Sonali Desai

Archive for July, 2011|Monthly archive page

‘Meals ready’ at Basavanagudi police station

In Features on July 4, 2011 at 12:35 pm

It is the first police station in the city to have a kitchen of its own, say the proud officials  

Sarmistha Acharya

Knuckle sandwiches are no longer the only dish served by police stations in the city. The next time you enter Basavanagudi police station, whether as complainant or suspect, you just might be treated to a hot meal, freshly made by the cops themselves.

While there is no concept of a kitchen in any of the police stations in Bengaluru, the Basavanagudi police station has set up what they say is the first of its kind kitchen in the city. Apart from tea and snacks, this kitchen also serves a lunch, consisting of rice, dal, sambar, rasam etc. And somewhat unusually for a police station, only vegetarian items are cooked here.

Mohammed Aslam, the police inspector in charge here whose idea it was, says that it was an idea he had had for many years, but could never implement before. “I first thought of it after repeatedly I noticed while sanctioning leave for other officers that most of the time they requested leave because of amoebic dysentery, diarrhea, food poisoning, stomach upset etc. These officers tend to get stomach related problems because they eat food outside which is not hygienic,” he says.

So when Aslam found in Basavangudi police station an unused room, he got it cleaned up and converted it to a kitchen. He even has a philosophy behind his police kitchen, which he says can help create a sense of togetherness that is as important as hygienic food. “Since the officials spend maximum of their time in the station, they should consider the police station as their second home and there is a saying that ‘the family that eats together stays together.’ I wanted the same kind of togetherness at the work place, and that was one more reason for setting up a kitchen,” says Aslam.

The fund for constructing the kitchen and purchasing vessels and appliances were pooled in by the staff, with the bulk of the share coming from Aslam himself. The daily expenditure for the food is shared equally by the staff.
Interestingly, apart from the staff, the meals for the suspects in the lock-up – who are not held for more than 48 hours – too are cooked in-house. Aslam explains, “Earlier the food for those in the lock-up was being brought from outside, but now we provide it from our kitchen. It also helps avoid the security problem of someone possibly mixing something in their food.

Buransav Nadaf, an ex-serviceman who is currently a constable in Basavanagudi police station, voluntarily took the responsibility to cook the food and prepare tea. “Every day, about 20 to 22 people have lunch which is cooked in the station. To do this, I am helped by other officers,” said Nadaf.  
Manjunath G Killedar, a police constable in Basvangudi police station said that the staff was pleased with the fact that they are getting healthy food of their choice since the kitchen was started.  “It was simply a waste of time earlier, when we were having lunch outside. Even after spending money, we never used to get healthy food, but the kitchen has solved that,” said Killedar.


Biopic: rivals slam Yeddy & buddies

In News on July 4, 2011 at 12:27 pm

Excise minister MP Renukacharya recently created a flutter when he announce his plan to make a biopic on BS Yeddyurappa. Expectedly, the CM’s political rivals have a different take on this reel-life drama.

Manju Shettar

Political circles as well as Sandalwood were sent into a tizzy when excise minister Renukacharya announced his plans to make a biopic on his mentor, chief minister BS Yeddyurappa. The expectation is palpable on both sides, that of the CM and his supporters as well among his political opponents, who insist that the film should convey the reality of Yeddyurappa’s life, and not just provide a glorified picture.

The would-be producer of the film Renukacharya says that he was inspired by the veteran politician’s guts and confidence in facing the problems that confronted him, but added that the film is currently only at the discussion stage. “The script is yet to be finalized, but I have spoken to director SV Rajendrasingh Babu about directing the movie. I will also be discussing it with the CM himself, and the star cast and everything else will be decided after that.”
Rajendrasingh Babu admitted that he had been approached by Renukacharya for a movie based on Yeddyurappa’s political career, but added, “I plan to discuss this with the CM soon. Only if the CM agrees to do the movie will I do it.” Sandalwood insiders had identified actor cum politician Jaggesh as the producer’s choice to play the CM, but when City Buzz contacted him he said that he is not aware of any such decision, and did not want to comment on it until he knew something about it.

Yeddyurappa’s political opponents, however were scathing in their views on the proposed biopic on their arch-enemy. Former chief minister HD Kumaraswamy said, “I don’t think that the script would deal with real-life incidents and if it is to be realistic, they should depict the death of Yeddyurappa’s wife and show how it happened. And since Renukacharya is the producer, the film should have his own character along with others like nurse Jayalkshmi in it, which will be one of the highlights of the movie.”

