GAZE – A Photo Essay by Barshana Basu and Alokabho Pal

I wonder what they think when they look at us now. They aren’t used to seeing us happy, wearing our best skin with the colours of the rainbow. Dancing shamelessly to the mad music like no one is watching, yet dancing like the whole world is watching.

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They used to stare when he walked like himself with his hips, one foot in front of another. They said it was wrong, their eyes boring a hole in his soul and so he corrected himself. He changed himself so they didn’t stare anymore.

Gaze-2

Gaze-3

They stare when she steps out of her house, a shari wrapped around her waist, an old overused wig, some foundation and the brightest red lipstick. They quickly close the windows of their cars when they see her making her way through the halted traffic, a swing of her hips and hands that clap so loud. But their eyes follow her through the thick glass of the car window.

They still stare at her when she stands there in the bus stop waiting for the last bus to take her to a place called no homeland. Her ‘men’s shirt’ and her ‘men’s jeans’ and her ‘men’s haircut’. She’s used to it now.

He is still getting used to the stares. They stare when he holds his hand and gently rests his head on his shoulder, sitting there, looking at the people walking by. Heads turn, their eyes look back, expressions falter. He moves a little closer, he holds his hand a little tighter, feeling the warmth of his body cling to his skin.

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Kolkata Pride 2019, I look around me. Painted faces and rainbow dresses scattered on the streets somewhere in central Kolkata. I look at them looking at me; We look at them looking at us and at this moment, frozen in time, we are not self-conscious or worried or scared because at this very moment, under the hot winter sun surrounded by hot sweaty bodies that inexplicably smell like some unrecognisable perfume, we are not alone, we have us.

I wonder what they think when they look at us now. They aren’t used to seeing us happy. They have never seen us like this; So loud, so inconvenient. They must think we have no shame. Do they know who we are? What we are? Why we are?

Do you remember how they looked at us, called us names; chakka, hijra, gay, faggot – those are our names we wear it like colourful little badges pinned on to our skin.

Kolkata Pride 2019: they tried hurting us with words again, to hurt us with shame. But we rise up because we aren’t alone anymore, we have us.

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[On 29th December as the Kolkata Rainbow pride march 2019 was moving past Shyambajar a group of men on a lorry called out names and started heckling the people in the procession. Certain queer people from the march stepped forward and confronted the group of bullies and drove them away allowing the pride march to continue in all its glory.]

 

Authors' Picture

Barshana Basu and Alokabho Pal are final year students of Masters at Jadavpur University

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