There was something different about ‘him’. Something really different. Last year during Gujarat Pride, a reporter referred to him as a ‘Bald & Bold Super Human’. I smilingly concurred. Swagat had a penchant for standing up for issues that were swept under the carpet by society. Working for others gave him immense satisfaction. That did not surprise me. Benevolence was in his blood. It was a heritage he was blessed with.
A lovable and bubbly personality he had. Always smiling, he showed many of us what hospitality really meant. He lived up to both interpretations of his transliterated-into-English name: ‘Swāgat’, a warm, welcoming human being, and ‘Swagat’, a monologue to oneself: things were not always hunky-dory for him to always warrant a smile, but I think he channelled the positive energy that he radiated to everyone back to himself, and thus stayed sunny and optimistic. Despite issues, blame, allegations levelled upon him that he faced adversity courageously. He chose to smile and made others happy.
A charming face of the L.G.B.T. community, he inspired many youngsters to join the battle for equal rights. He made amazing friends all along the way. He always encouraged them to be happy and proud. He created history in the western Indian state of Gujarat, a state of 64 million people considered quite socially conservative despite being industrially developed. He organized the state’s first L.G.B.T. Pride March last year in the southern Gujarati city of Surat, with a population of 5 million people and a GDP of $40 billion, but having a long way to go in terms of LGBT support.
His resolve was sometimes met with scorn and cynicism. People laughed at him when he declared, “I will make the parade happen”. Living up to his words, he organized the parade successfully and proved that nothing was impossible. I feel blessed to have been a part of that journey. We spoke at a length just a couple of days ago. We planned some important things for the forthcoming Pride. He sounded all excited for the 2014 pride. Working for community made him happy and I could hear his excitement in his voice.
His loss is a huge setback to the Indian L.G.B.T. movement overall. Gujarat seems to be back to square one. Though we, the Gujarat L.G.B.T. Pride Festival have lost our leader, we know that the best tribute to him will be to soldier on and continue the movement which he started in Gujarat. Swagat was who he was, that unique combination of characteristics is rare to find. He is an angel and will always be the hero of my story. Rest In Peace my bestie, my guide, my living angel.