Barnamala Roy writes about The Gender Awareness Month held at Presidency University, Kolkata
Soul Curry, a cultural fusion of poetry and music, marked in the truest sense the celebration of The Gender Awareness Month at Presidency University-an initiative of a few students of the institution. As multi-coloured drapes decorating the stage added to the spirit of gaiety, Sujoy Prosad Chatterjee, with the throes of passion in his immaculate voice accompanied by the melodious notes of Abhinava Chatterjee’s keyboard weaved an aura of enchantment in the Derozio Hall, kick starting the celebrations on September 4th.
“And sometimes I’m in the mood, I wanna hit the highway road…” Sujoy’s recitation of the lithe lyrics of Dylan’s Baby, I’m in the mood for you enveloped in the strains of Blowing in the Wind commenced the afternoon. The tune of Angelo’s rebellion spirit broke free from the lips of the elocutionist and the “caged bird” sang “of freedom” as people, braving the water-logged Kolkata lanes, turned up to embrace the cause of the gender awareness month- emancipation from gender inequality.
Eve Ensler’s voice from The Vagina Monologues (the 2003 breakthrough in the history of sexual repression) garbed in Sujoy’s tone pierced its way into the psyches of the audience with the opening line of the extract “That is how I came to love my vagina” and went on to follow the trajectory of a woman’s hatred of her vagina-the woman self to her falling in love with it. Sudeep Ranjan Sarkar’s “The Serpent”, Rijurambha’s “Goyan Kishore” and Sujit Sarkar’s “Fanny r Chithi” were interspersed with the lyricism of Tagore’s “Bhanusingher Padabali” and a tribute to revolutionary and filmmaker, Rituparno Ghosh. A hushed silence, interrupted only by sharp intakes of breath, prevailed during the performance of Ajitesh Bandopadhyay’s translation of Brecht -“Marifarar er Bhrunhoyta”. The performance focused on the politics of legitimacy or illegitimacy of motherhood through the heartrending depiction of an underage housemaid’s condemnation to death in a prison cell right after giving birth to and killing an illegitimate child. The afternoon reached its climax with the brilliant performance of Sujoy-Abhinava duo- “Rajkumar er Chithi”, a poem penned by Sujoy himself. The poem -about homosexual metropolitan love, the eternal delight of a new-found companionship and gradual falling apart- moved the audience to a standing ovation.
The magical aura of Soul Curry was followed by Sappho for Equality’s screening of the film, “More than a Friend” in the evening. A short film of less than an hour, it depicted the romance of two lesbian lovers-both progressive career women of the 21st century- interwoven by real-life interviews revealing the uncensored opinions of people regarding alternative sexualities. Snippets from the Kolkata Rainbow Pride March, 2013 and the personal experience of victims of gender discrimination shown in the film once again laid bare the atrocities inflicted by a disillusioned society curbing the free expression of one’s gender identity. The assistant director and a member of the Sappho group wrapped up the day’s program by sharing their experience of shooting the film which is like a dream come true for them. The third day of the Gender Awareness Month thus ended with the hopeful promise of brighter times when all sexual orientations and relationships-straight, homosexual, bisexual, lesbian etc would gain acknowledgement and encouragement of the society at par with the ending of “More than a friend” where the lover’s mother recognizes the genuineness of her daughter’s love and lovingly accepts her female partner.