Editorial, May 2008
When we floated the idea of a humour issue last year, there was much initial excitement. “About time we had a few laughs,” some people murmured approvingly. “We’d love to contribute!” others declared. And so we sent out the call letter for submissions, and waited for the flood to begin. At first there was nothing, then a trickle, then…nothing. “I can’t think of anything funny!” wailed the friends who had promised to write. And some fellow dykes asked plaintively, “But what can we say about humour?” Queery Godmother help us!
Anyhow, we knocked our heads together and wrote a second letter which we called Last Ditch Attempt at Humour (reproduced in full here, as an admonition to all those who swore to write but never did). We were just about to call the whole thing off and switch, in desperation, to some suitably serious topic like Do You Know What Your Girlfriend Did Last Summer? but decided, instead, to hold an in-house writing workshop to see if we could outwit ourselves. LOL and behold, TWO collective pieces emerged from this Sunday afternoon exercise! But I Thought It Was So Romantic! is a mock-rueful remembrance of things all of us used to consider romantic once upon a time; The Lihaaf Updates is a tribute to Ismat Chughtai’s famous Urdu short story Lihaaf with our own renditions of experiences under the quilts.
Suddenly there was laughter in the air, or at least in cyberspace, and at last they came pouring in — the cartoons and poems and anecdotes and even a whole (if rather hole-some) manifesto! So what you hold in your hands, dear reader, is a riot of madness — the good sort, which keeps you sane, rather like certain polyunsaturated fats keep you ticking longer. And we are proud to say that many of our hopes and predictions have come true!
For instance, it is perfectly possible to look back on painful experiences and see their funny side, deprecating them as Filmy Hai Bhai. It is salutary to make fun of the stereotypes that demean or reduce us, like in the cartoon strip that “reveals” how all lesbians are really converted to the cause by aliens. It’s gratifying to be able to be gently ironical about parental homophobia as in Of the Colour Red… or superbly satirical about social pretensions as in Aamchi Chingi Lesbian Jhaali. It’s fascinating to retell fairytales in a queer way, like Cinderfella does. It’s pertinent to wax poetic even as you laugh at yourself over romances that didn’t happen, witness At the Udipi and Of Wasted Moments, or revel in the very happening lesbian sex of Finding the G Spot. And it’s terrific to triumph in The Lesbian Takeover after a long history of being sidelined in academic-feminist circles.
There’s so much more that’s witty and wise in these pages — everything from arranged marriage attempts, futuristic foibles and tampon terrors to Vedantins and very strange noodles. Yes, certain kinds of horror do inhibit laughter, but even the Lihaaf poem that revisits the sombre mood post the carnage in Gujarat has its own black humour.
An appropriate moment to remind our friends, far or near, straight or queer, that while we at LABIA never take ourselves too seriously to luxuriate in the lighter side of leading lesbian lives, we also do a lot of SERIOUS THINGS that we believe are VERY IMPORTANT. See the photo below, and the conference report at the end of this issue. We are, of course, hoping you get that far, which you no doubt will, if only you manage to keep from laughing out loud in class, rolling in the aisles on trains or giggling inappropriately while your girlfriend is having a root canal done — just go in and hold her hand, if you know what’s good for you, and hope that the fellow in the waiting room who will promptly steal your copy of Scripts ends up wishing he had never been born a heterosexual male…’coz queer wimmin have all the fun J
Till dykedom come,
Smriti (for the LABIA editorial team)