Priyadarshini Chitrangada's poems and photos tell a thousand stories

Shachi Lavingia
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Priyadarshini Chitrangada, Sappho for Equality, Content creator, photographer

We spoke to Priyadarshini Chitrangada about their poems, where they get their inspiration from, and here's what they had to say.

Over the years, we've seen one social media platform after the other that came to be and quickly faded before the less tech-savvy really had a chance to understand them. While Instagram started off as a platform to showcase photos, we didn't realize that each of these photos would come with a back story that could make a difference, bring about change and help us fight the system with just photographs and words instead of swords. Today, it's safe to say that a lot of us feel a sense of belonging on Instagram simply because it's a place where one feels heard. Nothing makes you feel like a community more than coming across people who reflect your thoughts and coming across profiles like @queeringtheframe aka Priyadarshini Chitrangada who leave you with food for thought via their photos and words.

Priyadarshini (She/They) is a 24-year-old queer lesbian non-binary individual. They are currently working as a Junior Program Officer with Sappho for Equality. They are a social worker, writer, and an activist. They love to take photographs of the world around them and wish to work for LGBTQIA+ rights for as long as they live. We spoke to Priyadarshini about what inspires their content, their work at Sappho for Equality, and their ongoing fundraiser.

Here's what they had to say!

What inspired you to be a writer? What genre do you cover on your blog?

I began writing when I was very young. I used to attend creative writing classes at school but I wasn't that great at poetry until I started writing about my queer desires back in 9th grade. That was the beginning of my journey as a poet. I could write about myself through my poems even though I was in the closet at the time. The poems were never dedicated to any particular individual but they carried deep and heavy emotions. I never shared them with anyone for a very long time. So yeah, my queerness inspired me to be a writer. I usually write about queer issues and my experiences as a queer person. A lot of my poetry is born out of the love that has been given to me and the love that I have been denied, of surviving sexual assault, intimate partner violence, marginalization, invisibilisation, and queer joy. Apart from poetry, I write opinion pieces through a queer feminist lens on various platforms - mostly citizen journalist platforms like Youth ki Awaaz and Feminism in India.

Being a writer and photographer - do these help you express yourself?

I am not a professional photographer i.e. it is not a source of income for me. I record people, emotions, and freeze moments just the way they are. I rarely tamper with my subjects. All my friends are used to me taking my camera out and click pictures of them during daily conversations while drinking coffee while cooking or maybe even when they are lost in thought. I try to do the same with my poetry. I think everything around us is unique and has its own story. Every object has a history and every human being is a book waiting to be read. I'm not a good painter but I try to paint with my words. I write about queer ancestors and the joy they could have experienced. Queer joy, thanks to cis heteropatriarchy is not a continuous affair yet - there are mere moments like froth bubbles at a seashore. They touch us gently and recede, only to return to us momentarily in the future. Both of these are not only means but are weapons of self-expression for me. I photograph myself and write my own story through all my works. Queer people need to write and archive their lives to avoid erasure and invisibilisation.

Could you tell us about your work at Sappho for Equality?

Sappho for Equality is the oldest NGO for persons assigned gender female at birth (PAGFB) who identify as Lesbian, Bisexual, or Transmasculine (LBT) in Eastern India and their office is in Kolkata. It started off with the name Sappho, as an emotional support group and collective for PAGFB*LBT persons in 1999. Sappho for Equality, the NGO - was formed in 2003. I joined this organization in December 2020 as a Junior Program Officer. Currently, my job involves planning relief activities and executing them along with our team at work, to help provide support to PAGFB*LBT persons in West Bengal, planning and organizing Gender-Sexuality grassroot awareness programs, working with our team towards building a digital LGBTQ archive under the able guidance of Dr. Subhagata Ghosh (Akanksha) and managing our social media handle on Instagram with our team.

Tell us more about the ongoing fundraiser you started during COVID-19

When the second wave of COVID-19 raged through our country like a wildfire, I noticed a fundraiser by the name of 'Oxygen SOS: India needs BiPAP Ventilators to save critical lives!'. This campaign is managed and executed by 'Umeed Project' on Milaap. 'Umeed Project' is run by a Delhi based registered NGO, Project Umeed Welfare Foundation with a coalition of NGOs and good samaritans on the ground since the first wave of COVID hit Delhi NCR. Till date, Umeed Project has provided continuous food and COVID-19 essential relief to more than 9,00,000 people, donated 44 BiPAP ventilator machines to Uttrakhand (Dehradun, Tehri-Garhwal, Uttarkashi), Uttar Pradesh (Aligarh), Delhi (Sardar Patel Covid Care, Indira Gandhi Hospital) & Patiala, Punjab through Khalsa Aid. 11 BiPAPs are in transit for Muzaffarnagar, Champawat & Rudrapur. with 4,50,000 cooked meals and dry ration & essentials kit to more than 43,000 families. I've started a support fundraiser with an aim to donate one BiPAP ventilator to their main fundraiser. My target is INR 60,000 whereas the main fundraiser's target is INR 60,000,000. We are trying to procure 500 BiPAP ventilators. India has more than 25 million cases with an average of 300,000+ daily cases and more than 5000 deaths daily! Recent evidence has shown non-invasive ventilation to have a more significant and positive role than initially thought and non invasive ventilation is possible with the help of BiPap ventilators. 

Your photographs and captions tell so many stories. How do you plan your content?

All my content is spontaneously created. I like to make a chessboard out of my grid with pictures and written pieces posted intermittently. My blog is a reflection of my politics, aesthetics, and opinions. It's unabashed and unapologetic. Sometimes I respond to word prompts by accounts e.g. The Alipore Post, Elisabet Velasquez. I am non-binary and I love to break the binary with everything. I upload the same photograph in monochrome and colored versions to expose that even monochrome is not built out of binaries but of various shades and tints of black and white.

You can follow Priyadarshini Chitrangada on Instagram for their brilliant photographs and words.

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