Disco in Varanasi

Usually I go out with my friends to celebrate new year but this year I couldn’t as my friends were not organized. I thought why explore something new in Varanasi and it reminded me of a disco which opened last year. I had only heard about this disco called Agni in Varanasi but did not know where exactly it was located. I asked my friends about it and they also did not know about it. Finally I took my bike and went out searching for this disco in the evening of 31st. I reached to a bar and asked the address of this disco and fortunately they knew about it.

I went to the disco in the evening and they told me that they open only during 12 to 4 in the day time and 8 to 11 in the evening. They asked me to come at 8 o’clock. I went back there with a friend around 9 o’clock and found that they were allowing couples only. I was really sad that I was not going to be allowed. I asked them if there was any hope for me later in the night and they asked me to come after an hour. I went to an alcohol shop nearby with my friend and had a beer and they came back again to the disco. I was allowed this time to go in.

There was an entry fee of Rs. 1000 for couples and Rs. 700 for people like me who did not have a girl with me. The interesting thing was that there was no entry fee for girls. They said that I would get two beers inside and won’t need to pay anything for it as it is already covered in the entry fee. But the condition was different inside. They offered two small glasses instead of a bottle or a cane. I had already been to several discos and night clubs in different big Indian cities but it was my first experience at a disco in Varanasi and it was a really interesting experience.

I noticed a lot of differences between this disco and the other ones I had been in other cities. Usually I see good quality alcohol at discos and night clubs in other big cities but here they had very limited stock and the alcohol they were serving was not available at other discos I had been to. This Varanasi disco had stock of cheapest alcohol, most popular and some lower middle quality alcohol only. Usually these kinds of alcohol is not available at discos in big cities. The other big difference I noticed was they played only Bollywood music, which I understand and enjoy more than Western music, but in big cities I dont know why they never play Bollywood or Indian pop music.

The other discos in big cities I have been to have usually more people, like at least 100 in usual days but here there were hardly 50 people on new year eve day. Most of them were young boys. There were a few girls also. Varanasi is a very male dominating city where girls are usually not seen wearing short skirts or sleeveless clothes but here it was first time in my life when I saw girls wearing short skirts. Of course not all of them but a few. These girls were drunk and smoking which is really rare to see in Varanasi. It was the first time in my life when I saw Varanasi young girls and boys dancing together away from their family.

Or maybe they were not locals. Varanasi attracts a lot of students from all over India and these students usually live in the student hostels so most probably they were such students who live away from their families because it is hard for me to believe that Varanasi parents would allow their daughters to go to a disco with their male friends. Anyways, I liked  seeing them together.  I was really curious about the safety of women at the disco and after spending almost three hours it seemed like the disco was safe for women as well.

I saw a few families also who had kids with them. The disco is usually open only until 11 in the night but because of new year eve they were open until 1 am. Over all it was a really nice and interesting experience for me and I enjoyed it a lot. I wish to go there again in usual days with my friends and family. Happy New Year 2011.

Kolkata Gay Pride 2010

Begining of the parade

Beginning of the parade

I got to attend Kolkata Gay Pride as well which was on the 2nd of July. I arrived in Kolkata on the 1st of July after attending the Chennai pride and spending a few days in Bangalore. My friend Sourendra from Mumbai had introduced me to Mr. Rajshrei Chakrobarty who was Secretary of Dum Dum Society and one of the organizers of Kolkata Gay Pride. I knew that Kolkata was the first city in India to start gay prides and I was expecting it to be the biggest one in India this year as well but when I arrived at the parade venue I was shocked  to see that there were hardly 50 people in the parade.

Mr. Chakrobarty

Mr. Chakrobarty

Mr. Chakrobarty told me about the reason of few people before I asked him about it. He said that most of the organizations working on gay rights in Kolkata boycotted the parade because of some internal politics hence they could not make the parade as big as it used to be in the past. He said that Dum Dum Society and one other organization called Anandam were the only two organizations that organized the pride this year. I was surprised to hear that most of the organizations boycotted the parade but at the same time I was happy also that at least someone organized it.

the most important message

The most important message

The parade started from Jatin Das Park near Hajra crossing and ended at the Academy of Fine Arts. The parade started with only 40-50 participants but it was really interesting. I have been to all the big prides taking place in India within past one year and Kolkata one was the most liberal parade I had ever seen in India. I noticed that nobody was wearing the masks. They had an auto rickshaw with loudspeakers and the participants of the parade were singing songs of human rights, equal rights and gender equality. They were passing out pamphlets which had writing about LGBT rights.

Cool

Cool

It was raining most of the time during the parade but it could not stop people from joining the parade. The parade started with 40-50 people and ended with at least 100 or 120 people. A lot of people joined at the Academy of Fine Arts where the parade ended. In fact, the end was the most interesting part of the parade for me. At the academy a lot of young lesbian couples joined the parade. I had never seen that many lesbians before in any of the parades whether Mumbai, Delhi or Chennai and very interesting thing was that these girls were young.

