Firdaus Kanga’s Queer Resilience

The first Indian novelist to feature a gay protagonist proved that those with disabilities like to have fun and that being gay is no big deal.

GettyImages-50467524 firdaus Kanga
Indian author Firdaus Kanga outside his residence in Bombay, India in November 1991 (Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images)

Mehr Singh


July 4, 2023


8 min

In Bombay, a young boy breaks his legs 11 times before age 5. He drinks milk with crushed-up pearls to help revitalize him. His mother massages almond oil onto his limbs until they “gleam like Bangalore silk.” His weak teeth, defenseless against even chocolate, fall out as he tries to eat biscuits. 

This is the story of Darius Kotwal, a character that Indian writer Firdaus Kanga played in the film Sixth Happiness (1997), based on his semi-autobiographical novel Trying to Grow (1990). Despite growing only 4’ tall and facing insurmountable challenges, Kotwal — or Kanga — maintains unremitting optimism, near-perfect comedic timing, and whip-smart sarcasm. 

Kanga reminds you that this story is as much about pain as it is about pleasure. He penned several works that explore the intersection of disability and desire, all while keeping it sexy and making readers cock their eyebrows. Kanga may have been the first Indian writer to feature a queer protagonist in a novel, but his life and work are far more extraordinary than just being a first.

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