Kathmandu Gay Pride 2010

BDS office

I went to Nepalafter 7 years but this time motive was different. When I went to Nepal last time, I visited Narayanghat and Kathmandu and basically I was just a regular tourist. But this tour was more than tourism for me. My main intention was to attend Kathmandu gay pride and learn more about gay activism in my neighboring country. Kathmandu Gay Pride is organized by an NGO called Blue Diamond Society. The main guy behind all the activities of Blue Diamond Society and all other gay activism in Nepal is Mr. Sunil Babu Pant, the director of Blue Diamond Society. He is one of the members of Parliament and Constituent Assembly in Nepal.

rainbow flag at the parade

We arrived at the Blue Diamond Society office the day before the parade and I was surprised that nobody was present there. We knocked the door and one person showed up, in fact he was the only one present at the office. He said that since everyone was working hard for the pride and their preparation just ended yesterday, today everyone was celebrating and it was vacation for them. Anyways, he gave me tour of BDS office and explained me basic work of the organization. Luckily I was traveling with my friend Babu who speaks Nepali hence language was not a barrier.

loved their dress

We talked for an hour and finally left with an invitation to attend the parade. I arrived to the BDS office on the parade day around 10 am. The whole office and its surrounding was full of people. They were wearing very colorful dresses and rainbow was everywhere. There were so many people dressed in traditional Indian wears which was really interesting to see. Later I was told that so BDS has networking all over Nepal and these people who looked like Indians came from the Nepal border close to India. The office staffed looked very confident and when I talking with them they were so open with their sexuality.

Red is new Black

Nobody wanted to hide anything. I interviewed so many people including Mr. Pant and learnt a lot. Mr. pant told me that Nepal is way more progressive than India in terms of gay rights. He said that Nepali society is very much accepting the LGBTI community and he seemed very happy with the progress. He said that when he started his activism he had face problems with political parties because all of them were opposing him and his demand of equal rights for gay community and he had to struggle a lot in the beginning.


But only after a few months when the same politicians and political parties noticed that he was getting huge support in Nepal, they all started to contact him and they were all requesting him to join their party. Later he participated in the elections and was elected for parliament. He did so much advocacy for equal rights for LBGTI community and finally in the year 2008 supereme court of Nepal ruled in favor of laws to guarantee full rights to LGBTI people, and all gender minorities must be defined as “natural persons” under the law; this included the right to marry.

great idea

I was really surprised to hear that Nepal had already legalized gay marriages. Mr. Pant told me that in fact they were using this status of gay marriages in Nepal to attract tourism and kill poverty and they use the same slogan in gay pride parade also. The gay pride is celebrated on the same day when whole Nepal celebrates a festival called Gaijatra. Mr. Pant told me that Gaijatra has been celebrated in Nepal for ages and the idea of this festival is that everyone is supposed to be happy, make jokes, dress strangely and make other laugh and happy.

promoting tourism

I asked Mr. Pant about his hope from the future and he said that if the condition goes on the same way then very soon they won’t need to organize gay prides in order to make LGBTI community strong but the only idea behind the parade would be increase tourism and bring more money jobs to Nepal because the society would accept the LGBTI community completely and it won’t be any issue at all in future. He said that even he started a travel agency called Pink Mountain to attract LGBTI tourists and it was getting very good attention.

Suman ji in the office

Mr. Pant said that definitely there is discrimination against LGBTI community in Nepal but not as much as India or many other countries. Whatever he said was very interesting for me, especially the status of LGBTI community in the society. LGBTI community heavily discriminated in India but Nepal seemed very progressive. Anywyas, I interviewed a few other people including Suman Ji who was in-charge of Lesbian community work. She also told me the same thing that society in Nepal was changing its views for LGBTI people and very soon there won’t be any discrimination at all. She said that Lesbian community is more discriminated compared with Gays or Bisexuals but she was satisfied with the progress and had a good hope from the future.

rain disturbed a bit

Finally the paraded started and I was part of it. Everyone was so happy, dancing, laughing, shouting and cheering-up… the same way in India. There were a few groups who were performing traditional Nepali dance and songs. It was raining that day hence parade was not really organized and in fact it was stopped for a while but in any case at least 1000 people attended the parade. I saw many people just jumping in from the restaurants or shops and joined the parade. The non-participants seemed cool to me, I did not really feel anyone was disturbed.

