Better Together – Growing Diversity & Inclusivity through Art & Lit

AAKASH MEHROTRA is a management consultant working in financial technology, but his experiences in life extends far beyond this. As part of the LGBTQ community, he has had to overcome not just prejudices and discrimination that we all know to be prevalent in our society, but also the less-discussed issues of mental health. With a “if not me, who will talk about us?” attitude, he writes down here the vitality of more dialogues, discussions and literature on diversity and inclusion that we all need to pave way for.

Strides forward, through art and literature

He looks back to 2016; he had completed his first novel ‘The Other Guy’, a gay romance story waiting to be made into a book at a time when sex between two men was criminalized. Some of his friends asked him to reconsider and the replies he got from some literary agents and publishing houses cemented their views. He started questioning himself but when Leadstart Publishing picked the manuscript, it signaled to him the turning tide of change.

Though much remains to be done, 2022 is nevertheless many strides forward from 2016. Acceptance of the LGBT identity is still to become part of mainstream Indian society, but the literary and the art circle has started to make moves to right the historic wrongs meted out to the community. The expression of its deeply seared human experience of queer folks have slowly but steadily taken wings in art, cinema, and literature.

And though reminders of the discrimination and acts of violence that queer folks have seen for centuries are everywhere, Aakash remain optimistic of the change. These reminders are symptomatic of deep-rooted structures of discrimination that mark our everyday lives. And art and literature are not just healers to the ones discriminated, but also mirror to the larger society to the deep rooted issues that remain, wounds that have not been healed, and the prejudice and collective indifference that enable such discrimination and violence. And the fact that art and literature has taken to tell these stories makes me optimistic. The change is there. This discrimination and violence is no more invisible, the community has started expressing itself, and the acceptance of the society will come sooner than later.

Delving deeper into queer issues

Aakash had many questions when he started writing ‘The Other Guy’. The biggest was about placing the characters in a context which everyone could relate to, without the background of set norms and stereotypes. It was to show love as an expression, defined only by human experience. Now, when working on his second novel, he knows he can bring forth some deeper issues associated with the queer folks like abuse and mental health, and perhaps shows queer lives in a different setting, delving into issues more than their sexual identity, or how their sexual identity shapes other aspects of their lives. It was to give deeper shades to their sexuality.

He strongly believes that his words are not just his outlet, they are an outlet to an entire community. Everyone should be able to identify with his words, or find answers in them. Coming from the community and having personally dealt with those moments of heightened anxiety, and feelings of isolation and pain that comes with keeping their sexuality a secret, his words could perhaps heal some.

Power & importance of inclusive storytelling

Inclusive literature and the arts play a significant role in fostering queer communities. Growing up, he did not have any stories to relate to. Stories that explained some complexities, stories that could tell him who he really was, stories that could have eased all the self-questioning and self-doubt. But the generations now should not have to live that. They should have art and stories that represent them, that they could call their own, relate to, retell and hold onto for answers.

And this thought inspired Aakash enough to propel him to write, engage and express more. With stories, one can shape cultures, evoke discussions, and even nurture ideas. We can’t just let a community remain hidden and forbidden. We can’t let a community bear the heavy burden of aggression, pain and anxiety, seated within, and compelled to hide their emotions, for the society has not been conditioned to look beyond what they define as norms.

So when he sits down to write his next novel, he thinks of Bernadine Evaristo, best known for her Booker Prize-winning novel Girl, Woman, Other, words “literature has the ability to connect us to each other and foster and express our shared humanity.”

1942 Amsterdam Ave NY (212) 862-3680
[contact-form-7 404 "Not Found"]
Free shipping
for orders over 50%
Debashis Biswas

With more than 15 years of experience in book sales and distribution, Debashis currently oversees Leadstart’s business activities in eastern India and neighbouring countries. He has previously worked with several leading book publishers and distributors.

Walid Jalal

Walid has 7 years experience in online listing & marketing Working in SEO firm & Publishing sector. He worked in a Restaurant as a Manager in Sharjah for two years. He loves cricket & cooking.

Jayati Sarkar

Jayati has been into literature studies and has pursued her Mphil in Australian Aboriginal Poetry from the University of Calcutta. She is an avid reader and her love for books has brought her to the field of Publishing. For years she has explored the other side of the book as a reader and now she works with Leadstart as the Senior Executive in the Editorial Department. Her work profile includes working closely with Authors, managing the projects from end to end and also working with national and international publishers for management of Secondary Rights.

Ashwini Jadhav

Ashwini has about a decade’s experience in design. She is a Master of Commercial Art, who has worked in the publishing and advertising sectors as a visualiser & designer. She was judged as the third best in the state, when she finished her foundation course in applied art. She is a practicing calligrapher in Modi Lipi (a script in the Marathi language) and is a Rangoli artist who has won several accolades in those domains. During the popular Ganesh Chaturthi festival, several idols of Ganesha in varying sizes get made, one the most important finishing touches to the idol is that of painting the eyes, which Ashwini has practiced to perfection and does it for hundreds of idols every year. In addition to the above, she is also a trained classical dancer, a national level Kabaddi player and loves cooking.

