In a first, a government-sponsored poets' meet was organised for the transgender community at the Sahitya Akademi on Tuesday. The 'Transgender Poets' Meet' was chaired by India's first transgender college principal Manabi Bandopadhyay, who read out several of her own poems at the two-and-a-half-hour event.
Apart from Manabi, six other transgender poets viz – Rani Majumdar, Aruna Nath, Anjali Mandal, Debdutta Biswas and Debojyoti Bhattacharya - participated in the event. Each of the poets was given nearly 15 minutes to recite their poetry. The event also saw two other guest transgender poets who recited their poems.
Elated at such an event being organised by Sahitya Akademi, which is a part of the Union Ministry of Culture, Manabi said: "Such poet’s meet will only encourage the transgender community. We all have such talents but do not get the opportunity that we deserve. I’m thankful that Sahitya Akademi has come forward in support of the transgender community."
Manabi also expressed hope for a positive outcome from the Supreme Court which is hearing petitions seeking decriminalisation of homosexuality. "The country hugely respects us and thus they have recognised us as a third gender. We are hopeful that the Supreme Court will pass a judgement in our favour," Manabi said. The SC had on Tuesday reserved its judgment in the hearing on pleas questioning the validity of Section 377.
While Sahitya Akademi has many centres across the country, the Kolkata branch is the first one to have conducted such an event in the city.
"We have hosted several women empowerment sessions and events in the past. But, when Manabi Bandopadhyay came to me saying that she wanted us to host a transgender poet’s meet, I could not say a no. In fact, a lot of people from Delhi are calling me and congratulating me for taking this step," officer-in-charge Eastern Region of Sahitya Akademi, Mihir Sahu said.