British ambassador in the parade

I once left the parade and went to a shop and then started talking with the owner. I asked him if he knew anything about the parade and he said it was Gaijatra parade. I asked him if he was aware of any connection with gay pride and he said no. So I am not really sure if everyone even knew that it was a gay parade. The biggest shock for me was presence of British Ambassador along with a few other country’s consulates in Nepal. I was thrilled to see the British Ambassador participating and supporting the parade. It immediately reminded me of section 377 in India which criminalized same sex practices in India and was introduced by British themselves.

Mr. Pant on an elephant

Anyways, it was happy to see British Ambassador there in the parade. Mr. Pant was sitting on an elephant in the parade and I noticed non-participants calling him, raising their hands which was a clear indication that Mr. Pant was a popular guy in Nepal and people liked him. There was a chariot which was provided by Nepal Art Museum and the elephant was provided by National Zoo in Kathmandu for free to support the parade which was again a wonder for me. All these things made me feel like definitely Nepal was more progressive than India in terms of equal rights for LGBTI community. And not only in terms on LGBTI rights but in Nepal was way ahead than India in terms of women rights. I was really impressed with the condition of women in Nepal, in fact it was the most impressive thing for me.

chariot in the parade

Finally the parade ended with candle lighting and a speech by Mr. Pant. Whatever I saw in the parade was not a wonder for me but when I think of the country Nepal and when I compare it with India then everything was a wonder for me. I was surprised to see how this small country which used to be a Hindu country, like India, only until a few years ago has accepted the LGBTI community whereas in India we are more developed, we have more money, better education but still the condition of LGBTI community is very bad. Anyways, it was really nice that I attended the parade and got to talk with Mr. Pant and other people working BDS. It was very inspiring and a blessing for me. I would definitely like to attend the parade again in Kathmandu in future.

US visa refused

It was my US visa interview at US embassy, New Delhi and it was refused which I was just not hoping for. I and other people who were supporting my trip were almost sure that I will get the visa. I had four sponsorship letters, my sponsor’s bank account papers, my own documents but the visa consular did not even see them. I arrived at the embassy at 7.45 am as it was my interview at 8. Everything seemed very secured at first. The security was organized by an private security company. I did not know see any Indian police there which I think was a good idea.

I never believe Indian police, private security guards work better than Indian police. I saw so many Sikh people for the interview, maybe more than half of the people for the interview were Sikhs, turban and beard everywhere. I had noticed something really strange on US embassy website which showed their special connection with Punjab. They have five different helpline numbers for four different regions of India. Actually they do not consider Punjab as part of North India, they have a separate number only for Punjab. On their website it is written: North India (except Punjab), very funny.

US embassy is no parking zone thus they do not allow any vehicle to even stop in front of the embassy. Even general public is not allowed to stand near the embassy. They want only and only people who have some business with embassy. First of all my papers were checked by the security staffs outside the embassy and then they allowed to get in the office. In the embassy the first thing happened with me was security check. They scanned each and everything I had, even my documents. After the security check they sent me to big hall where a lot of interviewees were already sitting.

Here one girl came to me and taught me about in which order I should keep my documents. Then she sent me to another officer who saw my documents and gave me a small receipt with my interview number mentioned on it. After this they asked me to wait for my number. My number came after 45 minutes. They were sending interviewees in group of 10 each time. I passed through a passage and arrived in a huge hall. I had to wait for 4-5 minutes here also and then my number came and I went to a counter where an Indian officer was sitting, most probably he was employee of US embassy VFS.

He just checked my documents and asked me a few questions which I had already mentioned while applying for the visa. I think he just wanted to make sure that I was the right person. After this one girl came to me who brought me to another counter and here I saw a foreigner first time. He wanted to take my finger print. There was a scanner where he asked me to put my both thumbs first and after scanning it rest of the fingers. It was first time in my life when my digital finger prints were taken. But I liked this idea better than putting ink on the finger then taking finger prints.

It had happened with me only a few months ago when I applied for my marriage certificate at Benares court. It made my thumb dirty. After taking the finger prints, they asked me wait for my number. I did not know what was going on as it was my first experience of any visa interview. I was just sitting, watching here and there, listening to the people… and finally my number came. I went to the counter and as saw a really professional looking person sitting at other side of glass and of course he was the visa counselor. His first question to me was where I wanted to go.

I told him Seattle and a few other cities and then he asked me why. I told him tourism and business and he smiled and said a little bit of both? He asked me several question within hardly two minutes. He knew a little bit of Hindi also. His last question to me was what was my income and I think here I failed. I told him how much money I made last year and then he wrote something in his computer, took booklet and passport and returned it to me saying that he could not give me the visa. I asked him why and he said that according to US laws I could not qualify for the visa.

