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  • Writer's pictureHina Siddiqui

Queer Lives: Season 1 | Episode 3

Updated: Mar 11, 2022

Before you jump in, I do want to point out that we talk some pretty heavy stuff - surviving abuse, suicidal ideation, anxiety attacks, hospitalization and trauma. So if any of this triggers you, you may want to reconsider before you proceed. Also, if you need help with any of these situations in India, please do reach out to:

9922004305 | 9922001122 (Lines open daily from 12 pm to 8 pm)

1life Helpline (24x7 Suicide Prevention & Crisis Support)


Operation Peacemaker: Domestic Violence Helpline

1800 212 9131

Aks Foundation (24x7 Crisis Line)

8793 088 814

College was a stupid time. I mean, no less stupid than any other time, but in retrospect, youth often seems like the stupidest of all times.

It was the year 2005 (give or take). I had just had my heart broken by the realization that my family was too poor to support my academic ambitions of going to the UK to get a degree in biomedical engineering.

Side-Note: Biotech was quite the buzzword in India back then. I suppose the industry had just begun to boom or something. Till I was in school, I was quite set on becoming a genetic engineer. I am pretty sure now that I only chose that because no one had heard of it. But then I read an article on Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw and shifted focus to biotech. There were very few programmes for that line of study back then and I was convinced that getting to do degrees abroad was a matter of intellect and not inheritance. Like I said, stupid times.

Unable to do what I wanted, and unable to express what was really frustrating me - I ended up spending a lot of my time sulking (not skulking) around at Nowrosjee Wadia College - where I had attended junior college and where my then close friend Prerna was doing her graduate degree in arts. All the teachers in the English Department knew both of us as the theatre kids. And so I somehow ended up being roped into the annual production (or something close enough to be called as such) with actually being a student. I believe it was there that I met Shruti.

It’s not like we had this unbreakable bond. We were friends, yes. But I hardly knew what friendship meant. But I always felt like Shruti was a star. She was cool. She was so smart. She read. She was a prize-winning Model UN delegate. She was the President of our Rotaract Club. She was someone I learned a lot shit from. I remember three distinct moments.

  1. When we were rehearsing for the play, one particularly obnoxious rich brat kept teasing her for her skin colour and the fact that she came from a small town. I said nothing. But when Shruti clapped back and explained to us why she did it, it was the first time I recognized patterns of bullying in what I till then considered normal teasing among friends.

  2. We were debate partners once. I spoke first and completely bungled the thing because of over-confidence and what not. And I remember sitting on the chair on stage during the rebuttal, when we were suppose to ask questions in a time-limit. And I bungled that too asking rhetorical questions and having the opposing team just eat my time answering them. And when Shruti came up for the rebuttal and just stood there and said she had no questions, but pitied her opponents for having the views they had. I don’t think I have ever seen anyone cooler than what Shruti was in that moment. I legit taught this strategy for years as a communication skills and drama teacher.

  3. We met one time, in a bookstore, just before she was due to graduate - I had dropped out of college that year - and she was talking to me about her situation and her choices and I kept giving her advice. And she stopped me and told me that sometimes, people just need someone to listen, not solve their problems. That was my first lesson in being a good listener. One I keep close to my heart, even today.

Shruti still remains one of the coolest people I know. I mean, just look at her!

Shruti Sharada - Sharada is her mum’s name - a change that she made a few years ago when presenting herself - is a Queer Feminist Writer, Editorial Strategist, and Gender-based Violence Activist based in Bengaluru. She is a former journalist and community media-person, and advocates passionately for mental health awareness and disability inclusion - something we talk about a lot during our conversation. She has been winning awards ever since I have known her. The latest was during the pandemic, where her piece, The Sexual Violence Of Flashing, And The Problem With Saying, "It Could Have Been Worse!" won the National Laadli Media Award in 2020. A gem of a line from the article: Sexual assault and trauma are not competitive games that have medals attached to them depending on performance.

Shruti and me had a whole lot of ground to cover and a certain amount of catching up to do. In fact, after I stopped recording, we went on talking for another couple of hours. What? That happens between friends. So, for your listening convenience, I have broken down Shruti’s conversation into 2 parts of about 45-50 mins each. You can listen to them one after the other or save one for when you are having one of those days. And if I have to make a recommendation, I suggest that you listen to Part 2 from start to finish, if you can.

The entire conversation has been uploaded on to YouTube as one video though. I do recommend watching the video for this one (again, not edited, since no skill-set). You’ll get to see the points where Shruti starts banging the table to emphasize her points and then you won't have to wonder what those banging noises I couldn’t edit out of the audio (again, skill-set, what are you gonna do?) are.

Now then, here are the key moments from both parts of the conversation:

Part 1 | 07:25 | All is not Well

Shruti talks about growing up in an abusive household and how the atmosphere cloistered her. And then she got to college in a new city, where the layers began to peel off.

Part 1 | 21:07 | Strength and Normalcy

Shruti pushes back when I ask her what strength means to her and how appearing normal is far easier than accepting that you are not. She then goes on to talk about her struggles with anxiety and depression, living the single life with her mother and how an uneventful day is so beautiful.

Part 1 | 35:51 | Job Hunting

Shruti talks about her current search for a job and lessons learned from the trauma of working in a toxic workplace. This is an incredibly important section for anyone out there looking to verify the values and offerings of a workplace they may be applying to.

Part 1 | 50:00 | Work

We wrap up part 1 of this episode with a few more details about Shruti’s professional life. She talks to me about how she started off in the corporate sector and then grew to be an award-winning writer and communications specialist in the Development Sector. Some good career advice here for anyone looking to start off work with NGOs.

Part 2 | 02:29 | Privilege

Shruti talks about how the development sector can become a toxic space and why sometimes one needs to assert their privilege to make a change.

Part 2 | 16:10 | Queer Awakening

We talk about Shruti’s slow questioning and uncovering of her identity, why she uses the term queer to describe herself and what her amma thought about it.

Part 2 | 31:07 | Prompt

Shruti’s prompt is a question, one that should provoke some deep thinking if you’re up for it. You can hear her explain it in the episode, but her question is: What was one thing that you never really thought of as being a privilege but later realized it was a privilege?

Part 2 | 33:17 | Caregiving is Bonkers

We talk about Shruti’s mother - her recent hospitalization and how the fact that they are both survivors can often cause their anxieties and traumas to clash. Shruti gives us a rundown of the guilt she carries, but then she also talks about the joys and hopeful moments of their lives together.

At one point I asks Shruti what book she is currently reading and though she said Jeffery Archer, the very next day she messaged me to correct that to John Grisham. Here’s a picture of the book, just so we all know what it was. And a few more images of tranquillity and beauty from her home.

And finally, if you are or know queer people who’d like to talk about their Queer Lives, with me, please do get in touch with me over social media or send me a message here.

That’s it for now. Hope to see you next time for more Queer Lives.

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1 comentario

Shruti Sharada
Shruti Sharada
09 mar 2022

Yayyy! Love you, Hina, and loove this project! Was an absolute pleasure speaking with you, because I knew I could be myself, warts and heartburn and all! 🌦️

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