Brave girl

Brave girl

They being young surprised me the most because in India lesbians coming in public and very rare and whenever I see any lesbian I always find them over 35, living either alone or with their partner and always have no connection with the family but these young girls were really young and I don’t think they were living alone or had no connection with their family. They were so open and they knew that their parents were going to know about their sexuality if they participated in the parade but they still did it which meant their parents either knew about it or these girls knew that their parents would not mind knowing that their daughter was a lesbian. I liked it.

Mr. Ranjeet Sinha

Mr. Ranjeet Sinha

The parade ended with speeches from Mr. Ranjeet Sinha, Mr. Rajarshi Chakrobarty and a few other social activists. After the parade ended, I went with Mr. Chakrobarty to attend a cultural dance and performance program organized by an organization called Saathi. This program was basically a platform for the LGBT community to show their talent and have fun. I spent about an hour at the program and then headed back to my hotel for overnight. Dum Dum Society had organized a cultural program about 2 hours bus ride away from Kolkata two days after the parade.

Cultural dance performance

Cultural dance performance

This program was really something and I could easily see how Dum Dum Society was working honestly with the LGBT community and how they had strengthened the people belonging to the community. The program was just awesome. They had several dance performances, some of them based on Bollywood songs and some on traditional  Kolkata songs,  they had fashion shows where all the clothes were designed by the people belonging to LGBT community and I was shocked to see the quality of the program. It was really awesome and I enjoyed it a lot. The chairman of municipality was the chief guest of this program.

He had a lot of fun

He had a lot of fun

There were more people in this program than the parade. I think there were at least 500 people at this program.  I was able to interview a few people including Mr. Rajshree Chakrobarty, Mr. Ranjeet Sinha and a few other people from LGBT community and all of those interviews were really interesting. Mr. Chakrobarty told me about the history of gay activism in Kolkata. He said that it first started in Kolkata in the year 1989 which clearly shows that they were one of the few who started gay activism in India and at present there are about six or seven organizations working on LGBT rights in Kolkata.

Good message

Good message

I asked about the condition of the LGBT community in Kolkata and he said that the condition of the LGBT community living in Kolkata city area is in much better condition than the LGBT community living in the other districts or suburbs of Kolkata because of the influence of media and availability of organizations working in the city. He told me that the condition of the LGBT community is much better in Mumbai and Delhi when compared with Kolkata because Mumbai had started working on this issue way before Kolkata and since Kolkata is the poorest metropolitan city in India, the life of LGBT community is not easy here.

Equal rights, yea!

Equal rights, yea!

Mr. Chakrobarty told me something really interesting that transgenders are more discriminated against when compared with gay community because their sexuality is more visible but when we talk only about discrimination then yes, the whole LGBT community is discriminated against on various levels. I asked the same question which I ask to other people whom I interview about many people thinking that homosexuality is a disease or a fashion and it being possible to change it by getting people married or making them practice yoga (Baba Ramdev Says). His answer was like the others in that he said it is not possible to change somebody’s sexuality by getting them married.

Good slogan

Good slogan

He said that many people get married with a woman under family or social pressure but they are not happy and they practice sex with a same sex person even after marriage. I know several people who do this and I definitely believe that it just not possible at all to change somebody’s sexuality by getting them married or teaching them yoga. I asked him about the existence of the LGBT community in Hindu culture and religion and he told me several stories which proves that the LGBT community has always been in existence. I also believe the same because I have read several Hindu sacred books and have visited temples where same sex behavior sculptures are shown.

Our rights, human rights

Our rights, human rights

He told me something really intersting that I did not know before. He told me when Hanuman went to Sri Lanka to search for Sita, he saw that Ravan had kept several women but he was not able to give time to all of them hence these women had started making sexual relationships with each other which clearly shows that there were lesbians during Rama’s time also. I asked him about the revocation of section 377 and he told me that homosexuality was accepted in Hindu society and temples of Kamasutra and several other books clearly proves it but British made it illegal and this judgment of the High Court of Delhi was a right judgment and most probably it will help changing the society in the future.

She was very active

She was very active

It was really informative talking with him. He was a real and honest social worker working on LGBT rights in Kolkata. After Mr. Chakrobarty, I got to meet Mr. Ranjeet Sinha who was a transgender himself and was working with transgenders in Kolkata and nearby districts. He also told me about the problemswhich the transgender community was facing in Kolkata. He told me that there are reservations on the basis of caste and religion but no reservation for transgenders. He demanded for a separate toilet system at public toilets because when he goes to the male toilet, people make fun of him and if he goes to the female toilets then women are scared.

