My story is - I am trying to run away but not forget what I am running away from.
Dhiren is an amalgamation of despair and hope. They are incredibly aware of the acute indifference and trauma that caste brings and yet manage to hold onto the hope of a better world.
Throughout their journey from a small town to a professorship at an elite university in India, Dhiren has remained cognizant of the multiple barriers they have broken. As a queer Dalit, Dhiren has directly experienced marginalization, bullying, harassment, loneliness, and despair. They have understood that to survive and thrive, they need to fight.
They were the first person in India to explore the "geographies of sexualities" for their doctoral thesis. Dhiren approached the topic intending to be mindful - people cannot be reduced to numbers. Their love for people and their stories translated into a dissertation or what they call a "mini novella of erotic stories." This journey has not been without its ups and downs. They have benefited from highly supportive supervisors, friends, and queer communities, as well as deflected and deterred misogynistic ignorant insults and remarks in India's leading universities.
Queer spaces are caste written. They are drawn through class locations, influenced by what is happening geopolitically.
Dhiren has never shied away from stressing how vital and unacknowledged the politics of caste remains in every sphere of life. From government policies, corporate institutions, and social media to even finding life partners, all spaces are riddled with the burden of caste. When the topic of corporate inclusion comes up, Dhiren animatedly discusses the variety of tokenisms on display. From the corporates where trans people are given menial jobs and then displayed as "exceptions" to employers wearing pride flag badges. Tokenism in education institutions is equally pervasive with a flawed meritocratic system that ultimately fails to serve lower castes and trans communities. Dhiren highlights the innate flaws of the system and also points out - "We can't call people like me double or triple marginalized. You don't get to choose which identity of mine you will pay attention to today."
Rethink about our agendas to accommodate and make caste a central question.
When asked about what he feels about teaching at O.P. Jindal Global University, their answer is heartwarming yet straightforward - "I love teaching." Their immense love for education and teaching was evident from how energetic they became the more they spoke about it. If Dhiren's energy when talking about marginalized communities exuded despair, this energy sparked a sense of contagious enthusiasm and zest. They love it when their students surprise them. They recognize their class and institution aren't very representative, but they are willing to learn and accept these flaws. They are even ready to make changes. And this is what makes it worth the effort for Dhiren.
I go to the classroom every day to get surprised by my own students.
Dhiren fought off suicidal tendencies while completing their Ph.D. program and constantly thought about quitting because of the extreme challenges against their progress and goals. Their single motivation to cross the finish line was the thought - "If I don't do this and instead return to my hometown, it will deter other people like me from following their dreams." Dhiren may have broken multiple glass ceilings, but the shards have constantly hurt them.
Dhiren loves dancing, talking to people, and teaching. They are currently trying to absorb the merits of living alone. They remain hopeful that eventually, the world will be a more tolerant place for those who are different and choose to defy heteronormative rules of living. Dhiren refuses to live the "easy" life and is committed to bringing this choice to more and more people.