By Oindrila Mukherjee
Spoken word poet Bharath Divakar from Bengaluru received a standing ovation as he finished his poem ‘Celebration’, one of the three that he performed on Day 2 of ‘Storyfest’ at Government Museum and Art Gallery, Sector 10, on Sunday.
The poem, however, was a powerful commentary on his own experiences as a homosexual. A line in the poem says, “My sexuality wins me poetry competitions, but not my rights”. Diwakar, who creates content for a leading television network, will turn 30 in another week. His mother, he says, cried a whole day when he came out to her three months back.
“She wasn’t crying because she was shocked. She’d been saving gold for her furture daughter-in-law since I was 14. But she was more worried that I will never have a companion. My parents enjoyed an ideal companionship, and she cannot imagine that I will not have the same experience,” he says.
He adds that he started to discover his sexuality when he turned 15. All the kids were dating, busy getting attracted to the opposite sex. But he was still untouched by it all.
“My father, who was progressive man, gifted me a book on sex education. He said he wanted me to learn about sex the right way rather than being misinformed. That book is one of the best I’ve read; it had a chapter on homosexuality, which helped me understand my desires.”
Diwakar now lives with his mother; his father died of a heart attack on which he wrote a poem ‘Myocardial Infarction’, but that happened before he could come out to him. However, he does not know how his father would have reacted.
“I come from a highly orthodox Brahmin family, so I grew up under the shadow of my father wanting me to be more masculine and ‘like a son’. I went through all kinds of corrective measures not to appear feminine, changed how I walked and talked and even tried dating women. For me, initially, being gay was having sex with men.”
Among his friends, the reaction to his sexuality has been anti-climactic. “I have more of a semblance of who I am now. It is important that art channelises who you are personally. So, I don’t believe in going viral as a poet or making poetry videos on YouTube. My experiences are my own, so is my art. It’s all out there these days, so I’m taking a break from social media,” he adds.
Diwakar further says people hide behind anonymity and profess their opinions. But they become uncomfortable when faced with the truth of others’ experiences. So, he feels that events such as these were an ideal platform to express art as well as connect with like-minded people.
Chandigarh, he says, has more honest and raw talent. In bigger cities, the platform gets diluted in a space where everyone’s looking for “mutual gratification”.
Storytelling event comes to an end
Literary societies of the city came together on February 17 and 18 to hold the biggest student-organised festival in the city. The event started off with a poetry workshop by spoken word poets Nandini Varma and Shantanu Anand of Airplane Poetry Movement from Pune.
Hussain Haidry, lyricist of ‘Qarib Qarib Singlle’ and ‘Mukkebaaz’, and storyteller Hari Sankar of Kommune were the showstoppers of the event on Day 1. This was preceded by performances from local communities, ‘Folks and Tales’ and ‘Mukhtalif’. On Day 2, Chintan Ruparel, the co-founder of Terribly Tiny Tales, held a workshop on microtales. The entire student community gathered to see their favourite storytelling Instagram account that has more than 7 lakh followers.
The show ended with performances by Kavitactic, Bharath Divakar and Nusrat Ana and Ainee from Dastaangoi, the biggest Urdu storytelling community of India.