Further, Kumaraswamy suggested that Yeddyrappa should act as himself in his life story, which would be better than finding another actor for the role. When asked if he would like act in the film himself, Kumaraswamy had this to say, “I don’t want to act in this film because being a producer I have not acted in my own productions so far,” adding, “I’m not bothered about how they will portray the opposition party leaders.”

Opposition party leader Siddaramaiah too did not mince his words when he said, “It is complete nonsense and stupidity what Renukacharya wants to do. He is one of the sycophants of the CM and besides, what is his qualification? He compares Yeddyurappa to Basavanna. This is nothing but bullshit, does Renukacharya even know about Basavanna or read about him?”
When asked if he would act as himself if offered the role, Siddaramaiah said, “I have a better work to do than to act in his film. I don’t even know what the real intention of the cinema is.”

G Parameshwar, president of KPCC, said, “This movie will not help people in any way, and they are already disgusted with his recent dramas so I don’t want to comment more on this.”

RV Deshapande, former KPCC president said, “I think there is no need to make a movie about the CM since his current politics itself is like a movie which people are watching, and they already know the star cast.”

Karnataka politicians on screen
Avasthe (1987) directed by Krishna Masadi was based on late politician Shantaveri Gopalagouda and was produced after his death. It deals with his social concern and political career, and was based on a novel written by UR Ananthamurthy.

Mukyamantri I Love You (2009) was directed by journalist Ravi Belagere, and portrayed the romance between former chief minister HD Kumaraswamy and actress Radhika. It’s release was prevented by a High Court order after Kumaraswamy’s father, former Prime Minister HD Devegowda filed a defamation suit against it.  

Politician Tejaswini Ramesh, who was also a journalist, had announced a movie about her twin careers, which she was supposed to script, direct and act in. The project was later shelved.

RAVE – the party goes on

In Editions on July 4, 2011 at 12:22 pm

Rave parties make news only when they are busted, but Sarmistha Acharya finds that this underground party culture is alive and well in Bengaluru, and discovers some unexpected raver hotspots elsewhere in the state. As this report goes to press, the Electric Daisy Carnival — an event with a reputation for heavy drug use and considered ‘the world’s biggest rave party’– is underway in faraway Las Vegas, attended by a crowd of more than 150,000. Closer home, a rave party held at Khalapur off the Mumbai-Pune Expressway made it to the headlines last week after it was busted by the police, the party-goers detained, and “every kind of drug” (according to police) recovered from them. The rave party is an extended dance party usually held at some isolated or scenic location to the accompaniment of electronic or trance music, psychedelic lighting, and fuelled by large supplies of drugs and alcohol. Bengaluru is no stranger to rave culture, especially at private farmhouses on the outskirts that regularly host dos that attract weekend ravers by the hundreds.

Despite the barrage of anti-drug laws like the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act backing the authorities, rave party culture continues to thrive in the city at some rather unexpected locations elsewhere in the state. This should hardly be surprising – after all, it’s their very illegality that gives rave parties their thrilling air, and makes them the sought-after affairs they are for weekend ravers, who often take much trouble to reach the remote venues.

City Buzz met up with a number of ravers, party organizers and police officials to find out what the rave scene is really like in the city. Long and short Party-goers City Buzz spoke to say that the season for rave parties starts from September and lasts till March and even April, when the city enjoys the best weather. Vishnu (name changed), an advertising professional and a fixture on the rave circuit, says: “The peak season for raves is December and January because of the weather and also because of New Year celebrations. Parties are also held in the rainy season, but in fewer numbers.” He is quick to point to out that earlier farmhouse rave parties used to be held in the city every weekend, but now they happen once in three or four months.

According to those like Vishnu, the average weekend rave party tends to start late in the evening and goes on till four or five in the morning. Occasionally, there are ‘special’ dos that go on for two or three days continuously. These are often held in remote open spaces on full moon nights to avoid the use of lights. Says regular party-goer Amit (name changed), “People usually start pouring in after midnight. Most of them wait for two to three hours to see whether it is safe, and then inform their friends. They keep coming till two or three in the morning. The number of people varies from party to party. In some parties there are about 100 or 200 people, but sometimes there are as many as 500 people. It all depends on the organisers. If the organiser has pulled off two or three parties safely, then people trust him and turn up in large numbers.” Insiders reveal that people who attend rave parties could be aged anywhere between 20 and 45, and the majority are from the IT & BT sectors since they are the most cash rich among the younger crowd.