I was really socked. I told him that my trip was entirely funded and I was going to stay with my friends therefore did not need much money for the trip but he said that those things doesn’t matter. I asked him what should I do next and he told me to try after a few years when my economical condition improves which indicated clearly that my income was less than what they expect from the visitors. Anyways, I was sad and left the embassy. I was so excited for this trip and I know that I was going get very good business if I would have gotten the visa but…

I do not blame US embassy or their policies for visas. I think everything was very well organized, staffs were super trained and everything looked so nice to me. The visa counselor was nothing but a robot. He did not have any attachment or detachment to me. He did what he was suppose to do and I respect him. And it was not the end of the world for me. I will try next year again when my economical condition will be better and I know it will be better for sure:)

USA visa application

I applied for my US visa a few days ago but it didn’t seem as easy as I had thought. Some things were very nice but I did not like a few things at all. First of all I had to deposit the visa fee and the good thing was that US embassy in India had arranged visa fee deposit with HDFC bank in several cities in India so I just went to the local HDFC bank with my passport and deposited my visa fee which was close of Rs. 6700. They asked me to use the receipt after one day as takes them around 24 hours to upload it on their sever. Anyways, it was very nice that I could deposit the fee in Varanasi.

After depositing the fee, I went on the US embassy website to schedule the appointment for my visa interview and the US embassy website directed me to their VFS website. I filled up the DS-160 form which was kind of a trouble because the connection would fail often and I had to start from the beginning. Even the website said that the applicant should save each and every page before submitting it so that means they also knew about this problem. It took me 2 days and at least 6-7 attempts but somehow I was able to fill up the form and submit it online.

After submitting this form I wanted to schedule the appointment for my visa interview and this was the worst part. I tried several days and several times each day but their website would always say that no date available for interview, please try again after 24 hours. After 4 or 5 days, I wrote to the VFS about this problem and it seemed like they did not read my mail carefully. Their mail seemed like a canned message which they send to many people for similar reasons but this mail did not answer my question.

Finally I made a telephone call to VFS and I was really surprised to hear their answer. They said that their website works only around 8 o’clock morning time so I should try to schedule my appointment around 8 o’clock in the morning time. I went online the next day at 8 o’clock and found that the website was working and I booked my visa interview. It was not something really bad but I was not expecting for anything like this from US government services. I explained this problem to one of my sponsors of my trip and he said that I should write to the US embassy in India about this problem as he was sure that US embassy was not aware about such problem but still whenever I think about this problem, I always think about US government services.

Finally received Indian passport

I finally got my passport and believe me it took more than eleven months. I had applied for it last year in February and got it this year in January. I went through all the crazy bureaucracy and corruption. The whole process starting from buying the application to getting the passport in hand was full of giving bribing and craziness. Police was supposed to verify my documents by coming to my home and meeting me in person but I went to the police station and they asked me for Rs.600 and never came to my place.

LIU (Local Intelligence Unit which is very intelligent in asking for bribe and is crazy when it comes to do something real) was also supposed to verify me by coming to place and check my documents but I meet the officer in a hospital room where his wife was admitted. It was so funny that I got a call from one LIU officer saying that he had my documents for passport and he wanted to meet me. I asked him what time would he come to my place but he said that his wife was sick and was admitted in a hospital so he gave me address of this hospital and asked me to meet him there.

I went to the hospital and this crazy officer took me to the room where his wife was admitted. His wife was a really fat sick lady laying down on a bed. She had an ideal look of an Indian government corrupt officer’s wife whose husband gets a lot of bribe. This officer just looked at my documents and asked for Rs. 600 as bribe. My friends had suggested me to give him only Rs. 300 so I tried to bargain but he said that my Rs. 600 would be divided in equal parts to all the officers at LIU office and finally I gave him Rs. 600.

After taking money from me this crazy officer asked me to teach him English. It was so funny. I started laughing, I just did not know what to say him. I suggested him a few schools and just left the hospital. He told me something really interesting while I was talking with him in the hospital. I asked him why didn’t he come to my place to verify my address and documents and he said that they are mostly concerned about people with beard. He meant to say that they are mostly concerned about Muslims.

I was wondering if Hindus or other religion people could not be a terrorist. How can he think like that? There is no such country in the world where terrorism is not there and it is hard for me to believe that terrorism spreads without local help. All kinds of people, community and religion is involved in it. What if I was also a terrorist? It was sad to see the way LIU is working. We are so much affected by terrorism now and these institutions seem more responsible for it to me.