Dr. Himadri Roy takes you back to the moments of Delhi Queer Pride and wonders why the numbers seem to dwindle over the years
At the crossing of Barakhamba Road and Tolstoy Marg, the Delhi Queer Pride, 2011, is supposed to begin at 3:00pm in the pleasant afternoon of 27 November. There were hundreds of people all dancing to the tunes of drums and dhols being played at the utmost decibels it could. The sound filled up the entire ambience, which brought smiles on everyone’s face whosoever was present. My better half gets ready with his camera and starts clicking whoever he thinks would be apt. One of the volunteer of Queer Campus group was distributing masks, rainbow flags and rainbow scarves. He hands me a scarf. I tie it upon my hairs. Another volunteer from the same group comes with a polythene bag full of white badges ‘Delhi Queer Pride, 2011’ written on it, as if trying to spread the message of peace and harmony through its background color. I smile and pick up and pin it upon my t-shirt. I meet an old woman, who happens to be the grand mother of Sambhav Sharma from Queer Campus. She was holding a placard saying, ‘I am a Dadi and not a Rudhivadi!’ Families, friends, well-wishers and supporters have gathered there to raise a voice against the hetero-normative orthodoxy of the society. To the extreme, a pet dog accompanies his master and behaves very gently without any howling or barking. The master gleefully wraps the rainbow scarf around his neck.
The parade begins with jubilant music and dance. Cross-dressers to hijras, gays to lesbians, Indians to foreigners –all in the same mood of fluttering the huge rainbow flag with the synchronic sound of the music at the background. Aditya Bandyopadhyay starts shouting with a high-pitched voice trying to guide the crowd to walk in such a manner so that the on-going traffic doesn’t get disrupted. The carnival walks in happy and cheering mood through the Tolstoy Marg, crossing the next junction at Kasturba Gandhi Marg. With sensibility and concerning mind, the crowd halts at the red traffic signal. Soon as it turns green, it moves ahead with the same rapacity.
Several reporters are seen talking to people and collecting information as per their requirements. Professional to amateur photographers with their DLSRs, participants with their own digital cameras, some with their cell-phones, kept on clicking the parade. Onlookers and passers-by stare at the crowd from bikes and scooters, from auto-rickshaws, from cars, from buses, some even halting and watching them and murmuring amongst themselves. Some look baffled, some puzzled, some enjoyed the music, some sportingly smiling while some giving a mocking glee. Amidst all these, the crowd seemed least bothered about these non-participants.
Rafiul Rehman, who came to Delhi from a small town in North East for his higher studies, said with exciting mirth, “This is the first time in my life I am participating. On the onset, as I haven’t come out, I wore a mask, but soon some inner voice said me to throw it away otherwise, I can never win the battle. I’m so enthralled that there are so many people who support us, who understand and consider us as part of society!”
Ashok Rao Kawi also walked with the crowd. As the parade came near the crossing of Janpath and Tolstoy Marg, it paraded with ease as the road was obstructed due to some Metro work going on. Dance, music, and the weather all seem to be in harmony with each other. Soon the finishing point came near the Jantar Mantar road. Soothing breeze filled the place, as the sun had settled and the mercury was falling rapidly. Dusk was enveloping the ambience with huge trees of the avenue. Applauses and singing with same pitch continued. At last, the oath of fighting the legal battle together was taken holding burning candles. People who were interested for partying got opportunity as the declaration of the party was announced. Crowds dispersed, except the organizers.
But unfortunately, in the night none of the national television channels, whether Hindi or English, at the prime time was showing anything on this parade. It was not covered at all. The next day newspapers had news covering them with colorful and black and white pictures throughout. But there were no comments on the who’s who of the LGBTI group, Aditya or Ashok, or anyone from Lawyers Collective, who participated. Although not participating, even the comments of Anjali Gopalan, or Manavendra Sigh Gohil, (who was in town that same evening), or Gautam Bhan, weren’t there. Rather new groups with their leaders have been covered. People who organize parties are being asked for their viewpoint. When I called to find out from them, they smilingly said, “We lightened the torch, let now the youngsters lead that. Hope they take it to the place where we dreamt of.”
But in reality from the very first to the fifth one, the crowds have diminished. The most significant one was on 2009 when the Delhi High Court judgment of decriminalization came. I remember sweating in that mad humidity thousands participated, whether LGBTI activists or fashion designers, whether ramp models or socialites, friends, families, supporters. The overwhelming response showed in the number. But now then why is it that this generation can’t lead the fight that once sparked the nation? Will the pioneers’ belief on them come true? Probably time will tell.