The other big contingent apparently is students, especially engineering students. Many of the party-goers are couples. Sometimes foreign visitors and expatriates also attend these parties, their numbers varying according to the location. “If the party is in Mangalore, the number of foreigners will be more; if it’s at Yelahanka then there will be no foreigners, and if the party is at Goa then there will be only foreigners! In general, five out of every hundred ravers attending a party in the city will be foreigners,” is how Vishnu puts it.

Keeping it secret According to Amit , regular ravers are informed about forthcoming parties through sms, e-mail or through social networking sites, although, given the need for secrecy, word-of-mouth publicity is still preferred. Jeet, another regular at raves, reveals that many of the established organisers maintain a database of people who frequent rave parties, constantly updating them with new entries after every party. Organisers often provide party-goers with ‘secret codes’ to separate their preferred guests from unwanted ones. Amit says, “Sometimes many new people come to the parties, so while regulars are allowed in freely, others are given code words which they must tell the security guards to be allowed inside.

Sometimes, codes are also given to help party-goers find the location. They will be informed by organisers to tell something in code to a particular person waiting in a particular place. Only then would they be given the route and direction to the venue.” He further adds that the party dress itself is used as a code, and only guests who turn up in the ‘right’ attire are allowed in to the party. Rural rave If you thought rave parties were held only in the metros and in hotspots like Goa or Manali, it only means that the ravers have done a good job of covering up some rather unexpected choices of party locations.

For instance, who would have thought that sleepy Hoskote, just outside Bengaluru, would be playing host to wild parties? Or even Shimoga or Mysore? Says Vishnu, “Apart from Gokarna and Hampi which are favourite rave spots especially for foreigners, Mysore and Shimoga too host parties. Near the city, Yelahanka and Hoskote are popular choices because of the isolated locations they offer to party-goers.” He also names popular party spots near Big Banyan Tree, Hebbal, Kanakpura road, Lumbini Gardens and Bannerghatta road.

Prashant, another rave partygoer, said nowadays the trend is for people to organise smaller-scale rave parties in individual houses which are sound-proofed and where one can have a DJ performing without disturbing anyone. Swarup, an engineering student and rave party organiser, said that before organising a party in a private apartment or house inside the city, they visit the place twice or thrice to ensure that it’s safe. “We visit with friends and hang around a few times and see whether it is safe or not and whether anyone complains, and only then do we organise a party there,” he explains.

According to party organisers like Swarup, an organiser needs to have a good network of party-goers as well as drug peddlers, DJs, light and sound technicians and good knowledge of the party venue and surrounding areas. They say that most of the major party organisers have good political connections to bail them out of trouble, and it is not uncommon for the police to know about parties and yet stay away from them. Police version D Devaraj, assistant commissioner of police, Cubbon Park police station, busted two rave parties — at Manchanbele Dam and Big Banyan Tree in 2008 and 2009.

Recalling the scene at the party he busted, Devaraj said, “I have seen people lying on the ground unconscious in scanty clothes, a bunch of condoms lying all around, and so on. But even though we busted the party early, we did not permit the media in until after 11 am; not wanting the kids to be unnecessarily harassed.” He said that 2008 was the peak for luxurious rave parties, and now there are fewer such parties being organised. SV Guled, assistant commissioner of Police in the narcotics wing of CCB (Central Crime Branch) said, “All kind of drugs like charas, ganja, cocaine, heroin, brown sugar, opium, LSD, marijuana etc are available at rave parties.

The cost of the drugs varies from time to time and place to place. Some of these are grown or manufactured in the country, while others are brought in from Bangladesh, Pakistan and other foreign countries.” In Devaraj’s view, rave parties are considered illegal because they go on until late hours, playing loud music past midnight, party-goers are often dressed in scanty clothes, liquor served without permit, and above all due to the availability of drugs banned under NDPS Act. He revealed that the police regularly collect intelligence on rave parties, often monitoring the activities of regular organisers and party-goers, including on internet forums.

While monitoring by the police, and busts like the recent one in Khalapur, might effectively curtail large scale rave parties from being organised, it needs to be remembered that such parties are only one aspect of rave culture, an underground subculture that thrives in private gatherings and online forums, often beyond the reach of the long arm of the law.

