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‘People say ‘I love you’ all the time’ and other poems of queer desire

A recent anthology of poetry brings together bold voices from the LGBTQ+ community in South Asia. We picked three

Representational image.
Representational image.

Published earlier this year, The World That Belongs To Us, edited by writer and scholar Aditi Angiras and Akhil Katyal is a hugely ambitious undertaking. An anthology of queer poetry from South Asia, the pages of this book teem with voices from across the LGBTQ+ spectrum. There is geographical diversity, a variety of registers, from playful to risque, and a whole range of literary styles between the covers. We pick three distinctive voices from the collection below.


Imagine, we could go back.

Back in time, to when to truly know something,

we had to put it in our mouths.

Your mouth is late February. It is a cherry.

Sweet on first nip. And then only gets sweeter till drifting is inevitable.

Your mouth is sometimes December. Bitter winter.

The kind of winter that East European men will declare mild while you are shivering.

Your mouth is sometimes uninviting.

Unlike these men, who were willing to taste everything once.

My sweat. Charms. Lots of hash from Morocco.

The hot chilli sauce from Wok & Go.

And beer in every form.

Imagine, we could go back.

The warning that everything on the Redcoat Isle is inedible and tasteless,

holds true for everything (and everyone) that is not exported or holidaying.

Though, I realised I had come back home on tasting

my grandmother’s ground chilli chutney.

The mouth is the library.

My first lover: he tasted of Cinthol behind the ears.

And like Axe Body Spray near his armpits and pubes.

My grandmother’s chutneys are always generous on chilli.

My grandfather’s food on the garlic.

My best friend puts generous amounts of tomato in all his food.

My flatmate likes lime. But all this, you already know.

Your mouth on the other hand isn’t so excited by spice,

not interested in the juicy, the overwhelming, the fleshy, the violent.

So much these orifices register.

So much your orifices register.

So much my orifices register.

Joshua Muyiwa is a poet, writer and columnist, not yet thirty-four, he started writing because he was told, ‘it is time to stop seeming arty and pretentious and actually earn the tags by doing something’. He is queer. He lives in Bangalore.



Within the cozy comfort

of our lives in closets

(we are ingenious, privileged,

creative even) we have

beddings, and boxes

of family albums and

a fully appointed kitchen, and

the technique to balance

being the daughter, sister,

granddaughter, the orphaned

Materfamilias of orphans.

Yet we keep a corner

of our selves packed

neatly away in the safe

warmth and cool shade of

the marriage behind the





useful – all the promises

of adulthood

coming true.

Then someone peeks in,

smiles with the

indulgence I have grown

to hate, and says:

‘Aren’t you a bit too


for slumber parties with

best friends?’

Tanni is a migrant Bengali small-town ciswoman. She found the words asexuality and Cultural Studies with some help and hasn’t looked back since. She is awaiting the evaluation of her doctoral thesis on intersectionality and identity while working as a researcher, teacher, editor and translator. Social media makes her anxious.


People say ‘I love you’ all the time

Hey, all okay?’

‘Text me when you reach.’

‘Want me to make you some coffee?’


‘Why haven’t you eaten yet?!’

‘I heard this song, and thought you’d like it.’

‘Here, I got you some fries.’

‘Get up. I made you breakfast.’

‘Hurry up!’ *pause* ‘Please don’t run.’

‘I want you to have this book.’

‘Of course you should get that Star Wars t-shirt! And that Doctor Who one too.’

‘I think you need this (good) whiskey more than me.’

‘Dinner kiya?’


*climbs four floors*

‘Your food is getting cold.’

‘Please tell me you have a scarf?’

‘Yeh lo, bread aur cheese.’



‘I’ll wait for you.’



‘Have you packed your underwear?’

People say ‘I love you’ all the time.

Smita V. is a queer feminist who works on gender, sexuality, and technology. They are interested in stories, books, history, tech, fandoms, art, and in queering all of it. She can be generally found wandering the cyberspace or on a hunt for good coffee.

Excerpted from The World That Belongs To Us, edited by Akhil Katyal and Aditi Angiras, with permission from HarperCollins India.

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