Now Adam wanted to talk with some labors who work at construction sites. He wanted to talk with different kind of labors like the one who work independently, the one work for some agency, the one who work under some contractor or the one who work for the government… I had seen a construction going on in my neighborhood and I thought it would be a good idea to talk with some labors there so I took Adam there and talked with two labors. Adam asked them several questions but something that was most interesting for me was the training for labors.
Adam asked them if they knew of some place where training is provided to labors or skilled labors in Benares and the labors said that there was a government training center for labors in Chunar. Adam asked them if they went there to learn and both of the labors said no. Adam asked would they like to go there and again both of them said no. Adam asked why people don’t go these training centers and they said since they are poor they can would not like to stay at some place and make nothing. It is better for them to work and learn so that they can make some money while learning.
Both of the labors said that all the labors, almost 99.9%, start working at a construction site where they carry the bricks or just help the skilled labors and someday they also become a skilled labor. None of the labors were happy with the money they were making. They said that labors make only Rs. 120 ($2.5) and skilled labors make only Rs. 200 ($4) per day which sounds terrible to me. India is also becoming an expensive place to live and I don’t understand how these people survive. �Sometimes when they are working under some contractor, they get less paid because contractor also gets a cut.
They said that most of the labors in Benares are Biharis or they come from nearby villages. Adam asked them what if they are injured while working, who pays for their medical bills? And they said that most of the time contractors make some pressure on the land owner and if the land owner agrees to pay, then they pay otherwise contractor takes care of it but usually they have to face trouble getting anything extra from the contractor or the land owner both. Something else that was very interesting to me was when they talked about why women are not skilled labors in India.
They said that skilled labor’s work is kind of risky sometimes because when they work on the outer walls, they have to climb up on the walls and there is only bamboos to support them. I think Indian women are more involved in risky activities than Indian men because it is women who cook on the kerosene�oil stove, I often hear about LPG cylinder blast in the kitchen and mostly women look after our kitchen, marrying an unknown person also seems risky to me… Women are often forcibly married to someone chosen by their parents and later they are harassed for dowry and in a lot of cases they are killed. I think these things are more riskier than climbing up on the wall.
Adam is looking for some contractors to talk with. I know few contractors in my are and I would ask them to talk with Adam. Adam was looking for a recommendation letter from VDA so that his grant could be easily passed by his university. We went to the VDA office and talked with a officer there and he asked us to meet with the Chairman of VDA. We met him next day and talked about Adam’s research. He said that VDA doesn’t do much construction because it doesn’t have much money. But he agreed to give a recommendation letter to Adam. He asked Adam to write the kind of letter he was supposed to give to Adam. Adam wrote the letter and the chairman asked his typist to type the same.
I don’t know what had happened but his typist took like more than an hour to type only one page. Finally we got the letter which was very valuable document for Adam’s research. VDA promised Adam to provide any kind of help Adam would like to have in the future, which sounded very strange to me because we Indians never hope for any kind of help from our government. Well, whatever, we got what we needed and that was the most important thing.
Adam, PhD candidate, University of Chicago, came back to Benaers and stayed at my place again. This year he wanted to do some basic research about his upcoming research in India next year. He wanted to study Hindi as well but for that he had decided to go to Masoorie. Adam was interested in two subjects- labors at construction sites or Doams (the people who work at cremation place). Adam has come this year with his fiance, Megan, who is doing a research for her school, Smith college, Boston, about secular Indian philosophers. She just wants to collect some data about them.
She wants to visit BHU and see if they have any books available written by any secular Indian philosophers who existed in between 1850-1940. Megan said that she went to University of Maisoore also but could not get anything because there was no one to help her at the university. She went there several times but could not get any help and then she decided to leave Maisoore and came to Benares. She wanted to visit the BHU library and wanted to talk with some professors at philosophy department. I took help of my one friend who studies at BHU and he took us the university.
We went to the International Students Center first where we met with the officer who asked us to meet the head of the central library. We went to the central library and met with the head. Adam and Megan both were shocked to see the library of BHU. They said that BHU’s library was a way better than the library of University of Masoorie. They said that people were also very nice and helping at BHU. The asked Megan to write them a letter asking for permission to visit the library and after doing it, we were allowed to look at the books. Megan, Adam, my friend Ravi and I visited the library with few staffs of the library who were showing us around.