‘I still remember dancing on the kitchen slab as a kid’

In Interviews on July 3, 2011 at 1:33 pm

Multitalented artiste Jyotsna Rao knew very early that she was going to be a dancer and choreographer, she tells Sonali Desai

It is one thing to be acclaimed dancer. Quite another to be one who also writes, draws and plays instruments. Jyotsna B Rao, who has won rave reviews for her contemporary dance performances in India and abroad, is all this and more.  

She holds a Diploma in Movement Arts and Mixed Media at Attakkalari Centre for Movement Arts, Bangalore (2006-07), and has also passed the Talavadya senior exams from Bangalore University in tabla. She has also participated in a theatre workshop by New Active Theatre in 1999 and worked in productions with directors like B Jayashri, Suresh Anagalli, Prakash Belawadi, Pramod Chigao, Maltesh Badigere, N Ravi Kumar and R Nagesh. She was invited by the Brouhaha International Street Festival for a 25 days Exchange Programme; and she performed at South Port, Derby Park, Princes Park, Contemporary Urban Centre and Unity Theatre in Liverpool, UK- 2008.

Born in Frazer Town on December 27, 1981, she remembers her childhood as one that revolved around everyday adventures and films. At the age of 14, Jyotsna began dancing with Genesis, a cinematic dance troupe and made a journey through theatre, dance and music to finding herself in contemporary dance. She is also a qualified psychologist, which explains why she choreographed a contemporary dance piece on a theme as unusual as Abraham Maslow’s ‘hierarchy of needs’ theory for Genesis in June 2011. She is currently studying drums and also conducts classes in movement for children at the Core Pilates studio, Koramangala.

Excerpts from the interview:
You began dancing at the age of 14. Did you always dream of becoming a dancer?
I still remember dancing on the kitchen slab as a kid and showing off my moves to my sisters. I was barely five or six years old when I fell in love with dancing, and though it’s been that long I’m still in love with dance. I always wanted to be a choreographer; the idea of creating a dance piece thrilled and fulfilled me.

How would you describe your childhood days?
My childhood revolved around adventure and films. I was a proactive and inquisitive child who loved playing on the streets with friends and often getting into trouble because of the free spirited child I was. I loved games and spent a lot of time with my cousins; watching movies were a popular choice with my family as my aunt and uncle belong to the film industry. We would watch movies at family get togethers and night shows at theatres. In those days, there were drive-in theatres open to the public and I remember vividly watching a Sridevi movie.

You are a qualified psychologist, a tabla player, a theatre artist and a choreographer. How do you manage your time?
Well, I don’t think I do anything to manage my time. I just take each day as it comes. I love doing nothing at times. But the eclecticism adds to the way I think and create my work.

What do your parents have to say about your work today?
They are proud of my choice. My parents saw the premiere of Spirit at National Gallery of Modern Art recently and my mom told me that it was good, but also said that not many people would understand it. So she hinted that I do some popular dancing.

Your interest in dance is very much evident from the number of performances you have had. But, how would you explain your interest in Psychology?
Psychology… for life, I guess, and I apply it in my work as well. I like to find a balance between my academic interest and my profession which is dance. I’ve found a way to combine these two aspects in my work. Recently, I choreographed a contemporary dance piece on Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory with seven dancers. So, consciously I blend the two knowledge systems in my work.

What is your definition of ‘Dance Psychology’?
Research on movement/dance and effective utilisation of psychological principles to find a new movement.

 You are also trained in Kalaripayattu. Tell us more about that.
Kalari derives its name from ‘kalloorika,’ a Sanskrit word that means ‘school.’ Kalari was developed as a science of warfare to train warriors. It is presumed to have originated from different people like Drona and Parashurama as its original teachers. The intention of Kalaripayattu is not fighting but training the body and mind. They say that ‘body is all eyes’ or ‘mey kannaakuka’ in Malayalam. Kalaripayattu can be further classified into northern and southern styles. I trained in the northern style with Dilsagar at Attakkalari and also received instruction from Satyan Gurukkal of CVN Kalari during my training period. Kalaripayattu changed me as a person, my attitude towards life and taught me discipline.

