Posted by Satyajit Nair
The fourth Mumbai Feminists meet-up was held on the 10th of January at the Hive in Khar. A performance by The Zehen Collective, as part of the ‘Pride’ events was the centerpiece of the event. The show was called ‘Main Yeh Bhi Hoon’ Monologues – discussions of coming out.
The performance began with a fiery monologue peppered with the choicest abuses – the story of a sex worker coming out. The gathered audience sat mesmerised as one by one, the young performers enacted earnest and emotion-filled monologues of a subject that is often not talked about in public.
The performance ended with an audience interaction and several members openly shared their experiences. The performance and the subsequent discussions brought out the difficulty with which people muster the courage to come-out to those who they think will understand. The subsequent heart-break and shock from the utter lack of understanding, sensitivity and the usual judgmental approach by others was the focus of the performance.
After the performance, we all assembled outside and the meetup kicked off with some of us nursing chai, coffee and lemonade. We settled in the cozy, kitschy ambience at the Hive. The place was peppered with wooden tables with simple cast iron chairs, whitewashed walls with a painting of a yellow Zebra holding a guitar and walls lined by old books strewn over – each book costing a mere INR 50. The designated smoking zone under a coconut tree had small wooden stools and was by far the most crowded area at this venue. It was amid this strange mix of bohemia and din that six members of the feminist club met.
Introductions were exchanged and the new members were quickly brought up to speed with the group. The members gathered were Japleen, Rashi, Kanika, Unmana, Aditya, Satyajit, Paras and Kanika.
Members of the group exchanged their views on the performance and subsequently discussed what expertise each brings to the table and how they could contribute to the cause. We got to hear real stories and issues faced by Rashi and Japleen in their grassroots work.
The debates and discussions at the end of the programme by Zehen collective covered various topics like types of violence, difference between violence and aggression, need for opening up and need for privacy, the legal issues of being an “ally”, “checking ones privilege”, intersectionality, hetero-normativity, need for a safe space, etc. It was agreed to keep in touch with each other on feminist issues till the next meeting. The next meetup was discussed and the agenda was set to watch few rare and important documentaries and movies on feminism – the venue was to be a members house.
I walked home that day inspired! My biggest takeaway was the sense of feeling one with the movement. The problems faced by the queer community in coming out, by women across the country, all had a single thread running through it. All around you, there is constant judgment, a strict code of conduct that looks down on anything that deviates from a set standard – a prescribed way of life. Add to this a complete lack of understanding that each person will and always will want something else – it’s what makes us human.
From the time you are a kid, you are to measure up to these standards – whether it is to do with a child crossing her milestones at the right time, to write exams, its only the beginning. Be it:
– career: a person wanting something other than a ‘job’,
– marriage: a person not wanting to get married,
– kids: not wanting kids,
– sex: toys, kinks, fetishes – all hushed up and worse still, banned;
– sexuality: a hetero-normative view of it all,
– relationships: poly, open, etc are not even spoken about,
– illness: depression and other such illnesses that are not even diagnosed for fear of ostracism; among others.
Without diluting the issue of feminism or the queer movement, maybe the war is a larger one. Maybe it’s this constant fear of judgment and non-acceptance that’s the real enemy. Separate small battles are being fought. Maybe we just need to get and fight together.
An empty void of nothingness,
A hollow cavity,
A momentary spark of infinite possibilities,
A unique, beautiful deviant,
An assembly line,
Primed DNA poured in the mould,
Solidified in the cast,
Six Sigma tolerance,
Flawed humans discarded,
Chicken, Cows, Pork,
Things that consume.
Is that where we are headed?
So we are all gonna tell the truth are we?
Let’s start clockwise –
I love him as much as I love her,
I am a woman,
I love sex,
I was abused,
I want to be a man,
I have paid for sex,
I had an abortion,
I have lied to him,
I love an audience,
I am deaf,
I am battling depression,
I have taken money for sex,
I don’t have a job,
I don’t like being around people,
I don’t like cooking,
I have lied to her,
I don’t enjoy sex,
I love to be tied,
I have cancer,
I have two partners,
So we are all gonna change the world are we?
All we need to do is keep talking.
Satyajit Nair, grew up in Mumbai and has an MBA in Marketing. He is an entrepreneur and has his own digital advertising firm. A liberal at heart, his passion is in understanding the true nature of things. His diverse interests include travel photography, cooking, critiquing world cinema and exploring progressive metal in music. He is the author of The God in the Middle .