Megan found few books that were good for her research and wanted to get it xeroxed but actually it was impossible to xerox those books because those books were too old and pages were in terrible condition. So finally Megan had to write another letter asking them to provide digital format of the book. They asked us to come after 5 days and collect the book in digital format. After the library we went to the philosophy department and met a professor. He was crazy. He was more interested in showing his own research to Megan. He did not want to hear what Megan was doing.
He started showing the books he had written and started talking about himself and just did not want to stop or let Megan ask something about her research. Finally after hearing him for an hour, he asked what Megan needed. Megan told him about her research and he asked Megan to come next day so that he could research the philosophy department library but he had said that the library had a few books that would be good for her research. �After meeting him we came back to home and Megan said that it was a successful day for her research.
The work at BHU today motivated her to keep her research going on otherwise she had given-up after visiting University of Maisoore. I am happy for Megan’s research. Adam wanted to talk with a doam so I took him to Harishchandra Ghat and introduced him to a guy whom I had met while working with CBC’s documentary Myths and Might. We met at the Harishchandra Ghat and he took us to the electric burner where he works. I had never been to a electric burner but this time the electric burner was the place to interview.
We talked for few hours and Adam and Megan asked him several different kinds of questions about his personal life, social status, discrimination… Adam wanted to gift something to him so I asked the Doam where was the nearest sweet shop and the Doam asked us why we wanted to go to a sweet shop and I told him that Adam wanted to gift him some sweets. After hearing this the Doam said that Doams are not the kind of people who love sweets, they love alcohol. So we bought him a bottle of whiskey.
Megan and Adam were getting late so I asked them to go but I stayed for the party. I was wandering around and stopped by a bus stop and sat there for a while. Two people, who seemed rural, came and sat next to me. It seemed like they had also seen the parade and were talking about it. One of them was really angry about the parade. He was swearing at the government and the people who had organized it. One of them was saying that people are making fun of Indian culture openly and the government allows them to do so. I think he has not read Ramayana, Kamasutra or have visited Khajuraho because Ramayana talks about hijras whose sex practices are also like gays, Kamasutra also talks about homosexuality and Khajuraho is stuffed with homosexual sculptures.
She had most number of posters
I have not visited Khajuraho but I have read Ramayana and have looked at Kamasutra book and after looking at these books, I feel like India has the oldest gay culture in the whole world and gay culture was accepted in our society but the British made it a crime. I spent an hour just wandering here and there and then came back to the place where bus was supposed to start from. I met a guy there who was a 20 year old student of Delhi University. I was just sitting near the bus and he came and sat next to me and started talking. He said that he was feeling very confident and open after attending the parade. He said that he was also shy before coming to the parade but after attending the parade he did not have this problem of being shy about himself anymore.
He wanted to talk to me about the problem he was having with his boyfriend. He said that his boyfriend doesn’t talk to him anymore. He said that his boyfriend had slapped him few months ago in front of his friends and then stopped talking. He was so sad about it and wanted my advice but at the same time he said that his boy friend used to love him a lot and he could not believe that they could ever breakup. He was in too much love with his boyfriend. I advised him to wait for a while and keep trying to contact his boyfriend and see how things go. He seemed so happy after hearing that he should try to be in touch with his boyfriend.
I asked him if he had informed about his boyfriend to his parents and he said no because he was scared of his parents getting mad at him after listening that he had a boyfriend. I asked him if he would like to get married with his boyfriend and he said this is what he wanted. I asked if he thought his parents would ever allow him to marry a man and then he was quiet for a while and said no. I asked him if his friends knew about his boyfriend and he said that they know but very few of them are supportive of him, and most of his friends just make fun of him.
The leading banner
He wanted my advice to dress himself look sexy in the party. He had an extra sleeveless t-shirt which he had brought specially for the party, and he had a piece of cloth which he wanted to rap around his waist so that he can look sexy. I am not a fashion expert but I tried my best to help him look as sexy as he could. After talking to him I was wondering what would happen if he is forcibly married to a girl. He did not need to marry a girl. It would be bad for both his bride and he himself. A lot of homosexual people in India are forcibly married to the opposite sex which sounds like a crime to me.
I believe it.