How was your experience of performing abroad?
It’s a wonderful feeling to be travelling to different destinations and performing before a new audience and to connect your performative persona with them. The reactions from audiences have always been overwhelming. After each trip, I checked in a new lesson and a fond memory. It touches me to see the humaneness pervading through art and its transcending power that reaches the hearts of a foreign connoisseur, has made me feel blessed to do my travels.
Tell us more about the workshops that you have conducted so far.
Phew! Workshops to me are a combination of planning, homework and a challenge. I’ve had the opportunity of working with the best movers, fresh attitudes, enthusiasm and variety from 3 to 60 years of age, whether they have been children, teachers, professional dancers, corporate executives or students. Sometimes it is picture perfect and I love each moment of it.

Do you think there is an audience for contemporary dance in Bengaluru? How has been the response so far?
Definitely, I think Bengaluru is growing fast when it comes to contemporary dance with places like NGMA, Alliance Francaise and even KH Kalasoudha in South Bengaluru reaching out to the audience with contemporary performances. However, in comparison to classical dance it is still minimal. In the past, I’ve heard people say, “Chennagittu, but enu artha aaglilla” (It was nice, but I did not understand anything). Now they ask, “Was it about the soul and its journey? Or something spiritual?”

What are your future plans?
I want to continue dancing.

Landscapes as art

In Features on July 3, 2011 at 1:30 pm

Landscape Wizards is an exciting new photography venture that focuses exclusively on the wide and varied landscapes of India

Deepa Mohan

With the advent of digital photography, the techniques of image creation have become very easy; but taking a good photograph still remains an art. In the past few years, several young people of Bengaluru have taken to photography not so much as a hobby as a passion; and the latest among these initiatives is an unusual one: Landscape Wizards.

LW focuses exclusively on landscape photography, featuring the wonderful and varied landscapes that our country offers to both the seasoned traveller and the newbie, and the results are put up on their website.

“Popularising Landscape Photography as an art form and exhibiting to the world that India is not just about tigers and temples was one of the  motives behind the initiative,” says LW’s Shivakumar with a smile. “Most photographers concentrate on wildlife or macro (miniature) subjects,” he says. However, Landscape Wizards website concentrates on eliciting the incredible beauty of Indian landscapes and bringing them to viewers across the globe through the internet.

How did the idea of starting such a website occur?  Says Shivakumar, “All of us on the team share a passion for landscape photography, and that prompted us to jointly start this website. We have been friends for quite a while now, so the shared interest did not really need to be ‘put across’ to anyone. The synergy just happened.”

Apart from Shivakumar, the team consists of Anil K, Ashwini Bhat, Pramod Viswanath, and Sriharsha G. “Each one of us brings his own area of expertise to the team. In that respect we have a fairly balanced team altogether,” says Shiva. “We bring diverse approaches to the table in terms of our expertise, but at the same time we are united by our common passion.”

Is Landscape Wizards planning to add photographers to the team? The team members say that if they really come across some talent which is unique and exceptional, and which would expand the portfolio of the Landscape Wizards team then they might consider an addition, but for the time being it is beyond the scope of their plan of action. “We are more concerned in bringing in quality content to our viewers than expanding the team base,” they point out.

Of course, in conversation with the LW team, the next point that occurs is, is this a commercial venture, or one just followed as a passion? Are there any financial overheads? Shivakumar clarifies: “Landscape Wizards is definitely not something which started off with a money-based motive.” For the team members it is basically an art form which they want to pursue.

However, commercial enquiries/requests are handled by each member of the team under his own initiative. Any venture on the net, feels the team, will have quantifiable overheads either in form of logistics or finance. But the LW team also has a concerted plan of action, apart from individual work and interactions, and so the team-work takes precedence for the most part.

The team sees a bright future ahead for not just Landscape Wizard, but for Indian landscape photography as a whole. Landscape Photography in India, they feel, is a form of photography which is still in its infancy. There is so much diversity in India in terms of its landscapes, as much as in terms of its culture and languages. There is an immense opportunity to make award winning landscape images and propogate these images across the world through the medium of the world wide web.  In this country where nature photography is restricted mainly towards wildlife and bird photography, the LW team like to see themselves as leading landscape photographers and want to position themselves as pioneers in popularising this art form.

The team also believes that they are spreading a message of conservation. Through their images, the Wizards feel that they can make a difference to the attitudes of the people towards Nature. “The natural world is not just another place to litter or a place that people ‘use’ for holidays,” says Shiva intensely. “It’s a place that sustains not just human beings, but various other forms of life.” It’s the inculcation of a feeling of respect towards these forms of life  that, say the LW team, inspired them to come up with this project.


