The Asian Age, Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, London
Sunday, 3 February 2008
It started on the terrace of a coffee shop in Delhi on June 16 last year. The discussion was that Delhi too should have a pride march this year. The topic was magnetic enough to drive us all with a force and passion that by the end of our meeting we had a name to our small group, the Delhi Queer Pride Committee.
It was not an organisation or a company but a group of like-minded people who wanted to do this together. Sonali suggested we should have a long flag, which many people can hold onto, and she referred to a picture from Kolkata’s Pride march.
Everyone liked the idea and we decided upon having placards, small hand flags, metal badges and fliers to distribute as different elements. For the comfort of those who are not out of the closet, we decided to arrange for masks as well.
The to-do list was ready next day and everyone picked up his or her own share of responsibilities. A week later we met again for the placard making session and some 50 placards were made with different slogans and messages, special thanks to Saheli. A set of people cut the cardboards, another painted, another touched it up and the rest were busy keeping them aside. So finally when June 29 came, we were expecting some 200-300 people to show up.
Before the march could even start, the media reached there there for a live telecast. The long flag was unveiled and the dholwallas started playing the upbeat music. Some covered their faces with rainbow masks, some chose feather masks and the rest started to walk without any masks.
The march started from the corner of Barakhamba Road and proceeded towards Jantar Mantar. The small rainbow flags made a magical impact and so did the 10-meter long shimmering satin flag, which was held by some 50 people at the same time. Rainbow colours took over the whole street and the impact was sheer electric.
Dancing to the tunes of classical Punjabi dhol beats, holding placards and shouting, "Hey hey, ho ho, homophobia got to go and Hindu-Muslim-Sikh isai, hetro-homo bhai-bhai". Those 1,200 marchers took the energy and excitement to another level.
After a while, I noticed that those who chose to wear masks initially had also courageously taken their masks off.
It wasn’t only the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) community but also straight people, friends, families and allies to the queers who supported the parade.
We were also joined by passer-by and spectators who started marching along, this whole spectacle was just out of the box. So much so, that one policeman who was appointed for security said, "I couldn’t identify who was gay and who wasn’t". The march ended with a candlelight vigil and a two-minutes silence in the memory of those who have sacrificed their lives for the cause.
That said, last year’s success gave the confidence to more people to support the cause and voice themselves openly. Queer people can be great artists, good citizens and good human beings. They pay their taxes and obey the rules like other citizens. It’s time this discrimination must go. If a child tries to come out to his/her parents, the first consultation should be with a psychologist. These psychologists need to tackle the front and endorse the fact that being queer is not a disease. There is a huge gap that needs to be bridged. Even the people who made the law — Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code that treats LGBT people as criminals — have amended it. Law is to protect not to discriminate.
But this is not the end; we have come again this year with new excitement and enthusiasm. Another great thing last year was that all the funding came from individual donations, no sponsors or organisations were involved and we plan to follow that this year too.