Ananya Subramanian

Graduation in journalism and love for books, led Ananya to take up a career in publishing. With her experience in the field, she has come to believe more and more in the power of stories and the people who tell them. She is a vegan and an animal-lover; and loves to dance, tend to her pet plants and often find solace in solo travelling.

T. Vijay Kumar

Vijay has over a decade’s experience in supply chain management working in India and the Middle East. He heads the production, supply chain and receivables management for Leadstart. Prior to his current role at Leadstart, Vijay worked in inventory management for five years, in Abu Dhabi.

Iftikar Shaikh

Iftikar has a decade & half years of experience across publishing and the banking sectors in the finance domain. He enjoys working on numbers and loves uncovering stories that the numbers tell. A fitness enthusiast, he loves trekking and travelling.

Maneesha Arun

Maneesha has an experience of over two decades in the content industry spanning over publishing, media and secondary rights business domains. She has a deep interest in psychology.

Mahendra Rawat

With more than a decade’s experience in book sales and distribution, Mahendra comes from a family immersed in the book trade. He worked with several book distributors and publishers before his current assignment with Leadstart.


With more than 15 years of experience in book sales and distribution, Debashis currently oversees Leadstart’s business activities in eastern India and neighbouring countries. He has previously worked with several leading book publishers and distributors.

Rajesh Krishnan

Rajesh comes with over 3 decades of experience spread over various business domains. He oversees Leadstart’s business development & sales across southern & western India, Sri Lanka and Middle-East. His hobbies include dancing, trekking and travelling

Pooja Dutt

Pooja has over a decade’s experience in operations, sales and people management in various business domains. She loves to interact with authors and helps them meet their publishing goals. She is fond of travelling & cooking.

Bhavika Bharambe

After completing her MBA in marketing, Bhavika has focused on roles that helped her to become an experienced marketing professional today. She has worked for brands from various industries; Educational, Tourism, Retail, Entertainment, Airlines, Banking and more. She loves to spend her time by reading books and listening to music.

Naina Solanki

Naina leads the project management and author support functions at Leadstart Publishing. She is fond of being abreast of the latest developments in technology and is a keen learner of the six sigma methodology. She loves reading and travelling.

Preeti Chib

Preeti has a decade’s experience in brand and communication management with most influential and innovative media companies. She is passionate about building brands by translating consumer insights into product innovations and campaigns. She is a compulsive reader and considers a day gone without some bit of reading a day wasted. She loves reading stories to her children every night. A lover of visual art, to delve a bit deeper into the same, she took up formal training for design as well.

Malini Nair

Malini is passionate about Literature and Business Management. After her MBA (Marketing) from St. Xavier’s, she took up roles that involved sales, marketing, costing, MIS etc. in multiple sectors like Banking, Insurance, E-broking, and even the Steel industry. Eventually, her passion for languages and books compelled her to re-route her career to literature. This led to a career break and a Masters Degree in English Literature; post which she took up a role at Wordit CDE & Leadstart, enabling her to work towards both her passions.

Chandralekha Maitra

With two decades of experience as a book publishing professional, Chandralekha began her career as a features writer and columnist, working with publications across India, before moving into book publishing full time, with India Book House. She received her training in editorial title management from Book House, London. Over the years she has worked with some of the finest publishing houses in India and overseas, and across genres and markets. She has also worked with Osian’s-Connoisseurs of Art, India’s first auction house, gaining in-depth exposure to research and publishing in the fine arts-antiquities-cultural heritage genres. Additionally she has had a parallel, specialist career in Human Resources, working at Group HR, Tata Group, among others. She continues to write, train and mentor in this domain as her publishing commitments allow.

Raj Supe

Aka Kinkar Vishwashreyananda, Raj Supe is a poet, storyteller and novelist, as well as a seeker and devotee of Sri Sitaramdas Omkarnath. An MBA by education, his career spanned advertising, research and creative consulting, before devoting his time to literature and spirituality. His works include Three No Trumps (novel), Sagarika Anusagarika [Echoes of Nine Rivers] (poetry), Pilgrim of the Sky (spiritual memoir), and translations of religious texts such as Cloudburst of A Thousand Suns and Jai Jai Ram Krishna Hari. He has also worked on film scripts with Ram Gopal Verma and Ashutosh Gowariker, and on plays with Makarand Deshpande.

Dr. Rabindra Kumar Nanda

An alumnus of IIT Kanpur, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research and Stanford University, Dr Nanda is also a National Science Talent Search Scholar. He holds five Patents and is a published author of 50 national and 52 international research papers.

Swarup Nanda

Swarup has over a decade and half’s experience in multiple business domains related to content. Prior to his entrepreneurial ventures, he has worked with a couple of MNCs in the media space. His passion for literature and books is his motivation for building Leadstart.