Kolkata, May 8: Festooned in fairy lights, far from the prying and judging eyes of the public, cafe “Amra Odbhuth” (We are Queer) provides space to the LGBTQ community members here to get together over platters of food and celebrate their identities.
What started out as a pop-up and the need for a meeting space to discuss issues and furnish a platform for queer reading and performances sans censorship, has become a movement of sorts to reclaim the word “Odbhuth” (queer in Bengali).
“Amra Odbhuth” in a renovated family home in south Kolkata, has branded itself “as a space where queer and trans voices get together, laugh, perform and celebrate identities.”
The unique cafe-collective movement was started by Upasana, Nandini Moitra, Raina Roy and Kallol Guha.
“There aren’t a lot of queer friendly spaces in the city. We just wanted to share our experiences and connect with each other, outside activism and NGO spaces. We wanted to have a concrete, physical space outside online forum. Since food culture is big in Kolkata, people always love to get together over food,” one of the founders told IANS.
The cafe-collective, more of an extension of an idea to break away and start something new, also resonates with Nobel laureate poet Rabindranath Tagore’s famous verse “Amra nutan joubaneri doot, amra chaanchol, amra odbhuth, amra bera bhangi, amra ashok bone, ranga neshay rang”.
In English it translates into “We are heralds of youth, we are restless, we are unique, we break down barriers and sway to the forest’s intoxication.”
Although it is not operational on a regular basis, the cafe comes up with rotational menus aligned with its events: queer art meet, evening of poetry with performance artist Alok Vaid-Menon and screenings.
It also unveiled a full-fledged traditional Bengali menu for the Poila Baisakh celebration last month.
Apart from the regular coffee, the popular foods here are basil ham cheese grilled sandwich, bacon salad and mandarin mojito (non-alcoholic).
The founders have expansive plants for the space, though funding is a pressing issue.
The cafe is also open to non-LGBTQ members as long as “they respect boundaries”. Some of the other house rules include a no-alcohol policy since the cafe is smack bang in the middle of a residential area.
“The concept is to ensure the members of the community feel comfortable and are able to enjoy art, cinema and performances without being judged,” the co-founder added.