I also notice one other thing- that a lot of homosexual people were calling each other by feminine and funny names, like a lot of them using the word randi (slut) for each other. I did not understand why they do it. Hijras always take a feminine name but homosexual people usually don’t use feminine names but it seemed like they like doing it. One other very interesting thing for me was that homosexuals were making fun of hijras. When we were going to the party place by a bus, there were a lot of hijras also in the bus.
Isai is Christan and bhai means brother
Hijras are known for their clapping and hijra songs. All the hijras were singing their hijra songs and were clapping in hijra style but a group of homosexual people, who were being interviewed in the bus, were making fun of the hijras all the time. They would be like “Oh my God! Where did they come from, these hijras, randi… There was a guy who stood up and said loudly that if anyone has a coin of Rs. 1, then please give to these randi hijras, otherwise they will keep clapping and singing. I know that there was no anger behind it but they would always make fun of them and they seemed so friendly to each other. It was a fun ride, though.
I liked that bus ride a lot and would not forget it ever. People were so happy, they were laughing, singing, hugging each other, making fun of each other… it was so fun. Finally the bus stopped and we arrived at M Lounge Bar in Sector 15, Noida. I had thought that I was going to a place where they would be having food and a little bit of drink and people would be talking, that’s all; but this place was something beyond my imagination. Actually it was a disco. As I stepped in, everything I saw was new to me because I had never ever been to a disco before.
Yea, 377 quit India
People were dancing, drinking, hugging, kissing… I had never seen anything like that before. There was a bar also in the disco and I also thought to drink a bit but I did not know that things were super expensive there. Entrance was free for the participants of the parade but the rest of the things were really expensive like drinks, food, cigarette… I drank a shot of whiskey and a bottle of beer but I still wanted to drink more because the atmosphere was thrilling there. I was enjoying myself a lot.
We really need it
Finally I had to come out of the disco and buy some alcohol from a shop and drank it. Before buying the alcohol I met the organizer Mr. Amit Agrawal and talked him for a while. He was too drunk to talk actually so he asked me to talk with one of the other organizers, who was a 25 year old student. He said that he was also a gay and when I asked him if he had informed about it to his family he said “No”. When I asked him if he thought that his parents would allow him to get married with his boyfriend, he said he did not know about it. But he would not like to get married with a girl.
He said that they had organized the parade without taking any financial assistance from any other NGO or institution or charities. Everything was organized by a group of gays. They had contributed money from their own pockets to make the event happen. He was also very high and he gave me his mobile no. and asked me to call him the next day so that we could talk more. After talking to him I got in the disco again. Now the party had reached at its top. �Whatever I saw there was completely new to me.
I saw many gay couples kissing, hugging and dancing together. I saw a couple of a 60+ and a 20 year old guy. They were also dancing and kissing, actually they had the longest kiss. I think their kiss lasted for something like two hours. There were a lot of hijras also who had their partners and they were kissing. I saw few lesbian couples also. I noticed that the daily visitors of that disco would come and sit at a corner and see things going on. I am sure they had also not seen anything like that before. I could easily see their shocked and curious face.
My body my business
I don’t think that any of the daily visitors danced that night. They were just watching what was going on that night. It was so fun. I was enjoying myself a lot. It felt a little bit strange at first to me and I was also shocked like other daily visitors but after spending few minutes everything seemed normal to me. I just felt like people were enjoying themselves and the most important thing for me was that they were happy. The feeling of freedom and joy is always awesome and I could easily see that feeling there.
It was funny that one of the guys came to me and started dancing and touched my ass but I did not know what to do. He touched me for few seconds but after no reaction from my side, he left me and joined someone else. I really liked the way he respected my feelings and I think the same way we should respect their feelings as well. None of the homosexuals made fun of me, or insulted me or tried to disturb me because I was a straight but I don’t understand why straight people always make fun or insult homosexuals. Why don’t straights also respect gays’ feelings the way they respect straight people’s feeling?
Who can stop us???
Now the party was over I headed back to home. I really enjoyed the party.It was really a fun night. I felt like it was one of the best things I had ever done with myself by participating and supporting the parade, and the obviously party was also so fun. I was supposed to talk with the two members of the organizing committee next morning and I was really looking forward to it but I could not because when I called them next morning, both of them said that they had drunk too much last night and now they just wanted to sleep so I could not talk with them.
