Queer Cafe

I had mega plans to attend the poetry readings last evening and then skip across the road to Queer Cafe. As it turned out I got on the train a crucial 15 minutes too late and made it in decent time only for the Open Mic at Queer Cafe.

Queer Cafe is an event that Nigah Media is organising for the second time. I was not expecting a great deal because when activists  organise 'cultural' events it is usually heavy-handed and super-painful.My friend a classically trained singer and I once bitched long and hard about how activists mostly can't sing. This is true particularly of city activists who sing revolutionary songs mournfully and off-key from xeroxed sheets, looking rather like my Syrian Christian relatives forced to dance at a wedding because one of the cousins was misguided enough to marry a nice Gujarati boy from Baroda. My singer friend wanted to extend the theory to children in NGO shelters. She was once invited to organise a small event at a streetchildren's shelter that I was working in. She decided to work with the children and get them to write their own songs and help them put it to music. All very well but not one of the 300 children could sing, even by the most indulgent standards. They danced like gods but sing...ahem...no.

So I was not expecting much, except for the warmth of being under the Queer Tree for a brief while in this uptight city. But what fun it turned out to be. The Attic is a sensational, intimate space and the crowd was jolly (as Bottle Imp says in his startling Enid Blyton manner). There were at least a couple of performances which made me blanch but the audience was much kinder than I was. A young man ,whose name I did not catch, read a sweet coming-of-age piece, half in Urdu, half in English. There were two short films by Priya Sen who has a gift for playing with sound. A phenomenon called Michael knocked everyone over with a lyrical, sweeping piece that began with a young boy at a Confirmation ceremony being told firmly that no, he can't become a robot and ending with a Delhi auto's  bubbly cheerfulness about being a machine and not a man. I have a feeling that Michael could have read out my 8th standard Civics text book and it would have sounded like Dante. Later, another man whose name I did not catch, spoke about his reluctant emergence from the closet. He was low-key but hilarious. Monica Mody who was running the show also read some of her own work. I am told John Hegley and Anjum Hasan also hopped across from the British Council but I missed that because I was running for the train.

I had decided that the only thing I could read if asked to was the piece about Bent so I was carrying that. What I did in an idiotic manner was wear clothes that were fiddly. The sarong kept travelling sideways, the scarf was too long and the coat was red. When asked to read I was looking like a haystack in a storm. The only solution was to build my discomfort into the reading so I announced that I was going to lose my coat as I went along. This thankfully was greeted by catcalls and hoots. By the time I was half-way I was more comfortable, having lost the coat and the scarf. People continued to be kindly disposed, laughed at all the right spots and I did not fumble too many lines. I have now done one reading in Delhi. I have looked for analogies but the only one that comes to mind is the popping-the-cherry one. Must avoid that one.


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