Harish Iyer, Sushant Divgikar react to Wendell Rodricks' death

Updated: Feb 13, 2020, 07:48 IST | Hemal Ashar | Mumbai

Wendell Rodricks's succinct statement: 'I married the man I loved' summed up his comfort level with who he was and made him an inspiration for the queer community

Wendell Rodricks with husband Jerome Marrel
Wendell Rodricks with husband Jerome Marrel

To call Wendell Rodricks the poster boy of the queer cause, would be to trivialise in some way his mammoth contribution to the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender (LGBT) community.

Goa's fashion designing behemoth was, "an out gay man, but more than that, it was his comfort level about who he was, whether in his work or his life choices which was truly inspirational," said Sushant Divgikar a professional singer. "I am so much younger to Wendell. I grew up in the '90s but he was an aspirational figure to my generation. I remember reading about him where he simply said, "I am married to the man I love," that is the life I and many gay men wanted. That is what I mean when I say he did not have to shout from the rooftops to espouse the LGBT cause, he just had to be himself."

A giant of a man
Sridhar Rangayan, filmmaker and director of Kashish Mumbai queer film festival, who was still in shock when this reporter spoke to him a few minutes after the news of Wendell's death broke, said, "The news is yet to sink in as I was interacting with him just a few days ago. He was such a giant of a man, so full of compassion and love. He was a champion of the rights of the LGBTQ community and lived by example."

Mumbai's celebrity makeup artiste Cherag Bambboat who worked with Wendell for a number of shows in Goa added, "We worked together for several India Beach Fashion Week (IBFW) projects. He was a true, old-time master fashion designer. He has such a great contribution to where fashion is going today, his designs were always classic but still with a touch of the contemporary. I am still trying to process this news."

A younger brother
An emotional Ashok Row Kavi, India's pioneering gay activist said, "Wendell was like a younger brother. We were in fact, chatting on WhatsApp just a couple of days ago. Wendell told me to move and settle down in Goa, telling me that I was too stressed out in Mumbai and to get away from all the nonsense going on here. We used to often WhatsApp in Konkani. I remember he would send his car to pick me up from the station or the airport when I would go to Goa. He often sent me Goan sausages, and a brand of vodka called Resolute which they bottled in Goa. I still have a bottle in my kitchen. I am just too sad and upset right now."

The frenzied pace of communication today means one has to ask for reactions, as there is not a minute to spare even while the news is breaking. That explained the gamut of reactions as one of shock or still too numb to process.

Equal rights activist Harish Iyer actually shouted in disbelief, 'what, what' on the phone, as he was told that Wendell is no more. Iyer said, "Wendell was a lighthouse of courage. At a time when people spoke in whispers, he was out, loud and proud. Recently, we saw different facets of his personality - Wendell, as an animal lover or Wendell, the activist who spoke about Goa-centric issues. He leaves behind footprints in the sands of Goa."

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