Mahika, 21, was never interested in dancing but changed her mind recently after graduating from Delhi University.
For the past month, the Noida resident has been trudging halfway through the city in Delhi’s unrelenting summer, practising moves for hours, getting rapped and praised in equal measure for her steps.
The reason? Delhi’s first queer flashmob that performed to a packed audience on Sunday morning in Connaught Place.
“I became interested because it is for a good cause. A flashmob is the perfect recipe to draw a crowd and create a platform for the voices that call for equality,” a visibly excited Mahika says.
She is not alone. Around two dozen other young people from all parts of the city came together from all over the Capital to advocate for the rights of LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) people -- none of them professional dancers -- practising for eight hours every weekend. Some of them vomitted and fainted, others cramped, parched, tired and sweaty -- one even had a foot injury -- but continued.
The initiative was decided on a whim, when a few members of a queer collective in Delhi called Harmless Hugs decided to do something spectacular for the LGBT cause in the city.
“When we announced, it wasn’t planned -- it was a decision taken in the heat of the moment. We had no idea how to go about it but knew we had to manage somehow,” says Harsh Agarwal, one of the organisers.
Finding a choreographer was the first hurdle but the enthusiasts luckily found someone reputed who not only accepted the challenge of training first timers but was also warm and friendly. Her toil and her students’ sweat bore fruit at the flashmob.
'If loving someone is a crime, then the world is criminal'
On a sweaty Sunday afternoon in June, I leave the comfort of my cushy south Delhi air conditioning for the dusty roads that lead to the studio where the rehearsals are going on. It’s less than a fortnight to showtime and loud music greets me. Inside, a bunch of youngsters are dancing away to a medley of songs, falling on top of each other, teaching steps and gyrating like there’s no tomorrow. In one corner, another group is making posters and placards for the flashmob. In another, a bunch of exhausted 20-year-olds are trying to catch a breath after four hours of rehearsals.
For a minute, I mistake the air of revelry as one lacking in seriousness, but I was quickly corrected.
“I came to the flashmob because I want to stand for equal rights, liberty and the right to love irrespective of what they have between their legs and chest,” said Palak, who works in a magazine.
The flashmob brought people from all the spectrum of the rainbow -- gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender -- who came together to form a community. The Mumbai LGBT flash mob also inspired them.
Coordinating was a major challenge, because many had full-time jobs and couldn’t make time for regular sessions -- participants often would make rehearsal videos available on common WhatsApp groups as a fail-safe.
“A lot of people joined on first day of practice but started leaving eventually. A lot of them were not sincere but coming just to hang out with more queer people and make friends,” Agarwal says.
Another serious hurdle was funding. In the beginning, the organisers pooled in money and thought about hosting a fund-raising party. But the high cover charges of Delhi clubs played spoilsport.
“One Sunday we noticed participants were dancing on random songs and realised people didn’t need a DJ to dance, they needed music and good company. We realised people don’t need booze and DJ to dance, they need music and good company. So we decided to host a small event at the studio itself, a mix of potluck placard marking, and fund raising,” Agarwal says.
Police made them run around till the last minute but the participants say they received support from the Aam Aadmi Party.
Flashmobs may be over a decade old but its impact has only started India now -- with the ringing success of the CST flashmob three years
“Through this dance, I hope the message reaches the government that if loving someone is a crime, then the whole world is a criminal,” says Gautam Yadav, an organiser and participant. We hope so too.