Great

Great

Mr. Sinha told me a story of his one friend, who was a transgender Hijra himself and was a well known social activist in West Bengal and was suffering from AIDS. He had to go to the hospital once and the doctors forcibly took off his clothes, made him wear men’s clothes and only then they admitted him in the hospital. Mr. Sinha demanded that their identity should also be recognized on official documents such as passport and voter ID card. He said that all the NGOs are focusing only and only HIV and AIDS but they must do something on other issues also related with LGBT community. He mentioned all the South Indian states, especially Chennai, as being especially progressive working on transgenders issues.

Very colorful event

Very colorful event

He also said that it is not possible to change someone’s sexual identity and if one tries to do so then the result is always horrible. Kolkata taught me so many new things. I was especially thrilled to see the work of Dum Dum Society. It was really a nice experience meeting with people like Mr. Chakrobarty and Mr. Sinha and so many other people who helped me in Kolkata and educated me about their issues and their work. I hope to go their next year as well and will hope that all the organizations that had boycotted the parade this year would join the parade again by ending the internal politics and making Kolkata a city of equal rights for everyone.

Please click here to see more pictures:

Josh Massad’s World Through Music

Josh with village kids

Josh with village kids

I am working with a musician named Josh Massad on a project called world through music which is about teaching music and other subjects through music. Josh travels all over the world and teach music to kids. When he works in the US, he teaches African and Indian music to American kids, when he is in Africa, he teaches Indian and American music to African kids and at present when he is in India, he is teaching African, American and Asian music to kids in Varanasi. He had contacted me about a month ago asking if I would like to work with him.

Josh teaching Kanjira

Josh teaching Kanjira

The project seemed interesting to me and I agreed to work with him. He wanted me to organize his performances at schools in Varanasi. I thought it would be good for Josh and his project if he gets to work with different kinds of schools and kids therefore I organized his performances at city schools, village schools, private schools, government schools, play schools and schools run by NGOs so almost 50 performances in 25 days. There are 25 performances at village schools where kids come from really poor families, 10 performances at NGO run training centers for girls, 10 performances at city schools and about 5 at NGO run schools.

Dancing with a kid

Dancing with a kid

I have organized a performance at a school for children of sex workers in Varanasi. Actually children of sex workers can not get admission in any school because they do not have any residential proof and any document talking about their father’s name and there is an NGO in Varanasi which started a school specially for children of sex workers and we will be working there as well. I have organized one performance with kids of my education program. I have organized a performance with day time bondage child laborers. Actually there are a lot of bondage child laborers in Mehdiganj and Lok Samiti runs evening classes for them and we have a performance with those kids also.

Josh teaching map

Josh teaching map

Josh carries a map and a few instruments from different parts of the world. First of all he talks about geography, he teaches about seven continents and countries in it and then show these continents and countries on a map and then he introduces all of his instruments and shows on map where they come from. It was so interesting to see that village kids did not have any knowledge of geography at all. They did not even know in which continent India was there or they could name states of India. I was shocked to see this but I hope Josh’s lessons would help them.

showing an Indonesian instrument

showing an Indonesian instrument

After introducing his instruments, Josh plays these instruments to kids and teach them African songs. He teaches different songs but the one song that he teaches at every school is a welcome song from Africa called Fanga Alafia, Ashe Ashe. Kids love this song. They sing the song together with Josh and enjoy it a lot. Josh teaches them different styles of clapping and sometimes he teaches some basic yoga techniques as well. The project is going well, kids are happy, josh is happy so I am also happy. Few teachers at some schools asked me why Josh is teaching African songs, they don’t think it is going to help kids in any way.

Kids also love to play the instruments

Kids also love to play the instruments

I just don’t expect kids to learn all of those Josh’s instruments and geography in one day but I am sure that Josh’s performances will at least create interest about world geography and music in the kids and if they just look at the map only once at their home, I will feel like the project is accomplished. Josh is planning to make a documentary about his work next year and he wants me to organize things for him. He is planning to start a mobile school in India and again he wants me to organize it. He wants to bring musicians from different places and travel with them and teach music and geography. It sounds really exciting and I am looking forward to it.

Mumbai Gay Pride 2009

I loved his costume

I loved his costume

I attended Mumbai gay pride on the 16th of August. It is celebrated on this particular date because the gay community organizing this event says that India got freedom on the 15th of August but gay community never got freedom so they decided to celebrate their freedom one day after the independence day of India. The event was basically organized by an NGO called Humsafar that works with the gay community in Mumbai. I had already contacted people at Humsafar about my project and they were very welcoming. I was in Gwalior doing my training but I took a leave of 4 days and flew to Mumbai. I arrived in Mumbai on the night of the 14th.

