Editor’s note: We feature the brilliant recommendations of our partner, the Champaca Bookstore, in the Read section twice a month. FYI: Champaca is an independent women-run and founded bookstore and children's library in Bangalore.
All Pride, No Prejudice
This month we bring you stories about queer experiences in India. You might wonder if we missed the memo on June being Pride month. Yes, it is according to the US calendar and we sincerely hope that in India we can celebrate Pride every month! Peruse our collection of nonfiction, fiction and even children’s books to celebrate—love is love, lust is lust and desire is desire.
Vaishali discovered that she was lesbian and dyslexic at 20. At 22 she came out to her mother and soon left her home in Bombay to pursue academics in Hyderabad. In a dingy, insect-ridden yet rent-free hostel room, she tries to make the best of the situation by writing a book about her experiences. As she writes, she finds the past has a way of catching up with her, even as she untangles her anxieties with writing, homosexuality, falling in love, breaking up and more. ‘Homeless’ is the story of Vaishali's relationship with her many truths and the truths of many young people in India.
Did you know that in the villages of Sukheda, Ambada and Sanada, Gujarat, it’s a custom for the bridegroom’s sister to head the wedding procession, marry the bride and bring her back to her brother’s home? Filled with personal stories, anecdotes and backed with historical context and facts, ‘Footprints of a Queer History’ by Maya Sharma is a collection of personal stories that document the everyday experiences of queer people in Gujarat.
Through the stories of trans men, the transformation of Vikalp (a women’s group) in Vadodara and the stories of Shashi, Amtiben, Mansa, Dalpina and Bittu to name a few, we get to know the ways by which women fight normative and heteropatriarchal practices in Gujarat and the sense of relationships queer people carry in the absence of legal recognition and social ostracisation.
Whether gay or straight, dating doesn't come easy to anyone. In ‘Get Out’ Aniruddha Mahale uses his own experience and romantic misadventures to put together the ultimate dating guide for gay men in India. Using his good and bad dates as data, Mahale curates a collection of tips, lessons and practical advice on how to dress, behave and charm—all the do’s and don’ts for men in India on how to come out and go out.
The abrogation of Section 377 by the Supreme Court in 2018 ushered in a new era for the rights of India’s LGBTQ citizens in the country. But Parmesh Shahani, openly out and proud gay vice president at Godrej Industries Ltd doesn't feel that much has changed in the world of business. In this genre-defying memoir cum manifesto, Shahani makes a cogent case for LGBTQ inclusion and lays down a step-by-step guide to reshaping office culture in India.
He talks to business leaders about how they worked towards change; traces the benefits reaped by industry giants like Godrej, Tata Steel, IBM, Wipro, the Lalit group of hotels and many others who have tapped into the power of diversity; and shares the stories of employees whose lives were revolutionised by LGBTQ-friendly workspaces.’Queeristan’ drives home a singular point — the importance of diversity and inclusion for a more inclusive and profitable future.
This anthology brings the best of contemporary queer poetry from South Asia, both from the subcontinent and its many diasporas. ‘The World That Belongs to Us’ features well-known voices like Hoshang Merchant, Ruth Vanita, Suniti Namjoshi, Kazim Ali, Rajiv Mohabir as well as a host of new poets. The themes range from desire and loneliness, sexual intimacy and struggles, caste and language, activism both on the streets and in the homes, to the role of family both given and chosen.
No pile on queer stories from India is complete without Cobalt Blue, the tender story of siblings Tanay and Anuja who are smitten by the same paying guest who arrives at their home – except the guest has no history or no friends. And when the enigmatic person suddenly disappears from the house, the lives of the siblings are drastically upended. Cobalt Blue, which is now also a Netflix film, is a poignant story about the flush of love and the fierceness of heartbreak.
It's never too late or too early to start conversations on gender. ‘The Boy in the Cupboard’ is a heartfelt picture book for children about a boy trying to understand himself and his place in the world. Karan goes to school, and Karan goes out to play, but Karan’s favourite place in the whole world is the cupboard. One day Ma decides to ask Karan why he likes the cupboard so much. ‘The Boy in the Cupboard’ is a lovely story on gender, love and asking questions.
Reva and Prisha are twins and their mothers, Runu and Pritam love exploring the world together. Divided into individual chapters, with each chapter being a different adventure, this book is easy-to-read and fun for all. Subverting the norms of a traditional family, ‘Reva and Prisha’ is a fun read on themes of kindness, empathy, sibling love, family, compassion and appreciating the world around us.
Life at Champaca
While we waited for the monsoon to give the Champaca flower in our store a fresh lease of life, we spent our mornings and evenings at Champaca, working on the launch of our new subscription, Reading India. We are excited to curate and read unique stories from this landmass we call India and home. In July, from book launches to heritage walks and a Constitution themed weekend, we have an exciting line-up of events for you — check them out here! If you’re in Bangalore, we invite you to come to our lush, leafy store, attend the events and browse through our shelves with cold ginger ale or a hot cup of coffee, as per the whims and fancies of the ever-changing Bangalore weather!