Sexuality. A word which brings out varying emotions in everyone. Some are hush hush while some are extremely vocal about their opinions
Moderator Sandip Ray, a novelist and journalist, started the session by talking about his book which talks about family secrets. He elucidated on incidents revolving around Article 377, suicides, gays and suicide related to the same.
Manabi Bandopadhyay, India’s first openly transgender Principle of a college, talked about her struggles while growing up in the outskirts. She grew up reading works of Chaitanya and always identified herself with being a woman. She elaborated on Rabindranath’s literature which talked about many different relationships. I never worried about whether I was a man or a woman, but somehow I wanted to fight for the struggles women face for having been born as a woman.
“Enjoy, enjoy every second of your life,” Laxmi Narayan Tripathi began her speech with. She is a widely acclaimed social activist, dancer, actress and celebrity. “Morality which was injected by Britishers, is what we still carry” she said. In earlier times, a woman could spend how she wanted and say no to a man’s advances. Morals are different. “We are somehow, still not ready to leave morality. So what do we do with our sexualities? Enjoy it! But why can’t we? Because we’ve forgotten to love ourselves.” She goes on to elucidate on how patriarchy taught women to not love themselves. Patriarchy was so fragile, that it imposed too many rules just to remain fortified. She opened up about how she was sexually abused at a young age and then let down by many men. She says,” I love Draupadi. She had five husbands!” She encourages everyone to enjoy themselves, whether its in the open, or behind closed doors. She emphasizes on the importance of being comfortable in one’s own skin. Nobody needs to give explanations for what they do and their purity lies in their own minds. “Morality is being injected into us,” she states. She was fortunate to have very accepting parents, but many like her are thrown out, who are sexually exploited and tortured. “the gried of feeling unloved, is perhaps the worst” she says. “Life is to accept your own self, not be judgemental about others and love all” she summed up.
“It’s fun what I am,” Laxmi Tripathy said. “ I can feel feminine emotions, and yet understand what is going through a man’s mind.”
And thus, the seventh session of the Kolkata Literature Festival, taught us the need for loving ourselves first. To accept ourselves as we are and then accept others. The need to show love and acceptance to all around and most importantly, to enjoy our lives as they are.