They were at Delhi pride also

They were at Delhi pride also

I had attended this year’s Delhi Pride on the 26th of June and I really missed a video camera but I had arranged a video camera to record Mumbai Gay Pride. I had asked my friend Yogesh, who works in Bollywood, to arrange a camera for me and he provided me everything I wanted. I went to Humsafar on the 16th with a camera person and a friend from the US named Ryan. We met in Benares and I invited him to attend Mumbai Pride with me. I wanted to cover the preparation for the parade, interview a few people at Humsafar, interview a few people at the parade, participate in it, enjoy the party and make some new contacts to work together in the future.

Preparation for the parade

Preparation for the parade

I was supposed to start interviews at Humsafar at 12 o’clock but when I reached there I found that there were already a few media people interviewing Humsafar guys but they arranged a guy to show me their office. The office was amazing; they had an HIV and AIDS testing center. I had already been to a few NGOs but I had never seen any NGO having an HIV and AIDS testing center before, so it was really impressive. The Humsafar guy took me to the second floor of the office where they were preparing for the next day’s parade. There were about 20 guys practicing dance. A few of them hijras also. They had a guy to play Punjabi dhol and a big music system. I was surprised to see that they were practicing some traditional dance of hijra culture.

A poster at Humsafar office

A poster at Humsafar office

I just spent sometime watching the people preparing for the parade; they were really working hard and seemed so excited for the parade. All of the performers were either homosexuals or hijras who come to Humsafar if they need any help. The guy showing us the office told me that the CEO of Humsafar, Mr. Vivek Raj Anand, had just arrived at office and he asked me if I would like to interview him and I really felt lucky that I got to interview him. He was really amazing, very well educated, had very good knowledge of the issue and he really knew what he was talking about. He did not have much time but I got 15 minutes and I think it was good enough to start.

Mr. Vivek Raj Anand, The CEO of Humsafar and I

Mr. Vivek Raj Anand, The CEO of Humsafar and I

I believe that the gay community has always been in existence in India but a lot of people see it as a disease which came from the West so whenever I interview someone about gay culture, I always ask them about the history of gay culture in India. I ask them to tell me about the presence of gay culture in Hindu religious books because I know that Indians do not want to compromise with the religion and once they know something is part of their religion and culture, they are always so welcoming to this idea. And I also wanted to do the same thing, because I believe that if people know that gay culture has always been part of our culture, the it would be easy to make them understand the issue.

A participant of the parade

A participant of the parade

My idea behind interviewing all these people was to interview them and put the interviews online. I had intentionally done the interviews in Hindi so that people living in India could understand them. The interviewee told me a few stories that came from Ramayana and other Hindu religious books which showed the presence of gay culture even during Ram’s time. He talked about what kind of problems he had to face in society, how people discriminated against him, how he came out of it and what is the hope for the future. It was really interesting to learn the history of gay culture in India. He had very good knowledge about history of gay culture in India, especially in Hinduism.

Its true

Posters at the parade

Mr. Anand asked me to work with the MSM community in Benares. He said that he could give me a project or he could get me one through the UP government which was something I really wanted to do. We talked about working together in Benares but he said that Humsafar doesn’t work out of Mumbai and Thane district. He said that he would help me with anything I wanted- funding, training or any other thing but they will not go out of Mumbai and Thane district officially to work. I think I will not be able to work with him soon as my NGO is not registered under section 12 A and any NGO can not get this registration until they are at least 1 year old. But now Sanjeevani Booti has completed its 1 year and now I can apply for this registration.

Thank you Baba Ramdev

Thank you Baba Ramdev

Mr. Anand told me during his interview that he wants to thank Baba Ramdev on behalf of the whole gay community because Baba is the one who challenged the judgment of the high court of Delhi in the Supereme Court of India to revoke of section 377. He said that the Supereme Court of India would also give the judgment in favor of the gay community and this way they would have equal rights very soon. He said that there was no one who bothered coming against the judgment of Delhi high court but it was Ramdev Baba who brought this matter to the the Supereme Court of India so thanks to him. I would also like to thank Baba Ramdev for making the process faster.

Absolutely not

Absolutely not

I interviewed the Mr. Anand, the manager of Humsafar, one bisexual , two hijras, and few gays. It was really a nice experience interviewing them and listening to them and their stories. All of them were a little different from each other but they had the same issues. I think everybody whom I interviewed at Humsafar talked about discrimination the most. The manager of Humsafar told me that he wanted to get his passport with his gender showing either a girl or a hijra or a transgender but the government officials do not want to do it. Government officials tell him that they just do not know what a transgender is.

