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Gay, colourful and proud on Delhi's streets

Last updated on: November 29, 2010 13:06 IST

Gay, colourful and proud on Delhi's streets

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Aseem Chhabra in New Delhi
Under Delhi's beautiful November afternoon sun, nearly two thousand young men and women marched on Sunday to mark the city's third Queer Pride parade.

This year's colourful and celebratory parade -- starting at the end of Barakhamba Road near Connaught Place and ending next to Jantar Mantar -- was the first march after last year's Delhi high court verdict that struck down the antiquated Article 377 of Indian Penal Code.

Text: Aseem Chhabra. Photographs: Myna Mukherjee


Image: Gay, colourful and proud in Delhi
Photographs: Myna Mukherjee
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"I am always reminded of my school days in the 1960s," said 57-year-old artist Sunil Gupta as he observed the marchers gather at Barakhamba Road. Gupta has attended all the three Delhi parades.

"It seemed it would never happen in my lifetime. What's surprising is that the rate of change has accelerated. The first year there were fewer people wearing more masks, and today there are more people in fewer masks," he observed.


Image: 'It seemed it would never happen in my lifetime'
Photographs: Myna Mukherjee
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There were many masks, but a lot of people wore them more to add colour to their looks, and less to hide their faces.

As a lot of people observed, this year's parade, with over 2,000 boisterous marchers, included many youngsters -- gays, lesbians, transgenders, but also straight people.

"There is a real change this year," said Gautam Bhan, an activist and one of the organisers of the parade.

"At the first pride parade there were four of us who gave interviews to the media. The numbers of supporting crowds have increased. There are new faces and new people talking to the press and that's fantastic," he said.


Image: 'There is a real change this year'
Photographs: Myna Mukherjee
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In the pride parades of the West, everything appears more orderly, and marchers are represented by ethnic, national, and other political and social groups.

But here it was one big party along Delhi's Tolstoy Marg, with many people dancing to the beats of drums. And the cooler weather made it easier for people to break into dance.

The first pride parade in Delhi had about 800 marchers. Last year's parade, held a few days before the high court judgment, had nearly 1,500 marchers. The number was far higher this year.


Image: One big party along Delhi's Tolstoy Marg
Photographs: Myna Mukherjee
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Gay and lesbian pride parades around the world are held in the month of June -- marking the anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall Inn riots in New York City.

But after last year's Delhi parade, held on a very hot afternoon in June, the organisers decided to shift the march to November, said activist and organiser Mohnish Kabir Malhotra.


Image: Weather forced the gay parade to be shifted to November
Photographs: Myna Mukherjee
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Apart from the masks and the colourful costumes, the marchers carried a number of placards.

Some read: 'Closets are for Clothes', 'Queer Right are Human Right', 'No Need for Homophobia, Lesbian Suicides, Forced Marriages', 'Jab Pyaar Kiya To Darna Kaya', and 'Out of the Closets and Into the Streets'.

And perhaps the most touching placards were carried by the mother and grandmother of a young gay man.

The mother's placard read: 'God Blessed Me with 2 Sons. 1 of Dem is Gay and I Love Both of Dem Equally!' The grandmother's placard read: 'I Am Proud to Say My Grandson is Gay!'


Image: Jab Pyaar Kiya To Darna Kaya
Photographs: Myna Mukherjee
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There were many foreigners among the marchers -- including a white couple with a biological son and what appeared to be a South Asian adopted daughter.

An African American man wore a T-shirt that read in Hindi: 'Aadmi Hoon, Aadmi Say Pyaar Karta Hoon (I am a man, I love a man)'.

Many marchers holding a giant rainbow coloured flag were heard shouting: 'Hum Sab Ka Yeh Naara Hai, Homo Hoona Pyaara Hai'!

The rainbow colours, an internationally recognised symbol of gay and lesbian identity, were also seen on the scarves, smaller flags and also a few umbrellas carried by the marchers.


Image: A parade in rainbow colours
Photographs: Myna Mukherjee
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Along the way there were many passersby, car and bus drivers who watched the parade with a smile and did not seem to mind that the event was causing a massive traffic jam on Sunday afternoon.

Delhi policemen and women also watched the parade, often with smiles on their faces.

"The cops have been really nice," said Rahul Sharma, one of the organisers.


Image: 'The cops have been really nice'
Photographs: Myna Mukherjee
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Unlike in the West, there were no counter protests against the march.

"The few passersby seem curious," Gupta said as he walked in the parade.

"Actually, this part of Delhi is very quiet on a Sunday so you will have to be dedicated to come to protest. But that kind of opposition in an organised manner happens in the US a lot, because of the lobbying groups," he said.


Image: No counter protests against the gay parade
Photographs: Myna Mukherjee
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"One thing is that India doesn't have is homophobia, because Indians do not discuss sex," he added.

"Even the casual homophobia doesn't happen here. If more such parades happen, then a few years down the line, there might be protests," said Gupta.


Image: 'India doesn't have homophobia'
Photographs: Myna Mukherjee
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