In September last year
a person rang me up
and said, “Hello Dear,
You can all now be open I hear”
I blinked hard and thought harder
and I said to her, “From closets
and cages we can break out
but it is the closed minds
we will have to break open”.
By October she had had the time
so when she called she asked,
“But it is legal now isn’t it?”
“Pleasure. Pleasure,” I repeated,
“came by after privacy, protection
came out of the law’s blackhole,
now there can be no persecution
to pursue pleasure. But pray tell me,
would it keep safe
those that have no bedrooms?”
In November, it was all about love.
“So was love unnatural too?”
No you silly dear, love was
always love, always alive,
it has thrived even in a bleak world.
To love one needed the heart, never the law.
letters, fleeting touches, stolen kisses,
feeling, fantasy, eyes making love
– love will survive it all, be sure, but
it is the accepting that may kill us.
So in December, when the air
turned colder and I older,
she spoke about marriage
a rarity in the month of Margazhi.
“It’s not for me,” I said, “never for me
till is it for all.
And me, I can live
and love despite it.
When the sun rises on the new year,
we must have imagined a house for all,
with children and dogs too in the dream,
and families if need be
that may not come
with the mother and father.
In January she did not call,
and I had no price to pay
even as we took on the bill
so unworthy it made us all weary.
In February she did call
she said she had been
thinking about masks.
“We are all wearing masks,
aren’t we?” I asked,
“Some need to
have them on to breathe.
And those of us that don’t
must carry the oxygen tanks behind.”
“Will they ever come off?”
she wants to know.
“The nation wants to know” I say,
“but when it does it will
leer and lynch and lathi-charge.”
So the masks must stay on till
we become toppers in the face of bullies
we are the witches that they cannot burn
we grow to a weed forest they cannot crush
and the howling wind they cannot silence.
In March, we sat down
to plan the march
and she says to me
she is here because
she is questioning. “The ‘Q’?”
I ask, and she says, “Not just the Q in LGBTQ,
I’m questioning all I can,
but I want to be sure I am asking the right ones
– the Queer questions
April is here and the
Drill is on – it’s what we do year after year
Ambedkar and Periyar upfront
Privilege in the rear
And corporations no where near.
There is dangerous climate in May
This year’s wave worse than always.
But we are those that will
never miss a beat
even in all the heat
We have been sure
loud even if not out
we have made clear
that we will never bow
to saffron in our rainbow.
June is now here,
And she is here too.
The road for pride still a
long way from the main Anna Salai
but when we reach it’s winding end
we should have left no one behind
using every tool we can muster –
masks, paints, placards, umbrellas, slogans, screams –
to dismantle the master’s house
with pet child patriarchy buried inside.
The fight is forever but
now there is reason to cheer
because together we will parade,
loud and proud.
i. This poem was first shared by Archanaa (based in London) via Skype video at Orinam’s QUILT ‘In our own words’: Poetry, Spoken Word on Queer, Trans and Feminist Themes, held in Chennai on June 16, 2019
ii. Thanks to Soorya Sriram for consent to republish this photo from Chennai Rainbow Pride 2019.