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  • Writer's pictureHina Siddiqui

Queer Lives: Season 1 | Episode 6

Updated: Jul 29, 2022

Content Warnings: Brief mentions of alcoholism in the section between 11 and 18 minutes into the episode.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the nature of online relationships. Of all the people I recorded with for this season of Queer Lives, Shruti was the only person I knew beforehand. Everyone else I connected to online only. And that’s how it’s been for most of us since this pandemic hit, hasn’t it? We’ve moved to work remotely, hanging out with friends online and doing so many things that most of us never considered virtual options for.

What’s been really precious for me though is just the sheer warmth and connection I have felt with people online. Whether it’s a WhatsApp conversation or a voice call on Google, or just through the various shenanigans one experiences on Discord. It is no longer important to know names, or see faces (though that does make communication harder for me, but I can definitely just listen to people’s voices) or even understand where people come from to be able to make friends, care deeply and forge a bond.

When I think about Raga, this is what shines foremost in my mind - a kind person, someone I contacted out of the blue, who took the time to respond despite differing timezones, someone who continues to check in with me even weeks and months after our recording was done.

Raga D’Silva was born in Mumbai and currently splits her time between Mumbai and London. She has worked for over 25 years in advertising and marketing in India, New Zealand, Australia, UK Singapore, the Middle East, Hong Kong, China and Malaysia.

She is the co-founder of Speaking Minds - a leading international speakers’ agency. With a focus on India, Raga’s vision is to share skilled knowledge through such initiatives and by making available cutting-edge content as well as thought leaders, industry experts, game changers, and motivational and inspirational speakers. You can read more about her entrepreneurial journey in the book Leading Ladies: Inspiring Stories of Women Who Found Their Purpose with Passion written by Rohini Rathour.

Raga also actively advocates for more visibility and inclusion for the LGBTQIA++ community in India. She is the host of the YouTube series - Coming Out Stories from India - an archive of conversations with out and proud members of the Indian queer community like Prince Manvendra Singh Gohil, culinary expert Rukshana A. Kapadia and mythologist and author Devdutt Patnaik.

Her first book - published when she turned 50 - was her way of coming out to the world and telling her story as she feels it. We talk more about Untold Lies in the episode.

My conversation with Raga was an incredibly cozy affair. There was a resonance - the shared experience of growing up in poverty and then figuring out ways to be oneself. And a sense of safety and straightforwardness.

Here is the full conversation on YouTube.

Here are the key moments from both parts of the conversation.

2:37 | “I came out at 50”

Raga starts off with the story of her teenage years, back when “gay” meant being happy. We recount the caricaturish, comedic behaviour associated with queer people in movies and TV. She moves on to her adult life and talks about her marriage, how it ended, and the traumatic circumstances under which she was outed.

22:59 | Self-sabotage

Raga talks about her illustrious career in advertising in India, building her way to the top, and how her “self-sabotage” prevented her from staying at the top for too long. We talk about trauma, and how having a difficult life could be a reason for one’s mind to not function efficiently outside of difficult circumstances.

32:42 | Children don’t judge

We get back to talking about her family, and life after her separation. Raga talks about her "magical" relationship with her children, and their responses to Raga and her ex-husband seeing other people. She recounts being ostracized by her friends and family following their separation, for various reasons. We dive into the story of Raga and her partner, Nicola.

48:53 | Don’t talk about it

We discuss the influence of family dynamics in Western culture on the Millennial generation of Indians, and how the same concept of openness and communication doesn’t sit the same with our parents, but how each generation does better than the previous at communicating. We talk about the classic silent treatment, or sometimes emotional blackmail we get from our mums and other behaviours that are unique to Indian mothers.

1:09:06 | Advice for the workplace

Raga advises us on the importance of taking our “whole self” to work, meaning living our truth. This is easier said than done since troubles from non-work-related affairs tend to take over our lives. But it's important to continue to show up as your whole self, no matter how hard it gets. This way, communication is formed on the basis of transparency and is the best way to show up to work.

1:10:03 | Prompt

“Love is important, but respect, being a good listener, is more important.” With this, Raga implores us to be good listeners when someone talks to us, or comes out to us, try to understand them, and not make it about ourselves.

Follow Raga

Creative Credits:

Podcast Music: Don’t Make Assumptions by Makaih Beats, sourced from the Free Music Archive used under the Creative Commons License.

Video Editing: Karan Ahuja

Research and Writing: Sanjana Arun

Photography Credits:

All pictures shared with permission from Raga D'Silva

Post Script

I started Queer Lives as a way to find role models for myself. To help me roadmap a life that is beyond the cis-het-amatonormative reality presented to us as the only option. And frankly to stop being terrified of a miserable future that I was considered myself doomed to.

After 6 episodes over six months and nearly fifteen hours of recorded conversation and oral history - I think I have gotten what I needed from Queer Lives. At least from this version of it. I do want to continue building my personal archive of queer lived experience from around the world, but I am now thinking of different ways to do it. To build on what this podcast is and leverage my transmedia approaches to make new ways of engaging with source materials and human narrative. So for now, this ends the first season of Queer Lives with Hina Siddiqui.


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