‘Make me beautiful’

In Editions on July 1, 2011 at 12:05 pm

The city’s liberal night life is bringing forth a new breed of party animal – weekend male cross-dressers – and many of them lead ‘normal’ lives as well-to-do professionals. A report by Chetana Belagere & Manju Shettar.

Chetana Belagere & Manju Shettar
It’s Saturday night. Forty-year-old software engineer Dipith Saxena can’t wait for them to see his beautiful bright pink saree with the traditional blouse and jewellery set. He rushes to a parlour on Brigade Road where a young attendant is waiting to transform him into a woman, to make him look ‘beautiful.’ Mr Saxena is one among an increasingly open group of men in Bengaluru who indulge in their desire to cross dress as women and come out of the closet during weekends.
Apart from a liberal pub culture which welcomes male cross-dressers as colourful additions to the crowd, the relative safety and anonymity of the Internet has acted as catalysts for this new breed of ‘weekend cross-dressers’ who no longer hesitate to pursue their fantasy to ‘become’ women openly. What’s more, cross-dressing even seems to have become something of a trend, something that the most ‘cool’ and fashionable people do.

Any wannabe cross-dresser who visits the many online forums for male cross-dressers in Bengaluru would find them easily accessible and supportive. Taken together, online groups for male cross-dressers in the city have some 350 members between them who regularly share their desires and needs and often meet in the real world. Though most of
them would like to dress up secretively, there are a few bold ones who openly declare their enjoyment in dressing up in women’s attire.

Why cross-dressing
According to Radha Rani, whose real name is Mayank Sharma, and works as a professor in a reputed research institute: “There are multiple reasons you’ll find men in dresses. A small fraction are entertainers; some are young people demonstrating rebellion. A few cross-dress as a sexual fetish while others cross-dress to be outrageous. But the overwhelming majority of cross-dressers do so for another reason entirely – self expression.” He says the demand for cross-dressing is so high that there are several young men in Bengaluru alone who have taken up cross-dressing as their part-time business. They set up small parlours within their homes and charge a certain amount to customers who are interesting in bringing their desire out of the closet.

Dr Rajesh Menon, another cross-dresser from the city agrees, saying, “There are many unisex parlours around Jayanagar, Brigade Road, Koramangala and Indiranagar which entertain such men and also have hired people exclusively for catering to cross-dressers. They even have accessories which can be rented out for a day and have to be returned after careful use.”
A drag queen speaks
Adam Pasha (28 years old) is one of the few such professional cross-dressers who are openly so, and is well-known for it. Speaking about his early experiences, Pasha says, “I started to cross-dress when I was 18 and my first time experience was horrible. I didn’t
shave my legs and my clothes were too loose and I felt very awkward. Slowly I learnt everything and now I have my own wardrobe.”

Pasha admits that it was difficult for him in the beginning. “I didn’t get the support of my parents but my elder sisters supported me but even they wouldn’t help when I had to dress up.” Pasha is a drag queen who goes by the stage name of ‘Emprissxara’ and often ends up giving fashion tips to fellow cross-dressers. He says he sources his costumes
from abroad and sometimes in India. He has lived in Bangkok for four years, when he used to train aspiring cross-dressers and also did many stage performances.

He says that back in Bengaluru, “I wear normal clothers like a man at my workplace and cross-dress if I go to a disco or clubs. People have begun accepting me now. I invest more time in choosing my costume and jewellery, slippers and other accessories. I won an award when I walked the ramp at the Bangalore Queer Film Festival,” he says, adding
proudly, “I am one of the celebrities in the city.”

Another cross-dresser Noori, a 40-year-old project manager in a private company, says, “I started to cross-dress in my school days and I used to be scared to wear all these costumes and learnt everything while watching my sisters. In the beginning it was difficult but when you have learnt it, it will become easy. I have been cross-dressing
for a year now. I like to wear a sari when I am with my friends.”

Pasha explains that it is very difficult for an Indian man to carry off cross-dressing. Along with guts, it needs some fashion sense. He says, “Indian cross-dressers don’t maintain their fitness and they don’t have a proper colour sense. They just wear normal clothes and
are not choosy either. They are also conservative. Most of the cross-dressers are not highly educated and they usually don’t come out to show their desire because of family restrictions. So they hide it and have fun by themselves when they are alone.”

