Ek Se Bhale Do – The Story Behind AOI’s Two Laadli Awards!
Good news! Good news! We’re super excited to announce that Agents of Ishq has won two awards at the Laadli Media and Advertising Awards for Gender Sensitivity (LMMAGS) this year! The LMMAGS is an initiative of the NGO Population First’s Project Laadli to recognize efforts in gender sensitive journalism.
Our pehla Laadli award was for our video Aika to the Baika in the Web (Marathi) category. The second award was for an article by Sameera Iyengar and Debasmita Das Chitthi Aayi Hai! Ek Zara Choti, Ek Thodi Badi Lesbian Ke Beech, E-Mail Pe Baatein in the Web Blog (Hindi) category.
Our pehla Laadli award goes to…#SuperhitPoliceComplaintLavani!
Aika to the Baika is a one-of-its-kind lavani musical video about Shakku, Megha and Akansha’s attempts to file a complaint in a police station.
Inspectors Bilkul Pandey and Kunti G are self-proclaimed Beti Bachao agents. But when the three women arrive, the inspector duo only have their hot takes to serve. Generous with their judgements, they forget the first and most important step: Aika to the Baika – listen to the woman!
Kisne banayi ye award-winning lavani? Aika to the Baika was co-produced with the feminist legal centre Majlis which in the last 25 years, has worked with over 50,000 women. Headed by Flavia Agnes, Majlis provides legal aid to women and children, especially from marginalized social groups and works towards evolve a more innovative, feminist legal practice. We sat with Flavia Agnes and her team and heard the many stories they have encountered and the many ways the voices of women seeking help get lost in the police and legal system. The song Aika to the Baika was based on true stories we heard from the lawyers at Majlis.
Kayko banaya lekin-Why was Aika to the Baika made? Our #SuperHitComplaintLavani was conceptualized to be part of the Maharashtra Police’s gender sensitization workshops. Lodging a police complaint is the beginning of seeking legal justice. When victims are blamed, shamed and spoken to insensitively, the chances that they continue to pursue legal recourse decrease.
For any kind of change, creating spaces for conversation and reflection are important. At AOI, we learnt in many ways that a formal, stern, lecture-like space isn’t the only kind of space we need. Spaces sprinkled with some laughs, some warmth and lots of love and care are sometimes more inviting. The charm and playfulness of Lavani allowed us a new way to discuss the grave issue of gender insensitivity. Lavani artistes Shakku bai, Megha and Akanksha play the three complainants, and through their song and dance remind the inspectors to Aika to the Baika, because that’s what we like-a!
Dusra Laadli award goes to…our famous Lesbian Letter Exchange!
Chitthi Aayi Hai! Ek Zara Choti, Ek Thodi Badi Lesbian Ke Beech, E-Mail Pe Baatein, first written in English as You’ve Got Mail! Letters Between An Older and A Younger Lesbian, was part of AOI’s ‘Women Who Love Women’ series during pride month in 2020. The English version – by Sameera Iyengar and Debasmita Das, was translated into Hindi by Mihir Saswatkar.
Conceptualized by AOI’s Creative Director Paromita Vohra, the essay is a collection of email exchanges between an older lesbian and a younger one about their lives as queer women. We are happy that Laadli recognized the need for this kind of an intergenerational dialogue at a time when even with growing LGBT visibility, queer women’s lives and histories remain largely unrecorded.
Here are excerpts from an interview we did with the writers:
Why did you write this piece?
DD: There are not many spaces for queer people, even fewer for queer women. So, it’s hard to meet people and have a sense of community. Finding older women to look up to, to get an idea of how your life can look when you grow older, is very rare. The letter exchange allows you to ask all of the burning questions in your heart. This kind of framework allows for intimacy.
SI: I’d never reflected on my life through the queer lens, in that sense. I don’t think the space for it was really there, growing up. Like the other parts of my identity, this [being queer] is an equally important part. But I hadn’t stopped and reflected about it like I did with other things. Growing up, if you had asked me to write letters in the public domain, saying I was lesbian, I wouldn’t have. It was inconceivable that time. The fact that it can be conceived today itself made me want to do it.
What did you get from each other’s letters?
SI: I loved the centredness of her identity in her letters. The questions, the curiosity… I don’t think I was as at ease at her age to articulate those questions. Her advice on digital dating was very pragmatic! I appreciated it. But, I must say she made the space easy for me. I wasn’t inhibited earlier but she did make it easier for me to open up and write the things I did.
DD: Usually, we try to find literature or oral histories that talk about queer history and whatever little we find, we hold it so close to us. It was nice to find someone else to have a sense of shared experience with. Also, because we are from different generations, it was nice to know how things were for her in America as a student, and in India when she came back. It matters to me, to know. To have a sense of history.
What do you think is missing in the conversations around the LGBTQIA+ community in India today?
SI: I wish there were more spaces for queer people that are not about being queer. Like in the US, you have football leagues for queer women where you can do things. It is a queer community but you’re not focussing on being queer all the time. That has allowed a lot of people in. It gives you the time and space to get to wherever you need to get to. In my experience, I feel that pressure [to assert my queerness] here. I would love if there was, say, a lesbian board game night!
DD: There are some spaces [for queer people] but even they aren’t regular spaces to keep going to. There are barely any queer women specific spaces. A no-tension space where you know people. As many spaces as possible would be great!
We’re so glad that these two works of AOI which unravel complex topics through creative formats – be it an entertaining lavani musical or an intimate letter exchange – got recognized in this field of people working towards creating gender-sensitive media! Thank you LMMAGS, Project Laadli and Population first!