Mumbai-based social activist Shobhna S Kumar has launched queer-ink.com India's first online bookstore 'for everything queer'.
The idea behind starting queer-ink.com, Kumar tells us, is to be able to make gay material more accessible. Kumar's collection includes books spanning genres and languages that aim at educating people and making them aware about everything that isn't mainstream.
The launch of the store coincides with the first anniversary of the Delhi High Court ruling that legalised homosexuality on July 2, last year.
She says, "My experience has been that books about the gay community are not readily available in mainstream bookstores. Also I realised that many people would be apprehensive of picking up such a book and walking down to the cashier. Straight parents too would not be very comfortable going to a bookstore and buying such books. I thought this would offer a safe space for people to browse and buy these books as well as raise awareness about the issue."
The model of queer-ink, she informs, is similar to that of amazon.com where people can order their books online pay using cards or even cheques and have their books being delivered to their homes. Kumar adds that while the eventual plan is to start a store somewhere in Mumbai, the online version broadens her reach. "I can deliver books to anyone across the country," she points out.
Kumar who has lived in Fiji and educated in Australia and the US has been working in the non-profit sector for more than a decade now. She came to India about seven years ago, 'loved the people and the transition India is going through' and decided to settle in here.
Of the gay culture in India she says that coming out to the family can still be an issue. However she adds, "Young people are becoming more confident. They are exploring issues and are coming to terms with who they are. As for the families, this coming out initiates discussions." This she feels is a healthy sign.
The site itself has a strong pink theme, offers a database of 'queer lingo', a book club, which is still under construction and a 'queer calendar' where users can post their events online.
Some of the books Kumar suggests people -- straight and gay -- should read include:
Same Sex Love in India: Readings from Literature and History, which is a literary history of homosexuality as seen through literature over 2000 years
The Right that Dares to Speak its Name, which she says is an important book as it explains the Naz Foundation judgement that legalised of homosexuality between consenting adults in India
Sycorax New Fables And Poems by Suniti Namjoshi purely for its eloquence
You are not Alone by Arun Mirchandani, which is a novel of a man who looks back at his life spanning over 70 years and explores issues of coming out of the closet among others.
Queer-ink.com also provides platform to budding writers and poets to showcase their work online. Eventually Kumar hopes to publish these works in a book form.
There were nine pieces of writing posted online when we last logged in. For Kumar, this is a good beginning.