Masks have started coming off at Queer Pride

When the “closet was unlocked” around noon at Barakhamba Road, out came the glittering masks, feathery headgears and multi-coloured scarves. And as the drums started to roll, the party, to which hundreds of people were invited truly began.

“Happy Pride!” said one volunteer after another as they distributed flags, badges and pamphlets listing their seven-point demands with a bottom-line that asked for all people to be allowed to live their lives with dignity and freedom regardless of their gender or sexual orientation.

It is the last Sunday of November and the 5th Queer Pride March was upon Delhi and in the air were slogans telling you that they “Can’t Stay between the Lines”, “Kiss Me, I’m Queer” and asking for “Pride not Prejudice”. For those faces hiding behind masks, the message was very clear — Give me support, I want to take my mask off.

One such person was hid behind a mask back in the day was Bharat Bhushan.

“I wore a mask for the first two pride marches and would remove it only when we reached Jantar Mantar,” recalls this lawyer and Delhi Queer Pride Committee member.

“When I did take my mask off at the third pride march, one of my colleagues in court one day said ‘Hey, I saw your face in the newspaper’ to which I immediately replied “Didn’t you see me on TV?” he said, laughing.

For five years now, the march has taken the same route: from near the Ranjit Singh flyover to Jantar Mantar and thus getting clearance from Delhi Police has been a fairly easy task, said Mr. Bhushan.

“I helped organise the first pride and now I am back for the fifth,” said Akhil Katyal, a teacher at Delhi University who was away doing a Ph.D. in London.

“The first time we had to get permission from the police; the task was made easier by the 30 years of the feminist struggle. I walked into the Parliament Street police station and said we wanted to organise a rally for women’s rights,” he said. Mr. Katyal was granted permission immediately.

“But when the police came to the pride march, they were curious and smiling and laughing at what they saw. They wanted to know what we wanted from all this and associated it to other issues such as reservation and job quota which are discussed in Jantar Mantar.”

As for number of participants, the pride has seen a surge from a miniscule gathering at the first pride to the hundreds who showed up on Sunday. This is thanks to social networking sites, said the committee members.

Yet, the crowd did not seem to impress Croatian teachers Mariana and Lora .

“We have fewer citizens in Zagreb, but the pride march there attracts more people than here. The pride here seems to have attracted more people from outside Delhi than people from Delhi itself,” Ms. Lora noted.

One such outsider was American exchange student Trucanh Kieu, who is here to study about queer issues in India. “Queerness and gayness is very different in India compared to the United States. Today’s pride march is very impressive for an Indian context,” she said.

Comedian Vasu Primlani did not march but cycled along with the crowd. She had even spruced up her cycle with a multi-coloured scarf. Having recently returned from San Francisco, this was Ms. Primlani’s first pride march in Delhi.

“Here people tend to get uncomfortable about these issues, but it really depends on how much you love and care for the person. Everyone in my family and circle of friends respect my choices,” she said.

Ms. Primlani and several others were ambassadors for everyone else who still struggles for acceptance in the city and that was the whole point of the march which culminated with speeches at Jantar March and a picnic at the India Gate lawns.

More In: Delhi