".
Queer-INK sells books in English, Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Marathi, Tamil, Telugu and plans to translate popular vernacular and English titles to other Indian regional languages as well.
The genres for sale include history of queer life, romance, erotica, fiction, non-fiction and magazines. And the book rack displays the titles of the month.
Books apart, Queer-INK flaunts sections such as "queer lingo, queer calendar, Qi Book Club and the Qi Writer's Corner where LGBT writers can express themselves through posts, prose and poetry".
The big titles being billed as the pick of the week at the shop are The Right That Dare To Speak Its Name by A. Narrain and M. Eldridge in English and Kannada (Rs.50), Indradhanu (Marathi) by Bindumadhav Khire (Rs.150) and Quarantine by Rahul Mehta (Rs.370).
Other titles being promoted at the queer store include Report for Murder by Val McDermid, Ruchir Joshi's Electric Feathers, Gay Bombay by Parmesh Shahani and Loving Women by Maya Sharma.
The price band does not exceed Rs.150. The shop, as its owner says on its billboard on the website, is more than just a book vend.
"In the era of social networks, when cliches are rapidly formed and as easily dissolved, the Qi-community aims to become something of long-standing value, its longevity stemming from each person to breathe and embrace their true natures without worrying about niggling rules. The power of the written word is as good a means as any to bind people together, especially those already marked out as different and marching to their own drummers... Membership is free, just bring along your incandescent spirit," says the shop's objective pasted on the community billboard.
The writer's corner on the site speaks in different voices about LGBT angst, aspirations and relationships. Writer Ram Abbireddy "writes about discovering the real me and finding love in the bargain".
"Ever since I realised my homo-erotic self, all I wanted to do was settle down in the west, and by west I mean the United States of America. The prodigious dream was fulfilled in 2006. ...It was in the 31st evening of the same year, when everyone everywhere (including me) celebrated the beginning of another year, I celebrated the beginning of something more special - my gay life. And a guy named Chris...," Abbireddy reminisces at the Qi Writer's Corner of the store.
Estimates collated by Forbes India, with help from Out Now Consulting (a marketing consultancy specialising in this sector) puts the percentage of Indian adult population that is LGBT, including closet homosexuals and lesbians, at nearly 2.5 percent of the country's 1.2 billion population.