Amidst reports of a gradual shrinking of cultural, liberal and intellectual space where books, writers, movies and intellectuals are slowly being silenced, either through straight out violence or more covert means, Mumbai’s gay pride march has got the green signal yet again. The march is slated to be held today afternoon. It begins as usual from August Kranti Maidan, near Gowalia Tank winding its way to Opera House and returning to the start point.
This march, symbolic though it may be, is becoming a part of Mumbai’s ethos. The Pride Walk of Mumbai may be tepid in comparison to some countries in the West, where floats, commercial business and dykes on bikes are all part of the pomp and pageantry in Pride Week, where bodies and sexuality become as much a display, as a statement of defiance. While Mumbai may still be a long way away from a statement of this magnitude, it is important that the event does occupy pride (pun intended) of place in the cultural calendar.
India’s supposedly most cosmopolitan, liberal of cities putting the brakes on a march that serves to help the community take up mainstream spaces, would be a huge blow to its reputation. While the Pride March had a huge novelty value when it started off in 2008, and some of that has worn off as the years progressed, it is still a huge, mobile forum for gay visibility. It is a reminder that it will still take time to blur the so-called lines between gay and mainstream. Gays must not now be confined to different spaces or a world different from the rest. What better way to illustrate that than a walk on the streets of the city? Today too, there is a nudge-nudge-wink-wink attitude by certain commercial establishments when asked to stock gay literature or hold gay events. While the ‘pink rupee’ as they call it is welcome, it is still more convenient not to acknowledge it at all.
Constant reinforcement is the only way demarcations between what spaces gay and the mainstream inhabit can disappear. Awareness and acceptance, a real sense of belonging is not just in the mind but in physical spaces too.