They say that people learn who they are by the images of themselves, by seeing fellows that share similar identities to them. I believe this is exactly one reason why it’s so important to have representation that instil hope and are positive.
On July 15th, I attended the book launch of Ramesh Sayan’s ANTAR in Kathmandu. His latest book ANTAR is a coming-of-age story that follows Shabda’s journey from high-school to pursuing his higher studies in Kathmandu. This is that period in life for many where they navigate school, relationships, parents, passion; Shabda is no different. His journey just happens to see him discovering his sexuality; his slow realisation that he is indeed physically and emotionally attracted to men and not women. Of course, things at this age are never clear as water.
Many gay boys and men have been in that journey… the phase of “going with the flow”, phase of having a girlfriend just to make sure questions don’t pop up constantly from friends. Shabda is no different. Similarly, Shabda is also no different to the many people who are challenged by their self-discovery.
When I was informed about the book and theme that it revolved around, I informed the publisher that I would only attend the launch if I actually liked it. Though the beginning is slow to start off with, I enjoyed reading about Shabda’s growth as a person and him navigating between Aman and Anuja. For some of us, that pull between the two genders at that age is something very relatable. Writer Sayan does this very well.
The powerful ending of the book, the image that Shabda presents to the world is where I saw myself. It is the type of representation I hope we put out more in society, whether through mediums of books, films or music. The final chapter made it easy for me to say ‘yes’ to the book launch. The reality for many maybe tough and that deserves space too; to bring the nuances of why it’s tough being gay, or coming from an LGBTIQ+ population – why there is vast difference in experience within the LGBTIQ+ population. Equally, it’s important to have powerful characters and representation in books and films too!
We are not just someone teased at constantly with no agency or command. That can be part of our journey but our characters also deserve a triumphant end where they unlock the next stage, win that award or simply be an ordinary gay guy who is finally happy to have chosen himself and his happiness. That sometimes is enough.
ANTAR is out now!