May 29, 2020
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Passion And Precedent

Passion And Precedent

I must confess...I thought I'd have something with a female when the opportunity arises and to be quite frank I myself thought that Marie Louise was such an abnormal type of woman.—a letter from Amrita Shergil, circa February 1934, to her mother. (Shergil allegedly had affairs with Gogi, a female cousin, and friend Helen Chamanlal apart from Marie Louise, all of whom she also painted. 'Two Women' is said to represent Louise and Shergil.)

FROM the Kalitantra to the Radhavall-abhi to the Radhakali tradition that Indologists like H.H. Wilson and C.M. Brown have documented, to pre-Vaishnav Assamese and Jaminiya Brahmin texts of 2,000-year vintage, lesbianism has been a recurrent motif in Indian sacred and folk loric texts. Sub-textual resonances, references, underpinnings, the gamut of Sufi poetry, are a whole different world of study and academic discourse.

In the '60s, Rajasthani writer Vijay Dan Detha wrote Teejan Beejan, a tale of two women who live as a couple. The play, directed by Deepak Kejariwal, starring film actress Deepa Sahi, played to packed Delhi auditoriums in the late '70s and early '80s. Marathi playwright Vijay Tendulkar's Meeta, an exposé of middle-class lesbianism, also played in Delhi in the '80s.

Come 1995, Delhi-based writer Ajit Caur published Kalle Kuene, a collection of short stories that included an unambiguously lesbian love tale between two hostelmates. In '96, Geenu Kamani's Junglee Girl included a short story, Waxing the Thing, explicitly detailing the lesbian encounter between a society lady client and a beautician. The same year, Geeti Thadani's Sakhiyani, an anthropological lesbian work, was published by Cassel, London.

In 1999, a veritable flood of gay and lesbian anthologies comprising real-life, fictional accounts, poems, is scheduled to hit book stands India-wide. Ashwini Sukhantar's lesbian stories for Penguin India. Saleem Kidwai and Ruth Vanita as also Hoshang Merchant's gay chronicles. Popular culture bears witness to closed door ladies' sangeet lesbo erotics. And which cineaste can forget Hema Malini and Parveen Babi's famously erotic song scene from Kamal Amrohi's Razia Sultan?

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