Photo Courtesy: http://bengalurupride.googlepages.com/pridepictures
"Why is it 'Pride'?" a sceptical gay friend asked me a few days back, even as we were all busy circulating information about the Pride marches in Bangalore, Delhi and Kolkata. I said - without thinking, without my usual neurosis – "You figure it out for yourself. As for me, I am proud that I manage to live, laugh and love despite all pressures to the contrary." Though I usually find myself disowning all strong remarks I often make, I think I want to hold on to this one now. The fantastic Bengaluru Pride reinforced not only this sense of pride in me, but also my faith in the collective and my desire to breathe easy which is what happens every time I step out despite fear.
Bangalore folks were amazing. Let's stay with that statement for a while. They were amazing. They had organized everything, but they made you feel like they were so happy and relieved you had come and now everything will be fine! Airlines hotel is a usual hangout for the Good As You folks, but I do not know if the waiters and other customers are used to seeing men and women walking in and out in tshirts that say things like "God made me Gay." Plenty of laughter and camera-clicking followed as the new arrivals changed into these Pride clothes and tried the rainbow umbrellas and hats. Then, off to National College, Basavanagudi, from where the march would begin.
One corner of the college playgrounds turned into a carnival zone in less than half an hour. More and more people arrived; hugs and laughter ruled for a while. Painting of faces followed. Some people wondered aloud if they should wear the masks, or paint their faces, or just walk as they were. The decisions, I could see, were very important to all of us. Then the TV cameras arrived, with the reporters and cameramen looking with wide-eyed wonder at this psychedelic gathering of not just hijras, kothis, drag queens, sex workers, bisexuals, lesbians and gay men, but also their siblings, friends, and other allies. When the camera men went in circles, photographing and videoing non-stop, it felt like they just wanted to capture as much of it as they could, though I suspected that they did not feel equal to the job. Yes, for some of them we could have been 'freaks' worth a few seconds of satellite time, but I am sure they were a bit staggered by the enormousness of the 'freakishness.'
Then the drummers arrived. And the dancing began. With their superb dancing, the hijras, kothis and drag queens declared the parade open.. When the drumming starts, something primal in me takes over. So, for me, what happened for the next few hours was basically a collective dancing to the destination. Not a bad way to travel, I tell you. There was an exorcising quality to it.
All placards went up. In English and Kannada. Everyone carried something or the other. There were slogans and songs. Whoever of Bangalore was on the roads that day slowed down or stopped altogether to watch this procession. On one hand, it must have looked like a protest march to them because there were placards up in the air and sloganeering voices too, but they must have also been equally struck, and hence a bit confused, by the revelry, the absolute celebration of something. And everyone loves to watch celebrations. If at all the child-like wonder of the onlookers' faces changed to the way too grown-up-like grimness, we did not stay to watch the transformation that day. We kept moving on. That the most spontaneous response to happiness is happiness, testifies to what is natural and what is not.
In a couple of hours, we reached the Puttanna Chetty Town Hall. People sat on the galleried steps leading up to the hall and gave life and colour to the place. Someone stood on the pedestal to the flagpole and held the rainbow flag there. Dancers stopped to catch their breath. Drummers took a couple of reluctant minutes to click their knuckles. Very short speeches happened. Then there was more dancing.
It was with great reluctance that we dispersed. But we knew we had to carry this joy of togetherness and support into our individual lives and make them easier, less lonely, and more hopeful.
Thanks to everyone who had worked to put the Pride events together in Bangalore, Delhi and Kolkata. The specifics would have varied, but something tells me the spirit of them all was the same.