Painting It Queer: Dear Delhi, Welcome Rainbow Literature Festival
Somewhere in a quieter part of south Delhi, nestled amidst a clump of greens almost hiding the iridescent rainbow hues from view, rose the festoons and banners that heralded the arrival of New Delhi’s first queer literature festival.
The first edition of Rainbow Literature Festival was brought to the capital over a lazy, hazy winter weekend – and if you happen to pass by, you’d be pleasantly surprised to see the perfectly lined melee of attendees – a far cry from the rambunctious crowds of more popular lit fests in the country.
For a festival still finding its sea legs (RLF is the first of its kind), the conversations it sparked were as myriad as they are important. While the tenets of the now read-down Section 377 featured in almost every panel, there was also talk around queer protagonists in cinema and culture, sex workers (male, female and transgender) and the different ways each gender was paid (that one made for a lively one hour) and the best ways to combat heteronormative patriarchy.
“There’s still a long way to go, though,” author, activist and Supreme Court advocate Saif Mahmood told The Quint. “Reading down Section 377 was just the beginning. There’s still adoption rights, marriage, healthcare... And the Trans Bill (Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2019) is a sham.”
Sharif Rangnekar – who recently authored Straight to Normal: My Life As a Gay Man and also founded the festival – seemed in a pleasant fluster, rounding up guests he’d invited. “The turnout is so satisfactory for a first edition! Also, the fact that it’s here in a quiet part of south Delhi.” He was also satisfied with the decision to ensure the festival was trilingual (Hindi, Urdu and English) – ensuring an array of voices across the linguistic spectrum.
Indeed, prominent names like Anjali Gopalan, Devdutt Pattanaik, Tanuja Chandra, Nandita Das, Shubha Mudgal, Onir and Urvashi Butalia were in attendance – almost all of whom spoke on at least one panel over two well-packed days.
Pattanaik told The Quint that “Queerness could be seen wherever one looked, if only one looked hard enough”; “It’s just that, it’s not openly talked about. But they’re in your tier-two towns and in your metros, in rich and powerful families, and in families that aren’t.” (He also spoke extensively on the subject in a video interview with The Quint).
Across 7 and 8 December, New Delhi certainly saw a whole lot of multi-hued conversations. Cinema, books and coffee continued to feature – as one can only expect from a literary festival in the winter – through screenings in the courtyard.
The Raimbow Literature Festival – Queer & Inclusive certainly announced its presence, albeit in a quieter, smaller capacity in 2019, but has left doors open to the possibility of a larger, brighter and more far-reaching edition two, soon.