The story in the book is not very different from the story of the book. Like the existence of lesbians in the country, the first-ever book on the history of lesbian tradition in India is being ignored. The manuscript of Ecologies of Desires has been doing the rounds of publishing houses for over three years. But there are no takers.
"Not that any publisher told me they wouldn’t print my work because it was bad. In fact, they said nothing. Most publishers here are uncomfortable with the subject," says author Giti Thadani. The Ecologies of Desires is now to be published by Cassells in Britain.
The lesbian author is particularly disturbed by feminist publishing house Kali for Women for its alleged indifference towards her work. Giti claims that Kali "neither said yes nor no" to publishing her work after she sent the introductory chapter of her book. "It is said that the only feminist publishing house in the country isn’t free of prejudice against lesbians either," observes Thadani.
According to Urvashi Bhutalia of Kali, however, Thadani’s refusal to have her work evaluated by the publishing house stymied their interest in the project. "We published Ismat Chugtai’s lesbian story "The Quilt" years ago. Also, we have recently commissioned a collection of essays on the Indian woman’s sexuality which will have at lest two essays on lesbianism," Urvashi asserts.
Thadani remains unimpressed. And denies having refused to have her book evaluated. "It is indeed unfortunate that this Indian feminist piece of writing is being printed abroad," says Thadani, who spent the last 10 years researching the book.
Ecologies of Desires is the author’s erudite attempt at recording the rich histories of lesbian sexuality in Indian culture. She has unearthed texts and taditions which have been selectively erased from heterosexual memory over time. Divided into three parts, the book cites references to lesbianism in Vedic texts, the rise of Shaktism or the unconsorted goddess tradition between the 5th century BC and 12th century AD and concludes by deconstructing the modern invisibility of lesbians.
Thadani intends to illustrate her efforts with images of ancient women-to-women bonding, feminine cultures and goddess traditions found in pre-historic cave paintings, temple sculpture, historical texts and miniature paintings that she has photographed during her 10-year exploration across the country.
"Those interested in reading about the Indian lesbian could pick up copies of Ecologies of Desires from book stnds in London around spring next year," Thadani says wryly.