Mumbai's Queer Azaadi March

It was not the city's first gay pride march, but it was its most successful until date. The Queer Azaadi March, an event to mobilise support for the queer cause, attracted people from all quarters: men and women, straight and gay, rich and poor. A healthy, thunderous mass of over 500 people kick-started the march from August Kranti Maidan (to hold resonance with the theme 'freedom' since the Quit India Movement was launched from here in 1942) and concluded at Chowpatty beach. Thus holding rainbow-coloured flags and carrying placards demanding equal rights, homosexuals and lesbians, eunuchs and HIV victims, socialites and activists, all closed ranks demanding the repeal of Section 377, an archaic Victorian law that still criminalises homosexuality in independent India: it's a million mutinies now. What added even more colour to the cosmopolitan kaleidoscope was the number of straight people who stepped in to support equal rights in an unequal India. Gallerist Abhay Maskara was one such example, donning a pink Gandhi topi despite being a staunch heterosexual. "I'm not gay but I think it's high time Mumbai had equal rights for gay people. How can India claim to belong to the 21st century and have such a law? I have specifically come to show straight support for the queer cause; I will be here next year as well," he said. Similarly '80s siren Rachel Rueben, who has changed tracks from fashion to film editing, was another messiah from straight quarters who had descended to support her pink pals. "I come from the fashion world, half of which is gay. Actually, I think half of India is gay. So what makes us so queasy about sexuality?" she quipped, before joining her friend in drag, make-up artist Kumar, who went by the moniker ‘Dolly’ for the occasion. A good amount of glitter and glamour represented queer Mumbai: stylist Arjun Bhasin was seen marching, accompanied by his friends and sister Niharika Khan (straight, married to Ayub Khan). "It's high time Mumbai had a queer pride march. In fact, it's too late in the day!" said he; artist Apnavi Thacker flanked support for the cause side-by-side with her father Lalit Thacker. "Gay people are some of the most sympathetic that I know; I have come to show my love for them," said the dapper, elderly gentleman; designer James Fareira was at his flamboyant best. "Isn't this fab darling!" he announced in delight, waving his hands at the surprisingly large turnout; filmmaker Reema Katgi dazzled her female fan base with her chic goggles and luscious lips. "Nothing would stop me from coming to this march; today is a very special day indeed," said the director of Honeymoon Travels Pvt Ltd when asked to comment on the event's significance. Other queer personalities spotted at the march included designer Krsna Mehta (dressed in a rainbow-coloured tee and his trademark mascara), filmmaker Ashish Sawhny, and theatre veteran Dodo Bhujwala. Going back to the straight bunch, Nandini Sardesai was seen shouting slogans. "I have taught queer culture to my students, and I am someone who practices what they preach. And so I am here," said she. South Mumbai resident Delna Poonawala was equally vociferous in her support for the march. "As a fashion designer, many of my friends are gay. They are creative, visionary, delightful folk. Why is India victimising them? Section 377 has to be abolished," said she, before stepping into a sedan that slithered into the Marine Drive traffic snarl, a din deafened for a change by the frantic chant of lesbians crooning "Hum Honge Kaamyab Ek Din"…

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