Cross-dressing myths
Samyukth Rao, a software professional with Infosys and weekend cross-dresser, says there are many myths around cross-dressing. People tend to believe that men who wear dresses are homosexuals. But that’s not true, he says. “Most cross-dressers are strictly heterosexual. Even though gay drag queens are among the most visible (and most
outrageous, bordering on vulgar) men in dresses, the proportion of gays among cross-dressers is the same small percentage as in the rest of society. Speaking of percentages, it’s estimated that 5 percent of all men are closet (secret) cross-dressers.”
Also, the other myth is that ‘cross-dressers seek sexual partners’. But the fact is that while females sometimes use clothing to signal sexual availability, most of the time a woman’s attire is simply a personal expression of attitude and style. It’s the same with
cross-dressers, say the insiders.

Interestingly, according to the Cross dresssers Forum, not all cross-dressers are sissies. They go under categories such as rangers, snipers, Navy, law enforcement officers, firefighters, foundry workers, millwrights, test pilots, and even a rocket scientist
(really) according to their tastes and needs.
Cross-dressers seem to gravitate toward ‘macho’ professions, perhaps in denial of their emerging gender expression, says Rao. Dikshit Mishra, a marketing executive who takes his wife’s help to dress up as a woman whenever he wishes to, says, “Modern psychology accepts that cross-dressing is an expression of personality which is as immutable as left-handedness. Any problems cross-dressers may develop are in reaction to social stigma, prejudice, and bigotry — not disorder. Social judgment is not a valid basis upon which to regard human idiosyncrasies as mental disorders.”

Also, the belief that cross-dressers are perverts is a misunderstanding and the result of media driven stereotypes (Psycho, Silence of the Lambs, Horror Picture Show, etc.) and is not based on fact, he points out.

According to these forums, cross-dressing is not illegal. A statement on one such forum reads: “With the possible exception of a few ancient and largely unenforcable disguise ordinances, people are free to wear whatever fashion and style of clothing they choose and cannot be compelled by authorities to restrict their apparel to gender-specific
attire, else women wouldn’t be seen in pantsuits, jeans, T-shirts, etc.”

Nothing new
Citing the historical evidence for cross-dressing, Rao refers to Arjuna, who dressed as a woman to ‘become’ Brihannala during the last year of the Pandavas’ exile. While he was a bit upset — being cursed by the apsara Urvashi after he had rebuffed her advances and was turned into a ‘kliba’ (man who dressed and behaved as a woman) — it was Krishna who told him the advantages of cross-dressing.
The Mahabharata says that Arjuna, wearing red silk, long hair and bangles as Brihannala, hid his masculine glory without eclipsing it, “like Ketu covering the full moon.” Also, cross-dressing gets its biggest support in the Hindu tradition from Lord Krishna himself, who regularly wore Radha’s earrings, skirt,  blouse and shawl — while his belle donned his clothes — peacock-feathered crown and flute included.
Men dressing up like women and women dressing up like men isn’t something restricted to the champagne-sodden decadence of the 1920s Berlin of Marlene Dietrich. It’s also traditionally part and parcel of the ‘sakhi-bekhi’ cult of Vaishnavism.

These contemporary Brihannalas and Krishnas say those who want to dismiss cross-dressing as a passing fad would do well to learn their mythology and brush up their history.

Some of the websites offering cross-dressing tips are:

Cross dressing in history
Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo is an all-male dance troupe that combines dance, cross-dressing, and comedy to both parody and celebrate classical ballet.
Drag artist Lady Bunny de Chevalier d’Éon (1728-1810) was the most famous transvestite of the eighteenth century. The French diplomat and soldier lived the first half of his life as a man and the second as a ‘woman’.
Divine (Harris Glenn Milstead, 1945-1988) was a versatile character actor, nightclub singer, and international cult star who generally performed his stage show and movie roles in drag. He became famous through his appearances in John Waters’ films.

Kabuki is a classic Japanese theatrical form incorporating fantastical costumes, stylised gestures, music, and dance. Kabuki originally showcased female and boy prostitutes, but now features all-male casts.

Magnus Hirschfeld (1868-1935) was a pioneering German activist and sexologist. A cross-dresser himself, Hirschfeld coined the term “transvestite.”
Miguel de Molina (1908-1993) reinvented the Spanish flamenco performance, but his open homosexuality and gender-bending stage persona provoked hostile reactions that plagued his career.

José Peréz Ocaña (1947-1983) was a fixture on the counter-cultural scene in Barcelona in the 1970s. The Spanish drag performer and painter was the subject of a milestone film in Spanish cinema by gay director Ventura Pons.