Mumbai: Racecourse opens its lawns for queer turf
Galloping towards inclusivity, RWITC to host LGBT+ community's annual 'Gulabi Mela' on last weekend of Pride month
The Royal Western India Turf Club (RWITC) at Mahalaxmi is starting 2019 by looking at the world through the queer eye. Come January 27, the 'stodgy' establishment will throw open its doors to the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender+ (LGBT+) community. For the first time ever, the club's lawns will host the Gulabi Mela or Pink Fete, an annual fair held by the city's gay community.
The Gulabi Mela is being organised by Yaariyan, an LGBT+ youth support group by the Humsafar Trust. At the fete, visitors can expect stalls of entrepreneurs from the gay community and outside of it, showcasing everything from food to costume jewellery to tarot card readings. The event will also have performances like plays, book readings, dances and workshops. All of this will be packed in a day's time, from 12 pm to 10 pm.
Koninika Roy, advocacy manager of Yaariyan, said, "The Pink Fete is part of the events held by the gay community, which celebrates Gay Pride Month every January." The Pride Month usually culminates with the Queer Azaadi March (QAM) vending its way from August Kranti Maidan in SoBo, towards Girgaum Chowpatty and back. "While QAM has a SoBo route, this is the first time we also have an event at a SoBo venue; all other Pride events are concentrated in Andheri, Bandra and Juhu. It is always encouraging when a new space opens up for LGBT events as it is yet another step towards making the community mainstream," added Roy.
The fete will take place at the Turf Club Banquet and Lawns, next to the Mini Club at the race course. "The Turf Club Banquet and Lawns specifically is a very recent place we've opened up for events within the racecourse," said Zinia Lawyer, chairperson, marketing and media, RWITC. Speaking about the space that will host the fete, she said, "It is smaller than our other lawns, but definitely exudes an old-world charm like the entire racecourse." Lawyer, who is on the race club's committee, added, "We have to be inclusive and keep pace with the times. The image of the turf club as a stodgy, old establishment is just a stereotype. Regulars and even visitors have seen how this space has evolved over the years."
The Gulabi Mela or Pink Fete, is an event held by the city's gay community every year. The day-long fete will also have play and dance performances
When asked specifically about the significance of the gay event at the racecourse, Lawyer said, "Diversity is the buzzword. The fete is taking place on a non-racing day (a Hyderabad race is scheduled on that day) not a Mumbai racing day. Punters will not be at the racecourse. Yet, it is good to have the community here, and why just a fete? We hope one day to host them for a day at the races."
For Parmesh Shahani, head of the Godrej India Culture Labs, "The racecourse venue is one manifestation of how society is changing. The Supreme Court's 2018 verdict on Section 377 brought down so many walls that we are sure to see more places, [previously] fearful of hosting LGBT events welcoming a brave, new and more equal world." Even the horses cannot say neigh to that.
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