This was really interesting

She was really interesting

He said that he has gotten his name changed officially to a female’s name and now preparing for a gender change operation but still the government doesn’t want to issue him a passport showing his gender as a female or as a hijra or as a transgender. He has sued the government for this reason. He was saying that gender change operation facility is not very good in India and he wants to go abroad to get it done but since the government is not issuing his passport he is unable to do it. He said that he has decided that he will take his passport only if they issue the passport with his gender showing as a female or a hijra or a transgender.

The hijras I interviewed

The hijras I interviewed and I

He told me that he only looks like a man from his body but he is not a man, he is a woman. I interviewed one Muslim guy also who was with a group of two hijras. This interview was also very interesting. It was the first time when I interviewed any Muslim gay. He said that his family will never allow him to get married with a man, which is what he wanted, so he has decided to either escape from the home or just stay unmarried for his whole life. The hijras were also fantastic. They told me a lot of things about hijras that I did not know before.

Biggest attraction of the parade

Biggest attraction of the parade, for me:)

I never understood the difference between people’s use of the word “hijra” and a “gay” and when I asked him about it they said that educated people use the word gay and uneducated use the word hijra, that’s all. They also talked about the issues hijra community is facing in India and it was exactly as the issues of other people whom I had interviewed at Humsafar. Hijras told me something really interesting that there are two different kinds of hijras.

look at the costume, awesome

look at the costume, awesome

One of them is more respected in amongst hijras. They get married to the hijra goddess when they are so young. They have to wear a thread all the time which represents their marriage with their goddess. They can live with their family as well which doesn’t happen with the other kind of hijras. The hijras who bless and dance at the weddings are different than them; it was really interesting, and I need to do some research about it. I interviewed a bisexual who was in fact a male sex worker. It was the first time when I had ever met any male sex worker and it was amazing talking to him. He also had few issues likes discrimination because he was a bisexual guy.

Participants at the parade

Participants at the parade

He said that when he was 14 years old and would go out with his friends and his friends used to look at the girls but he never felt like he had any interest in girls. He said that when he turned a bit older, he met Mr. Anand who brought him to Humsafar and that was the time when he came to know why he did not have any interest in girls. He joined Humsafar and now he works there as a program manager. He said that he used to distribute condoms to the male sex workers at railway stations and once he gave a pack of condoms to a policeman thinking that this policeman was a male sex worker. The policeman slapped him and kicked him out of the railway station; it was a funny story.

Aceept our sexuality, it is not a defection

Aceept our sexuality, it is not a defect

The first day was all about watching people preparing for the event and interviewing a few people at Humsafar. After completing the interviews on the first day, we came out of the Humsafar office and we were standing on the road waiting for an auto-rickshaw and at the same time a 25-26 year old guy named Sourendra came to me and started talking about what we were doing in Humsafar office. I had already seen him in the office so I also didn’t hesitate telling him about my project. He asked me where I was from, what I was doing at Humsafar etc. and then he asked me about my project and said that he was also gay and visits Humsafar on regular basis.

Folk dance performers at the parade

Folk dance performers at the parade

He seemed to be an educated and interesting guy. He asked me where I was going and after my answer he said that he was also going to the same direction. He said that he also wanted to come with me. I asked him if he would like to be interviewed and he said- why not. We went together to my friend’s place and my friend drove us to somewhere where there was a litti-chokha (very famous Bihari food) party. We all went together and I interviewed him over the dinner at 1 o’clock night time.

377 out

377 out

Actually I regretted that I took him to that party because the guys over there at the party got too much interested in him after hearing that he was a gay. They would all come, look at him and laugh. I was really not comfortable there and I told my friend to change the place but since it was already 1 o’clock night time, we just decided to continue the interview at same party place. Sourendra was such an open and energetic and nice person. He talked about a lot of things that usually people do not want to talk about.

Participants at the parade

Participants at the parade

He talked about his sex practices and this conversation was really interesting. He talked about discrimination in the society, family, friends and discrimination at his job. He used to work at a call center and everything was fine for him. After a few months the call center in-charge changed and a new guy came who seemed like did not like gays. Sourendra’s voice was was sweet, like a girl, but this new in-charge wanted him to speak with a heavy voice which was something unnatural for him. He said that he pretended to speak with a heavy voice but it did not work and his performance level decreased and finally he had to leave the job only because he could not speak with a heavy voice.

Neither less nor more, we just ask for equal rights

Neither less nor more, we just ask for equal rights

When I asked him about the existence of gays and hijras in our religion and history, he told me something really interesting. He told me about the existence of gays and hijras during Krishna’s time. He said that once Krishna also wanted to sleep with a man. It was something that I had never ever heard before. I know that Ramayana in North India is different than Ramayana in South India. They have some difference between them like Ramayana in North India says that Hanuman was a celebate and South Indian Ramayan says that Hauman had more than one wife. People living in the North do not eat fish because it is meat for them and people living in West Bengal eat fish because it is sea food for them.

