“The Rainbow Lit Fest is an amalgamation of different forms of expression, which goes beyond binaries and brings together different identities and sections of society,” says festival director Sharif D Rangnekar in a conversation with The Morning Standard about the queer and inclusive fest starting today in Delhi.
Rangnekar says that there are over 70 exponents of prose, poetry, art, music, dance and cinema coming together over two days, which itself reflects our times and the desire within the community, as well as outside, to sit together and share experiences and thoughts. “From what we know, some of the audience is keen to attend the four Spotlight On History sessions we have where we cover the first Pride (March) ever with the three co-organisers, the first gay film in India, made by the late Riyadh Wadia and the battle against Section 377 starting from the year 2001,” says Rangnekar.
He mentions various highlights of the two-day event, “The Mushaira, curated by Azhar Iqbal and chaired by Pervaiz Alam is an attractive session. Or, for that matter, discussions on erotica, sex work or religion and homosexuality. In fact, Devdutt Pattanaik’s keynote is on What Ram has to say to queer people in India.”
The fest was conceived while Rangnekar was in the middle of a conversation with publishing veteran Dibakar Ghosh, as they searched for international literature festivals that were queer-centric, or part of larger alliances where queerness had a visible presence. “We found hardly one or two of relevance and stature. This is when Dibakar felt I should put together one. He linked it with the fact that I curated events where expression was key be it through music, arts or talk under the platform Embrace: Music Justice Arts. What he also knew is that I was in the midst of depression and needed to re-focus my life, and I realise now that there was no better way than serving my community.”
According to him, the thought though lies in the sub-text – Queer & Inclusive. “We hold the mic, we invite others, we bring things together, sharing a space with a clear sense of equity and equality.”
Rangnekar has also written a memoir earlier this year, titled Straight To Normal – My Life As A Gay Man. He says he wanted to write this book in 2013 and had even signed a contract but at that time but he was scared that it would expose his mother and family. “Also, in December 2013 the Supreme court had overturned the 2009 Delhi High Court order, which effectively decriminalised us. So, I was definitely not going to attempt the book at that time.”
But in 2018, life took a different turn for him. “I had broken away from the 9-5 regime, trying to get more active in the advocacy for the rights of our community. Close to when I was turning 50, in August 2018, my mother asked what had happened to the book and it’s high time I write it. That was the turning point when I decided that I have to write my story as my mother believed – and so did I – that it would help others.”
A number of people reached out to the author after reading his book. He says, “I have had people say how much this book was needed and also discussed how to go about transition – something I know very little of. The book has taken me to schools, colleges, women’s groups, queer organisations and businesses.”
ON: December 7 and 8
AT: Gulmohar Park Club, New Delhi.