Rishikant | 01
Mahir tells the story of Rishikant, a young queer artist from Mumbai. He explores how life a queer person has been for Rishikant. How they discovered their own queer identity, and how they defied societal norms to follow their heart.
In the end, Mahir writes an endearing poem, exclusively for Rishikant.
Mahir's Instagram: instagram.com/mahirkxpoor
Rishikant's Instagram: instagram.com/doodleophile
Hi! From MotorMouth Podcasts, I’m Mahir and this is Queer’s The Word, a show where I reach out to LGBTQ+ folks and bring to you their stories, experiences and everything queer.
Today, for the first episode, I decided to speak to someone who has directly contributed their share of work to this show. The extremely detailed and fabulously poignant cover art for Queer’s The Word, that you can see on your screens right now, was designed by them. Today, we talk about this 20 year old student of architecture from Mumbai, for this is the story of Rishikant. Their preferred pronouns are they/them.
For a young artist growing up in suburban India, exposure played a significant role in Rishi’s understanding of their identity. As a child, being introduced to stereotypical representation of the LGBTQ+ community including but not limited to the incorrect portrayal of queerness as a mere comedic device did have an impact. It made them believe that being queer was wrong or it’s an identity that mustn’t exist. Isn’t that why they’re making fun of it? This had them repress their true, most authentic self for years – until it was time to address the elephant in the room. They said they had to bring down the barriers and stop pretending. But what prompted that?
New to social media, a 16-17-year-old Rishi would often come across queer pages that had people sharing their personal stories and incidents from their daily lives. They said that when you are growing up, you’re exposed to so many things. Not just the queer community but human rights and politics and you’re often told that certain things aren’t normal. But being the empathetic child that they were, when they read these stories they were like I don’t know these people seem pretty normal to me. And soon they realised, that their stories weren’t very dissimilar after all.
And that’s how positive representation began to have an impact on them. One of the first queer movies they watched was the 2018, Nick Robinson starrer Love, Simon and while they agree that the movie is far from perfect, for a teenager it was an eye opener that gave them hope.
From talking about representation of the community, we went on to talk about how Rishi chooses to represent themself and their queerness. The answer, was a loud, immediate, and an unapologetic – art.
Rishi had always been a huge fan of Frida Kahlo and her work. And when they started reading about her personal life and the letters she’d written they realised she wasn’t straight. And that then led them to read about her thoughts on sexuality and gender and politics and the intersectionality of them all. That led to another journey of self-discovery.
Art had constantly been such an integral part of their lives. At a young age they were able to learn things that probably people much older than them weren’t very good at and that made them stand out. People would often give them a special status of being someone who made excellent pieces of art and that was extremely uplifting. But on the flip side, it wasn’t something people would take seriously. They would be told to be selective towards the time they’d devote to creating art. They’d be told to engage in sports and other traditionally masculine outdoor activities. But a young Rishi was adamant when they said “No, I want to stay home and make art.”
Because art was their safe space. For even if they weren’t masculine enough for society, even if they weren’t social enough to easily make friends, art was where they could be themself and also be whatever they want to be. And nobody could stop them.
As we further talked about the intersection of art and queerness, we stumbled upon one word that stuck – fluidity. The concept of gender fluidity is relatively newer to Rishikant themself, but they believe it’s of utmost importance for people to be aware of the fact that gender is fluid and beyond the binary. According to Rishi, concluding that you don’t fit into the presumed binary of gender can be wonderful and euphoric but at the same time, it can also be devastating to realise that you’ve been lying to yourself this whole time. For them, it’s like a painful and a beautiful thing at the same time as you feel a certain relief in unburdening yourself and in just letting go.
Rishi said to me, “If I wake up tomorrow and feel that I don’t even like men anymore or perhaps it’s simply impossible for me to fall in love I’d yet be completely at peace with myself because I have understood what it means to be fluid or at least I’m understanding it. And so I think relating oneself with art and talking about being at one with art in terms of fluidity really begins to make sense. Because we, as individuals, keep changing. Similarly, in an artwork when you make a mistake or when there is something you don’t really like you cover it up with another layer of paint and you do it till it looks beautiful to you. You just need to put in the colours that you feel are appropriate for you control your narrative, you paint your own artwork.”
On the other side of the break, I will be sharing with you a short poem I’ve written to commemorate Rishi’s fabulous queerness.
Welcome back! This is Queer’s The Word from MotorMouth Podcasts, I’m Mahir and today, we’re talking about Rishikant and there were a few things that they said to me and they really, really struck a chord. They’ve stayed with me.
They believe that “there isn’t acceptance without awareness” and I couldn’t agree more. Of course awareness isn’t an overnight task and it’s something that eventually must infiltrate each facet society, from primary education to large scale awareness programs in popular media. I’d like to think that things are changing, but it doesn’t help when a mainstream movie casts a cis-gendered man to play the role of a trans person.
Another thing that Rishi told me was how art kept them going even when they felt like an outcast. And that led us to discuss that when you don’t conform to the gender and sexuality that society expects you to, you want to go to a place where you feel accepted and where you feel at home. Art has always been an arena that has brought people together irrespective of their background and that is something Rishi and I both related to. And I really hope that art, be it in any shape or form, continues to be a place of repose for the queer community. Because I know so many people who identify as LGBTQ+ and are artistic geniuses, and that is something that needs to be nurtured and empowered.
With that being said, it’s now time for me to share with you a short poem I’ve written exclusively for our person of the day Rishikant.
streams of olive and ochre
meander for miles until they
brush pressed against canvas,
a portrait sans resemblance,
faded through decades of evolution
but what stayed
was sheltering her eyes
a stroke of dark, unbroken
for her unibrow sang verses of
self-expression and emancipation
and each lock of luscious hair
was to birth children
when the sun and rain exchanged vows;
and of the young prodigies
the one she’d cherish the most –
Thank you for listening to this episode of Queer’s The Word.
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You can find music and other credits in the episode notes.
This episode was written and hosted by me, Mahir.
Sound production, design and mixing by Prateek Sharma.
Our show cover art is designed by Rishikant.
Our Creative Director is Gargie Sharma and this show is
Executive produced and created by Prateek Sharma, for MotorMouth Podcasts.