I will try to talk with them next time when I go to Delhi. Mr. Amit had asked me to organize the Gay Pride Parade in Benares as well but I am not sure if Benares is ready for this kind of event. My overall experience was awesome and I really felt good to be in the parade. I saw the pain of the gay community in India, I listened their issues, I talked with them and finally I would say only one thing that they also deserve equal rights, equal rights for everything, and social acceptance. I don’t know how long will it take for them to get equal rights in India but one thing is very sure that it will take a long time for the gay community to get social acceptance in India.
Lots of hugging in the parade
They gay community is everywhere in each and every part of this world, somewhere it is hidden because of social pressure and somewhere it is open because of more awareness and education and liberalization. I was reading a newspaper article about an NGO that works with the gay community in Varanasi and it said that NGO was working with 1500 gays only in Varanasi. I am sure this number is not a real number, the real number is a lot bigger than this because most of the gay people do want to make their relations public because they are not accepted in the society.
Participants with the candles
And finally they are married forcibly to some opposite sex partner and their life is destroyed. I don’t understand what anti-gay people have to do with acceptance of gay culture. They don’t harm anyone. I think gay culture is all about having sex with the same sex partner or interaction towards the same sex, nothing else, rest of the things are just like anyone else whether they are straights, hijras, transgender or whatever… And who are we to stop anyone from exposing their thinking or stopping them from what they want to do with themselves?
Gay culture is only different inside the room and how could someone know what anyone what does inside the room? �It’s bullshit idea to think that we should even try to know what someone is doing inside the room. Outside room activity is same for everyone, whether they are homosexual or straight. When anybody is born in India, they get a few of the basic human rights and freedom of speech, freedom of thinking and equal rights for everyone are a few of those basic human rights. I think gay culture as just different thinking, nothing else, and everybody has rights to think whatever they want to think.
Like this poster
A few people think like they want to have sex with an opposite sex partner, they have it and few people think like they want to have sex with a same sex partner so they should also have it. And if there is any idea of equal rights, then gays also deserve equal rights as anybody else living on this planet. �What if a straight is married forcibly with a same sex partner? It is hard for me to think what would have happened with me if I was forcibly married with a boy, I would have no fun living with a same sex partner. The same question should be raised for everyone who thinks that homosexuality is abnormal or whatever…Just think about it.
I attended Delhi Gay Pride on the 26th. I heard a lot about gay pride festivals and how fun they are but had no idea about it so I was so excited to be there. I arrived in Delhi on the 24th and Adam and Megan also joined me for the parade. They were supposed to go to Benares but they changed their flights and came to Delhi to join me at gay pride. The Gay Pride started from Barakhambha Road and ended in a bar called M Lounge in Sector 15, Noida. I arrived at the parade place with Adam and Megan and what I saw was just amazing.
I am a girl and love a girl
They had hired band parties for music. When I reached, there were about two thousand people present. I had asked the organizer how many people were they expecting and he had said that last year they were expecting somewhere around 500 but about 1500 participated and this year they were expecting something like 2500 participants. He told me that the media was also very supportive to them last year and he was expecting for the same this year as well. When I reached there, I found a lot of media people covering the event. Police were also there to help them. I don’t know if they were helping the organizing committee because they were supposed to or they just wanted to but they were helping.
It was an international event
I was just wandering here and there and watching people doing things. I had thought that I would be talking to the participants but after reaching there, I decided not to disturb them at that moment because they were extremely happy and enjoying themselves and I did not want to disturb them by making them talk to me. The most interesting thing for me was that the participants were not only gays, but a lot of straight people and families were also there. A lot of foreigners were also there. I talked with a few of the foreigners about why they were there in the parade and all of them answered almost the same thing- to support the cause.
The organizing committee had arranged masks to cover the faces for the people who did not want to reveal their identities and a lot of the participants, even straights and families, were using these masks. I know that gay culture is not accepted yet in India so it made sense to me for the gays to wear the masks but I did not understand why straight people were using the masks. What was their reason to participate in the parade if they were so shy? I did not like it. �I think everyone should come forward and talk about the issue; only then the gay community in India can get its social identity.