Bijay with his friend

Bijay with his friend

Different people have different beliefs about the same thing and maybe the case here was also the same: the Mahabharta Sourendra had read was a little bit different from the one I have read, not an issue at all. I liked interviewing Sourendra. After completing the interview we dropped Sourendra at the railway station. I was so excited for the next day’s parade. I was supposed to meet my friend Bijay, who lives in Chennai, at the parade. He was also gay and was in Mumbai to attend the parade.

Aadimanav

Aadimanav

We met at the Church Gate and headed together to the parade. I had two other guys to help me with the camera and other things. Mumbai Gay Pride seemed different than Delhi Gay Pride. I think the organizers had tried to give a cultural look to the parade. There were folk dance and song performers from South India and they were performing local dance of South India. I met Laxmi also at the parade. The parade was a little bit delayed as other things in India and started around 12 o’clock. I think the number of people at Delhi Gay Pride and the Mumbai one was same, something around 3000 people.

Youngest participant of the parade

Youngest participant of the parade

A group of people was carrying a huge rainbow flag. Mumbai seemed more respectful to the flag than Delhi. People at the Delhi parade were so excited that they started jumping with the flag and tore it off only few minutes after the parade had started. I saw a guy with his four or five year old daughter at the parade. She was sitting on her father’s shoulders and was holding the flag. A few of my foreign friends tell me that although they support gay rights they do not like gay pride parades as they are so vulgar but in India situation was the completely different- very cultural, good enough even for a five year old girl.

Laxmi and Celina

Laxmi and Celina

People were dancing, jumping and laughing so it seemed like a very happy event. I was also enjoying it. An hour after the parade started, a Bollywood actress named Celina Jaitely joined the parade. She has been involved with gay rights issue for a long time in India. I saw many Bollywood and TV stars at the parade. I think she was in the parade for more than an hour. There were a few guys with Celina and they had dressed amazingly. I had never ever seen anything like that before. Laxmi, Celina and everyone else at the parade were dancing and enjoying themselves.

bombay gay pride 194

look at the masks

I saw two Muslim girls also at the parade who were wearing Burka. They joined the parade an hour before its end but they also seemed to be enjoying it. They were also dancing with other people but most of the time they wanted to be under the gay pride flag. I think they were concerned about their identity. Many people seemed concerned about their identity like at Delhi Pride. They had covered their faces with clothes or some kind of masks. I just don’t understand why people come to the gay parade if they are so concerned about their identity? Better stay at home and watch it on TV if they can not support it openly.

Baba Ramdev would like it

Baba Ramdev would like it

Mumbai Gay Pride seemed more organized in some ways. They had a van stuffed with banners, posters, masks, t-shirts etc. But masks and t-shirts were the most demanded items. I also tried to get one t-shirt but could not because they ran out within few minutes. They were distributing bottled water also to the participants. They had few volunteers with big bags who were collecting all the garbage, poly bags and bottles used during the parade. They said that they did not want to leave anything as garbage on the road, so this was a very clean festival which usually doesn’t happen in India.

live and let live

live and let live

I saw many people looking through their balconies and windows of their houses. I am sure they were surprised. Many people just joined the parade serendipitously. I saw a few people who were standing somewhere along the road doing their business, and then they saw the parade and joined it. One thing was very sure that Mumbai pride had more transgenders and hijras than at Delhi parade. There was a group of hijras which was right behind the flag performing some traditional hijra dance but this dance was not something I had seen hijras doing where I live. This hijra dance seemed more organized and calm, but usually hijra dance is very energetic and loud.

Meeting after the parade

Meeting after the parade

The parade was moving and moving and I was just filming the parade, talking with participants and enjoying it. Finally the parade stopped at August Kranti Marg sometime around 4 o’clock where a few social workers and NGO members delivered a speech about gay rights and their future planning. I also took a break and went to the beach nearby. I did some filming there also and interviewed a gay couple whom I had seen at the parade. One other thing that was in my mind was the repeal of Section 377 and I wanted to talk about it with the participants of the parade and members of Humsafar.

They were so happy

They were so happy

I asked about repeal of Section 377 to almost everyone I talked with and everybody was so happy about it. There was a guy who told me that these kind of laws are very important for bringing change in the society. Section 377 did not affect gay culture very much in India, even when it was effected, because you never know who is doing what inside their room but the worst thing that happened because of implementation of 377 was that it changed the thinking of people over time. But now since 377 is repealed, it will take some time, maybe 50 or 100 years, but someday gays will have equal rights in India. I also believed what he said.

Hijras

Hijras

After the parade ended, my friend Bijay took me to a very famous and old restaurant near August Kranti Marg. After having a few bottles of beer, we headed to Bijay’s hotel. I spent some time at Bijay’s hotel and then we headed to the party place. The party was organized at a disco but the Mumbai party was different from Delhi one. The Delhi party was organized by the organizers of the parade whereas the Mumbai party was organized by the participants. Delhi party’s entry was free but Mumbai party’s entry was Rs. 500 but they gave me three free drinks.

