I Don’t Want to Sleep Alone

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A dialogue between photographs and poetry that explores everyday details of queer life in Bangalore—of stories told, deception, misplaced love, lust and loneliness.
Photographer Akshay Mahajan and performance poet Joshua Muyiwa’s collaborative project on the intimately personal in a new Indian urbanscape emerged from nearly a year of conversation, drinking and too many cigarettes

The poet wrote a line that got lost in a bad poem: ‘Loneliness clings like a wet T-shirt’. 

The Poet met the Photographer. Their furtive conversations at watering holes over cheap whisky, words between punctuating drags of cigarettes, and post-ganja confessions in bedrooms all served to tease out nuggets of stories around them: the thin-waisted boy’s carelessly applied kohl to seduce, the overpowering desire to situate stories of queer-desiring bodies in the technicolour dreams of Abrar Alvi’s Sahib Biwi Aur Ghulam or Kamal Amrohi’s Pakeezah, and their own cleverly-crafted stories of past lovers. Afternoons that began on leather sofas raging about meter-tampering auto-drivers turned into spilling anecdotes of blowjobs on rexine seats, then into Catholic confessions of masturbation, which turned into techniques on giving hand jobs. There was even some slipping into characters from cinema—Paro’s mother from Devdas while crossing the road, or Chandramukhi when it worked better. It seemed the Poet and Photographer had learnt to play the game of the queer, where real life is cinematic, it is artifice. The artifice does peel, though—in allowing for touch, not always sexual, but to confirm presence. The artifice in sometimes wetting the end of the cigarette so the other would complain. Gambits, all, not to sleep alone, even for one night.