Beyond ‘Lihaaf’: Queer literature out of closet now

Nearly 77 years ago, when noted author Ismat Chughtai’s ‘Lihaaf’ (The Quilt) came out, she drew widespread flak from society for her short story that depicted the idea of homosexuality. Today, people are more welcoming towards this brand of literature, as was evident by the inauguration of the Awadh Queer Literature Festival in Lucknow.
Visitors at Queer Literature Fest in Lucknow.(HT Photo)
Visitors at Queer Literature Fest in Lucknow.(HT Photo)
Published on Feb 09, 2019 05:56 PM IST
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Hindustan Times, Lucknow | By, Lucknow

Nearly 77 years ago, when noted author Ismat Chughtai’s ‘Lihaaf’ (The Quilt) came out, she drew widespread flak from society for her short story that depicted the idea of homosexuality. Today, people are more welcoming towards this brand of literature, as was evident by the inauguration of the Awadh Queer Literature Festival in Lucknow on Friday.

At the event, people from the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer) community said that they wanted more to be written about their struggles and issues.

“In modern times, few queer novels are coming out. Once can counts on one’s fingers the books that figure in queer literature. It seems people do not wish to write about the community, assuming low readership,” said Anshita Gupta, a psychology student, who will be attending the two-day festival.

“However, some dedicated publishers are coming out with ideas, providing a platform to LGBTQ people to tell their stories,” she added.

A local publisher said that there was not much available in the Indian market. “We haven't seen high demand for queer literature. But the good part is that people are talking about it and some non-LGBT people also want to read it,” he said.

On the other hand, organiser Yadavendra Singh Darvesh insisted that fewer books in the store did not mean that there was a dearth of reading material.

Readers persuing books at The Queer Literature Fest. (HT Photo)
Readers persuing books at The Queer Literature Fest. (HT Photo)

“The Indian mythology has many queer tales,” he said, referring to Devdutt Pattnaik’s ‘Shikhandi: Ánd Other ‘Queer’ Tales They Don’t Tell You’, in which the author has talked about around 30 such tales.

An aspiring LGBT writer, Asmit Kumar, said, “There is a lot about us in our mythology but we have not explored it. No one has reprocessed these stories.”

He said that back in 2001, a book was launched that was about the history of queer writing in the country.

“Chughtai’s ‘Lihaaf’ was a classic piece of queer writing. It is high time that such literature was accepted and respected. We need more of this writing, as the LGBTQ community is a part of our society,” said another participant, Devkanya.

  

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Saurabh Chauhan is a correspondent reporting from Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, covering Social Welfare, Women and Child Development, Agriculture. Previously reported from Mohali (Punjab), Shimla (HP) and covered Political, Civil Admin, Finance beats.

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