Shobhna Kumar,Founder of Queer Ink on making stories of the community accessible and the success of her enterprise.
A few years ago,I was in search of reading material and information on the queer community. But I realised there was very little literature available in the market. Over a period of time,I realised that this was the case in every city across India. Therefore,in 2010,I launched Queer Ink as a platform for collating information and making it accessible to people who share my interest on the subject.
Queer Ink started as an online store but in the process of putting it together,I also woke up to the fact that most of the material on the queer in the country was academic. No more than a 100 titles on the subject had come out of India,and that was too little for Indias large queer population. This pushed me to turning Queer Ink into the first publishing house that focuses only on queer content. In 2013,we launched our first anthology of short stories,titled Out! Stories from the New Queer India.
Since then,we have managed to gain a steadily growing audience. The books,especially the Indian publications,had come to be a support system,a sort of companion to many members of the LGBTI community who were yet to come out. They could connect with the local content,and the stories which were set in an Indian milieu. I remember getting a call from a girl in Hyderabad who said that she had been spending an hour every day at the local bookstore reading Out!… because the characters gave her a sense of stability when she felt alone. At a time when she couldnt go back home and speak openly to her family,she found support in the stories.
But Queer Ink has gone beyond being a platform for the queer community alone. Many of our patrons are parents,friends or siblings of the queer. They look at us in the hope of finding texts that will help them understand their queer loved ones better and thus bridge the gap.
Academicians and students come too and we take them through our collection. But its heartening to see that lay people are taking an interest in understanding more about alternate sexualities as well and are going beyond looking at the subject as taboo.
That Queer Ink is a digital platform helps. Many of our patrons wish to read on the subject but cannot keep the physical copy of the reading material at home. It also provides accessibility.
I am proud to say that Queer Ink has helped many open their minds up to not look at the queer as criminals. I have attended and delivered talks on the subject in colleges,literature festivals and also for corporates,where its heartening to see the office-goers make that effort to find out how they can make their queer colleagues feel welcome.
After the Supreme Court ruling that has upheld Section 377,the mainstream too has come out in support of the LGBTI community. Thats because this community,after all,is part of the larger social fabric. People realise this now,and are unhappy that some are being denied basic human rights.