I with my friends after the party

my friends and I after the party

The Mumbai party had more people than the Delhi one and it had more lesbian couples also. It was my second time at any disco after the Delhi pride party and I was so excited for it. I don’t know why but I drank a lot of beer that night at party and got completely drunk. I saw many gay couples kissing and hugging each other which was not new to me but my friends were so surprised to see it the way I was surprised at the Delhi party. The party was supposed to last for the whole night but I had to leave early as my flight back to Bhopal was at 6 o’clock morning time.

look at the costume

look at the costume

Ryan helped me by packing up my stuff and bringing me to the airport. Somehow I arrived safely in Gwalior but that I will not forget that party night, it was crazy, I loved it. This trip was very successful because I got to meet with a lot of new people, interviewed them, learnt a lot and built some business relationship with Humsafar. They have invited me again to the parade next year and I will try to attend it. I still think about the people I talked with, their issues, their stories… it was so nice talking with them.They are fighting for a issue which should just not be an issue.

very happy picture

very happy picture

My friend Sanjay, who helped me with camera, told me what I was doing was crazy when I explained him my reason for being in Mumbai but after listening to the people I interviewed, his mind also changed. He also told me that gays should also have equal rights in our society. Actually my question stories of gay culture in Hindu religion worked for him. All of the interviewees told me few stories and it changed Sanjay’s mind. I know it very well that if somehow people can come to know about the existence of gays in Hindu religion, then there will be less problem for gays to get acceptance in Hindu society.

rainbow flag

rainbow flag

I think the basic reason behind the discrimination against gays in India is the communication gap, especially about sex practices, between straights and gays and 150 years of section 377. Section 377 changed our society a lot; it changed the mind overtime. When I look at Hindu religious books and history I find that gay sex practices have always been part of Hindu culture. It was not any issue at all and we were the most liberal society on the planet but the British changed everything in India. Well, we are getting rid of the poverty given by them slowly and I hope to get rid of this crazy system also.

VIDEOS ARE COMING SOON

Guide training program – week 5

I have passed five weeks in Gwalior doing the training, now just one more week of classroom teaching to go in Gwalior and then we will go for the tour. This week was also very interesting. We had classes about Indian Buddhism, Indian archeology & rock painting, conservation, Kailash Mansarovar, Ayurveda, Taj Mahal, Indian classical music, vocal and dance, virtual reality in tourism, travel legislation and there was one class about our project report. The class about Indian Buddhism and Taj Mahal was the best one and the class about conservation and Indian classical music, vocal and dance was the worst one of the week.

The lecturer delivering lecture about conservation was too fast. He spoke continuously for two hours, it was crazy. No time for anything else. He would just change the slide and start speaking about it, and then again change the slide and speak about it. He did not want anyone to go to washroom during the class. He asked us to use the washroom before the class was started and then asked us to lock the door of the class. The class about Indian classical music, vocal and dance was also not interesting. The performance was good, actually it was entertaining because they played instruments before us and performed a dance but the lecture was again terrible.

They were trying to teach us things that were impossible for a beginner to understand. They taught us little about the basics, and then started teaching us about different ragas which are impossible to understand for a person who doesn’t know much about Indian classical music. The class about Indian Buddhism was one of the best classes I have ever had during the training. The lecturer was a professor of Buddhism at Delhi University and was supposed to talk about Indian Buddhism but he did not talk about Indian Buddhism much. He said that he had traveled over 80 countries and had been to Mansarovar 7 times.

He started his lecture with Indian Buddhism but switched soon to the present politics, religion, politics in the past… He was more interested in teaching us about how life in India is good, why politicians are corrupt and how we discriminate and why we should not discriminate anyone on the basis of their country, state, sex or religion. It was really a nice lecture, we laughed most of the time and enjoyed it a lot. He told us really interesting things like over 40% of the heart attacks take place on Monday in the US and Canada because of too much work pressure.

Our program for the tour is also decided now. The classroom teaching at Gwalior center will finish on the 18th and the practical training in Agra will start on the morning of the 19th so we are taking a train on the evening of the 18th. The participants will have to arrange their own lodging and fooding, the institute will arrange five coaches to take us around and they will invite experts to train us. Our training in Agra is on the 19th and 20th, 21st is off.
The training in Jaipur is on the 22nd and 23rd, 24th is off and then our final training will take place in Delhi on the 25th and 26th.

