Monday, March 20, 2023

'Queersapien' book review: Memoir of Identity


Sharif D Rangnekar’s Queersapien is a tall drink of tender coconut water on days when the entire world seems to have been hard baked in intolerance and hatred.

It is a candidly narrated tale of the author’s quest to shed his own fears and insecurities after coming out of the closet, braving the hostility of a landscape where, on one hand, the Supreme Court has decriminalised ‘gay sex’, reading down Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, but on the other, acceptance is still hard to come by for the LGBTQIA+ community, in order to find love and live his best life.

Written with heart and sensitivity, the book is a journey which extends both inwards and outwards, gently nudging the reader towards finding a means to make the collective spaces inhabited by human beings, one where individuals can thrive without being judged, shamed and brutally punished, simply for being true to themselves and allowing their sexuality to blossom unimpeded.

The author’s emphasis is on building bridges across differences and making a break from the established order not to descend into the darkness of disorder but to emerge into the light of diversity. Rangnekar’s freestyle mode of writing may be discomfiting for the unwary as he leapfrogs from the subtleties of the Indian legal system, data and expert opinions to personal reflections and raunchy anecdotes from the heart of the sin cities in Thailand, but it works if you surrender to the flow and get into the spirit of things.

The author’s revelations from his stints in Thailand are particularly moving as it clearly takes a lot of strength and confidence to be this vulnerable. He dwells at length on some of the spiritual as well as sexual connections made

in a land where attitudes are far more progressive with regard to sex and fluid sexuality but also addresses the scarier aspects of going in pursuit of carnal nirvana as it comes with the risk of sexual assault and battery.

A charming touch is Rangnekar’s tendency to recognise the privileges of his gender, class and caste while remaining sensitive to women’s rights, sex work and the struggles faced by the minorities and marginalised who have so much more to lose. Particularly touching is his description of the obstacles bravely overcome by his widowed mother, who raised three sons and made the effort to open her home and heart in order to provide a safe space, not just for her children but for all who sought it. Veena Rangnekar is a legend and the world desperately needs people like her.

Making peace with your own identity is an arduous, lonesome journey. Too many are terrified to even attempt it. Very few make it to the destination that is an oasis of calm empowerment and even fewer manage to remain there. But every story like Queersapien serves as a much-needed beacon of light to guide those who wander––lost and far too frightened to come to terms with who they really are.

This book review originally appeared in The New Indian Express.

No comments: