Raising South Asian Voices

Cynthia Dettman:  Author

Cobalt Blue – a Book Review

I’m reading a series of LGBT-related novels out of and/or about modern India.  It’s been an interesting search, with not a large list of publications.  It’s heartening to see they do exist, considering India’s highly heteronormative and gendered society and the force of caste and religious traditions.  Western influences of individualism, romantic love and the recent gay rights movements have made their way into urban and elite Indian lives.  LGBT writers are bolder and publishers are ready to publish honest stories.

Cobalt Blue is a touching story originally published in Marathi by  Sachin Kundalkar when he was 22 years old.  Much later it was skillfully translated into English by Jerry Pinto.  The story has an intriguing premise:  two young people, a brother and a sister, fall in love with the same man, a renter in their home.  Each has no idea that the other has fallen too.  The gay brother’s story is told in a stream of consciousness way, and quite believable and heartbreaking as a coming out story. The sister’s story is also authentic and real, a young woman on her confused road to freedom.  It seems that the author knows women’s hearts as well.  The gay sexual life is real and open.  And the estrangements, pressures and barriers within an extended family are clear and painful.

I’ve done some research to see how the 2006 book was received, written in Kundalkar’s first language and so long ago in India’s gay rights timelines. But I was unable to find reviews from that time. If anyone has an idea how it was received let me know!  He was bold to write this story 15 years ago at such a young age.

I fully recommend this book as a good read!  Kundalkar has gone on to become a well known screenwriter.

My search so far indicates that most LGBT novelists are gay men.  And many of those men are of the diaspora- either they grew up in the West or left India. Where are the lesbians and folks who have never had the opportunity to live in an educated, urban environment ?  I will keep looking!  There must be numerous barriers.  Lesbians tend to be more invisible than gay men.  Poor and working class Indians typically are struggling to survive and may not have sufficient education in their first language or in English to write stories and get them published.  And being non-conformist in India is just not easy, just as in the rest of the world!

My dream is that my book will help to inspire more LGBT writers in India to write and publish their stories, particularly lesbians.  I will continue to review the books I’m finding to encourage readership and sales!

 

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