I heard a few gays talking with the media and when the media asked them how they feel being a gay, all the people said the same thing- that people make fun of them and they do not have equal rights. The parade was getting started now and the energy, joy and happiness could easily be felt there. The band players had started playing their instruments, everybody was so happy, a lot of people were dancing with their partners, a few of them were alone and they were just dancing and jumping by raising the rainbow flag in the air.
I liked this poster
The parade was supposed to start at 5 PM but obviously it was also delayed�as most of the things in India, but this was the first time in my life when I was enjoying the delay. Finally the parade started sometime around 5.45 and to be honest this instance of my seeeing the energy, joy and happiness I saw there, was only my second experience in my whole life. I had seen the same amongst the people of Mehndiganj in the year 2007 when they were going to start their rally against Coca-Cola. Lots of loud music, people jumping, shouting, dancing, laughing… It was awesome. The atmosphere and the people there made me full of energy.
People jumping with the flag
They had a huge rainbow flag and almost twenty people were holding it, jumping with it and people were dancing under this flag, music was on… wow…it was just awesome. The participants of the parade were very mod and liberal, they were wearing very modern dresses. A lot of them had designed special masks, caps, hats and dresses for themselves. �I saw a few girls wearing only shorts and bras, and they had tattoos which is very uncommon to see in India. I had never ever seen those kinds of dresses on Indian girls. A lot of hijras were also there. They were also dressed somewhat differently than what they usually dress like.
The parade attracted good number of people this year
The parade started moving and more and more people started joining it. A lot of students came to join us. The number of participants had reached up to something like 3000 by now. A lot of people were standing at both sides of the road and just watching the parade. I saw many people coming out of the restaurants and other shops and they also joined us. The participants had designed different kinds of banners, posters, flyers and a lot of them had got different slogans written over their clothes and bodies.
Adam distributing HIV & AIDS education pamphlets
A lot of people had gotten their face painted in rainbow color. I had brought HIV & AIDS education pamphlets to distribute amongst the participants and general people and Adam and Megan helped me doing it. I gave them about 100 pamphlets and they distributed them within a few minutes. I noticed something strange that a few people just did not want to take the pamphlet but a few were very curious. A few people came to us asking for a pamphlet. There was an old guy who took our pamphlet and came back to Adam and he wanted to talk about the material written in it.
Thanks, Adam and Megan
Adam asked him to talk to me and he came to me and asked do you work for HIV & AIDS and I said yes. And then he asked me if I was supporter of the gay community or gay rights and I again said yes. And then he told me something strange. He asked me how I could be a supporter of gay rights and then work on HIV & AIDS at the same time. He said that gays are responsible for the spread of HIV all over the world. He seemed kind angry when he was talking and I wanted to talk to him about it but the parade was moving so I just gave him my business card and asked him to meet me later.
Look at the T-shirt
He never contacted me but it was strange to see him blaming the gay community for spread of HIV & AIDS. I know that gays are at higher risk of contracting HIV than straights but it doesn’t mean that they are responsible for the spread for this disease. Many people say that gays do much safer sex than straights. I think the Indian government’s HIV & AIDS program and corruption in the public health sector is responsible for the spread of HIV, not gays. I listened to a gay guy talking with a journalist and this guy was saying that he had been in gay relationship for the past five years and he was proud to be a gay. He said that gays are the people who do safe sex and know a more about STDs than straights.
So helping to each other
The journalist asked him if he had informed his family about his gay life and he said that his father knew about it but his mother sometimes told him that he is also becoming part of hijra community. I have noticed that people do not know the difference between gays and hijras. Finally the parade arrived at Jantar Mantar and stopped where they had organized speeches of social activists, gay rights supporters, different NGO members and a few gays also. Few gays who were wearing masks during the parade took their mask off when they came on the stage. It seemed like everything changed within a few hours. They were shy before starting the parade but not anymore.
I loved her dress
They said very loudly that now they were not shy anymore. They were proud to be gay. Speech happened about section 377 and a few other gay rights related issues and finally the organizer asked everyone to light up a candle. I also lit up a candle. Finally the parade was over but now there was a party left which was supposed to start from 9.30 PM at M Lounge bar in Sector 15, Noida. It was about 7 o’clock now and they asked the participants to gather together again at 8.30. They had arranged a few buses to take participants at the party place. I was so excited for the party.