Vella Panti is an initiative by Rising Flame to come together as a community in the wake of self-isolation induced by a global health crisis. For the disabled community, isolation and physical distancing is even tougher as our interactions hold us in care and warmth. Community solidarity in such times becomes even more important for us. Keeping this mind, we started Vella Panti, which is an online house party for persons with disabilities and friends! We intend to come together every Saturday in April 2020 on Zoom for some very exciting and fun-filled activities such book readings, film screenings, open mics, etc.
We had our first session on the first Saturday: April 4th at 3.30 pm IST.
For this session, we had planned a reading of the essays I'm Blind, So is Love by Nidhi Goyal and The Smartphone Freed Me: Dating as a Transwoman by Nadika Nadja from the book Eleven Ways to Love.
Invitation for the Vella Panti house party
We had over 60 participants who enthusiastically partook in the discussion and offered great inputs and insights. The entire session was live transcribed, the reading was close captioned and we also had a sign language interpreter present during our call.
A screenshot of the sign language interpreter, Shabina, signing during our session
Watch the entire session here
On the second Saturday: April 11th, we had a live screening of several short films on consent.
Invitation for the second session of Vella Panti house party
The first short film we screened was called Consent - A VICE. This is a film by HBO on sexual consent and how we hold those accountable who violate it. After the first screening we screened four out of a series of eleven videos on consent by Partners for Law and Development.
The screening was followed by some powerful discussions with two lovely activists Subha Wijesiriwardena- a queer-feminist activist, researcher, and writer/ blogger from Colombo, Sri Lanka, working on gender, sexuality and digital rights- and Shubha Kayastha- a queer feminist from Nepal and co-founder and executive director at Body & Data. We were very glad to see that we over 75 people participated in the session from four different countries.
Watch the entire session here
The third session in our series took place on the 18th of April. We had a podcast listening session around body image and body positivity. The two podcasts we listened to were Fat. So? by Suno India and The Conversation: Banishing body shame by BBC. Fat. So? podcasters Pallavi Nath and Ameya Nagarajan also joined us as speakers during the session. To bring in intersectional perspectives and to highlight the experiences of disabled women when it came to body image, we had our senior program's consultant Srinidhi Raghavan and our I Can Lead fellow Kavya Mukhija also join in as speakers. The diversity amongst speakers made for an extremely powerful discussion on self-love, body image, beauty standards, disability and pain.
Following the success and a request from the disabled community, a 2.0 version of Vella Panti, a house party for people with disabilities and their friends was started in September 2020. We held three packed events on a range of topics. In the first event we covered masculinity, conditioning since childhood with an exploration of the perspectives of how masculinity intersects with queerness and disability. The conversation was enriched by sharing of personal narratives and anecdotes. In the second conversation on online dating with a disability, we spoke about multiple dimensions of online dating as disabled women, including the dilemma around disclosing one’s disability, the constant asexualisation of disabled people, inaccessible modes of interaction and ideas of romance. In our final event, we spoke with autistic women on their experiences of life on the spectrum, the difficulties of masking and navigating a neurotypical world.
Our first session of Vellapanti 2.0 with Abhishek Anicca and Manak Matiyani discussing Disability and Masculinity was truly one to remember. We started off by showing 2 videos from Miss Malini's YouTube channel, which tried to give certain insights on what Indian men thought of masculinity, love, relationships, and sex, by breaking down interviews that the show anchors conducted with several men.
This was then followed by a very exciting discussion on what masculinity means - and the assumed entitlement to power that comes along with it. Both our panelists did a fantastic job of bringing in some very important points on how the concept intersects with disability and queerness, and made space for conversations on topics that are often left behind - including vulnerability, isolation, desire - and much more. They even went on to discuss the relationship of queer and disabled men with their bodies, the impact of cultural misogyny on all of us, and the several tropes that accompany the ideas of what makes a man.
We thank both Abhishek and Manak for making this session an enriching one through their deep engagement with the subject, and also for sharing personal stories and experiences. A huge thank you to our participants as well, who made this session of ours a success - with 55 participants on zoom and 148 views on the Facebook live.
The second session covered numerous dimensions of online dating as disabled women, including the dilemma around disclosing one’s disability, the constant asexualisation of disabled people, inaccessible modes of interaction and ideas of romance and so on. Our speakers for the event were Parvathy Gopakumar, final year law students at National Law School of India University, Sai Madireddy Human Rights professional and Sweta Mantri, a stand-up comedian and writer.
We had a very interactive Q&A with various personal stories being shared and different perspectives discussed.
Our third and final session 'Life on the Spectrum' had speakers, Priyangee Guha, lawyer and comedian, and Rakshita Shekhar, Autism self-advocate, in conversation with programs consultant, Srinidhi Raghavan. The conversation centred around learning how to navigate life as a person on the autism spectrum, stigmatisation of autism and masking and its consequential burn out.
Read about us in the Mid Day!