25-year-old Amrit (who goes by his first name), a city-based fashion editor, had been waiting for Sunday to celebrate who he was.
Clad in body-hugging yellow tee shirt and cream trousers, golden/pink sparklers glowing on his face, the waif-thin Amrit held a 1 foot by 1 foot placard — “Queer and loving it” — and blew kisses at his male “friend”. With a pair of translucent, sky blue butterfly wings hugging his back, and a paper flag displaying the “rainbow colours” bobbing out of his shirt’s pocket, Amrit was among the hundreds of others who had gathered at the Barakhambha Road-Tolstoy Road junction on Sunday evening to participate in the Delhi Queer Pride ’09 parade.
The “gay” parade, an annual event organized by a coalition of countrywide gay rights organisations including the Humsafar Trust and the Naz , was held to demand the abolition of the article 377 of the Indian Penal Code that awarded a 10-year jail-term to those indulging in oral/anal sex. “We, who belong to the LGBTI (lesbians, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex) community are treated like criminals, subjected to violence rape/blackmail by the intolerant bullies including the police,” said Amrit in his clipped English.
Moments later, at 5.30 pm, the parade’s organizers indicated to the participants that the 800-metre “march” to Jantar Mantar would begin. Their polite instructions were lost to the revellers who had packed the road stretch and intent on some serious revelry: women and men — the upper-half of their faces covered partially by flamboyant masks, their bodies clad in their tee shirts and jeans —blew into their red soccer ball-shaped whistles, shouted “Article 377, quit India” and swayed to a Bollywood number as the members of the Asha Musical brass band played on.
Amrit said he discovered his preference for “boys” when he was a “13-year-old”.
Sameet Arora (name changed), a 38-year-old Indian Institute of Management graduate now working in an MNC as “finance manager”, came from Mumbai to walk the walk but had kept a little aloof from the rest. He wore a blue mask, but unlike the others, he was clothed in the less cheery colours — black jeans, grey shirt.
It bothers Arora that he has not “yet” broken the news to his parents about his “sexual identity”. “My parents are old and very orthodox… If I tell them that I am gay, they would die of shock instantly,” he whispered.
At Jantar Mantar, the participants kept a “two minute silence” for those from the LGBTI community getting “oppressed”, and resolved to come back again for the parade “with more pride”.