Sex worker children rights rally

Children of sex workers at Durbar's officeChildren of sex workers at Durbar’s office

I participated in a rally organized by Durbar for sex workers children rights. This rally started from Durbar’s office at Sonagachi, the red light area. Seranna and I with the other crew members arrived at Durbar’s office at 6.30 evening time. This rally was supposed to start at 7.00. We were so excited. I saw hundreds of policemen wandering around the office. First of all I thought something bad had happened but in fact they were there to protect us. There were about 3000 people already present there, with most of them being children of sex workers. All of them were lined up and carrying some banners.�

Children carrying banners

Children carrying banners

There were a lot of hijras and transgenders also. There was a group of children of sex workers who were going to lead the rally with music and dance. I really liked this idea of having some music and dance also. The rally started around 7 o’clock and I think there were about 5000 people present by then. It was a huge rally. The rally started from Durbar’s office and passed through narrow alleys of Sonagachi, which is the biggest red light area of India. Seranna and I were in front cheering up with the children of sex workers.

sex workers hiding their face from camera

sex workers hiding their face from camera

Right after two-three minutes we arrived in the middle of the red light area.�I saw that there were sex workers everywhere- on the road, on the roof of the brothels, looking out of their windows… all of them were dressed very well but I could easily see that they were not happy and healthy. None of the sex workers wanted people to take their pics. They would turn their face away right after seeing the camera. I did not like it. It clearly means that they are too intimidated publicise their identities and it is only and only because of the way they are separated from the society. It was not something I was expecting.�

Sex workers children rights

I tried to look inside some of the brothels as well. I just could not believe what I saw there. The brothels were too dirty, just too much. There was not even any proper ventilation system for the houses. There were bottles of alcohol thrown everywhere. It was not something only about brothels, the whole neighborhood was terribly dirty. I saw many many people who looked like drug users and were physically and mentally sick. It was third world for me. I knew that Indian sex workers have a very bad life but I did not know that it was this bad. I had already seen some brothels in Varanasi and a few nearby districts but I never realized that our sex workers live in this terrible condition.

kolkata-289

Sex workers children rights

They are kept in the terrible conditions in the brothels, and have no ventilation, no proper food, no health care, can’t go out of the brothels and after all of this they can’t make good money. Sex work is extremely cheap in India. Some of the sex workers whom I had interviewed for the documentary had said that sometimes they charge Rs. 50 only per customer and they have to give half of it to the brothel owner. It was a terrible situation there. We distributed a lot of pamphlets to the sex workers which were about their and their children’s rights. I could not understand anything written on these pamphlets because everything was written in Bengali.

Sex workers rights

One thing that was very interesting to me was that a lot of children of sex workers were effeminate.� This whole group of the sex workers children who were doing cultural program and were leading the parade were either hijras or effeminate. Sometimes they would sing hijra songs as well. I have heard and few a sex workers and locals of Kolkata had told me that a lot of times the children of sex workers are also abused by the clients of their mother and I was wondering if this was the reason why they were so effeminate? I am not sure but it was not something I see often in my society- this huge number of hijras or effeminate people from one neighborhood.

Children of sex workers

Children of sex workers

A lot of locals of Kolkata told me that sometimes people go to brothels and contact the brothel owner and ask for a young kid and these cruel brothel owners bring the children of the sex workers who are sometimes only 6-7 years old. Usually it is not done in knowledge the mother of the child and even if they come to know about it, they just can’t do anything. Their children are forcibly made to have sex and this happens again and again- whenever there is a client asking for a young boy or girl. It was very sad to hear the way sex workers and their children are treated.�

Children of sex workers dancing

Children of sex workers dancing

A few people told me that since the kids of sex workers spend most of their time with their mother and do not get involved with any male and are abused often, it changes their lives and makes them effeminate. I do not know if this is true or not but it could be true also to some extent. Well, they were very nice with the dancing and music. Some of them were playing the drums also. After we had completed half of the way, a very famous hijra named Luxmi Narayan Tripathi joined us. She is very famous and represents hijras and transgenders of Asia.�

kolkata-312

Sex workers children

She was also full of energy and excited for the rally. She was jumping, clapping, dancing, shouting…it was so fun to see them. I loved being with them. I also danced with them, tried to repeat their Bengali songs which in fact I was not able to pronounce perfectly but I tried my best. I enjoyed most when they would sing Hindi song- hum honge kamyab (we will be successful). I also sang this song with them. It was really an amazing experience being with these little kids who were fighting for their rights. Finally we reached a big park where the parade was ended. Now different people were putting thoughts and addressing to the community people.�

Laxmi addressing to the community people

Laxmi addressing to the community people

A few sex workers, social activists and Laxmi addressed to the people present there. They promised to each other they will �keep fighting for their rights so long as they have even a drop of blood in their body. Now the rally was done and we had created a big traffic jam. I loved this rally, the kids of the sex workers and everything that happened in this rally. I am sure that I will go next year also to support them in their rally.