Queeristan by Parmesh Sahani

 

Queeristan (Amazon Link)


Thanks to Audible Free Trial I listened to this amazing non-fiction on LGBTQ inclusion in Indian workplaces. Author Parmesh Sahani identifies as gay Indian, working closely with Godrej higher management and employees for years to create an inclusive workplace, both legally and in spirit. This book is a result of those years of experience, research, collaboration with individuals from difference spectrum of the society and organizations who has successfully transitioned into a queer friendly one.

 

Indian history is inclusive. From the Khajuraho temple architectures, to Konark to the Rig Veda, there is existing proofs even 2000 years ago of Indian inclusiveness of queer. It’s the draconian British law that criminalised it, which was scraped in 2009, came into effect once again following a sad judgement in 2013 and eventually was scraped off for good in 2018. I am in awe of the lawyers who fought this legal battle- colleagues and partners – Arundhati Katju and Menaka Guruswamy, and the multiple petitioners. The day I listened to this case details, I watched their interviews over YouTube for hours.

 

Parents need to be inclusive. Family is power. My personal favorite where the anecdotes and individual stories. A mother introducing her now gender transitioned daughter to all her relatives at a marriage function. Another family understanding and supporting their daughter’s same sex marriage. Support groups in educational spaces. Active activism. Queer family structure being included in children’s coursework. Success stories of transgenders, especially that of the hijra community. Parenthood in the queer scenario. A company actively sensitizing its employees to support and welcome back a particular employee undergoing gender transition – simple respect such as them being able to use the other washroom. The unique stories of Muslim queer minorities, transmen, simple steps towards erasure of homophobia, biphobia and transphobia.

 

Work is second home. Workplaces should become guardians and custodians of queer population. Purposeful care giving since sometimes they are the only support systems they have. They have to be inclusive, there is no other way to move forward, and not just in policies, but their active intension towards it. This includes policies towards financial support towards hormonal therapy, gender transitions, insurance policy for the same sex partner, and so much more. Old age pension plans in certain jobs. There are steps for how individuals inside a company can do ‘jugaad resistance’ through ‘cultural acupuncture’ from their location or position within the system, and bring about micro revolution both within and outside the organization. 

 

Hits:

1.      Parmesh Sahani himself is the narrator, which gives the book its character, the nuances only the author himself can introduce. It’s soothing where it needs to be, adrenaline rush for legal triumphs, and excited or quirky or matter of fact as required.

 

2.      It includes great deal of extensive research, personal and individual anecdotes, history of queer inclusion in India, and current active sensitization programs and workshops in organizations and educational institutes. It will make you literally take notes- for your next book to pick, or movie to watch, or a queer film fest to check out.

 

3.      It is an overall positive, optimistic and hopeful book bringing the topic of queer inclusion to the economic growth and an organization’s aim of long-term success trajectory. But it doesn’t exclude on sad and disappointing individual experiences either. It is a realistic book too and calls people for action, doing something as simple as saying no to queer jokes.

 

4.      I personally liked the separation of parts in the book and chapterization, each delving into a different aspect of the subject. As I know I would be listening to a selected few, once again.

 

Misses:

1.      It’s a tad lengthy. That’s the only miss I found. At 11 hours length of audio, it took me almost 20 days to complete listening. I am a rather slow reading too, I need to live a few days with the book in my thoughts, for it to not-be volatile.

Furthermore, this is the first queer non-fiction that I have ever read, and my list of already read queer literature is almost negligible. So, this book was an eye-opener, in many aspects.


The first time I heard about the personal stories of hijra community was through a podcast ‘De Taali’ on Spotify, in early 2020. Later I was introduced to the vast body of Indian queer literature through an Instagram Live discussion that bookstagramer Vivek Tejuja had done sometime in July, I guess. It was intrigued by this book when The House of Belong promoted it, and so I chose to educate myself through the Audible trial version. It indeed was a rewarding experience.

 

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Comments

  1. Its seems like a great book and great author.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes very interesting and intriguing too.. And an essential read for our times I believe..

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My Last Trip Before Lockdown

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When Covid19 had just put its foot in the country with only 3 cases in Kerala, we had our Ooty trip planned. All tickets and bookings were done since the new year. With just three days in hand, four of us travelled from Mumbai, Pune and Bhubaneswar, to Kempegowda International Airport, Bengaluru, to join a few others staying in the city. And the excitement to finally meet one another after 6 months of that trip to Pune, the Lohagard Trek- we were kids excitedly clicking selfies in our face masks, hurriedly putting a quick dab of sanitizer before hugging one another.


Next day early morning we were to start for Ooty. Sleepy heads, gulping a bowl each of muesli, we started onward journey to Bandipur National Park. Devouring uttapams, dosas and piping hot cups of coffee for breakfast at a restaurant by the highway, chit chats were full on, as was the music and dance in the 12-seater vehicle. Funny anecdotes had us laughing our hearts out, gossips were such a thrill and cooking recipe exch…

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