Two Mumbaikars make it to the finals of Mr Gay World International Competition

Jan 29, 2017, 08:15 IST | Aparna Shukla

Two Mumbaikars make it to the finals of the Mr Gay World International Competition, to be held in the city on Feb 10

Rohan Pujari (L) and Darshan Mandhana
Rohan Pujari (L) and Darshan Mandhana

From weighing a hefty 90 kgs to being selected as one of the finalists of the Mr Gay World International Competition, Rohan Pujari has come a long way. The 30-year-old is one of the three people selected to represent India on the international platform along with Darshan Mandhana, a Worli-based HR professional and Sai Ganesh Krishnamurthy from Bengaluru.

"There is so much stigma attached to homosexuality that someone needs to go out there and create awareness," says Pujari. The Virar resident admits being bullied and threatened during his growing up years. "In the Virar-Vasai belt, everyone thinks that gay means transgender men. People would come and say absurd things. Nobody would want to be my friend. At parties, they would run away from me, saying they can't be seen with me, which hurt initially, but the same people came and apologised later," said Pujari, whose motive is not just to win the competition, but create awareness in the country.

Hailing from an orthodox south Indian family, and being the only son, coming out wasn’t easy for Pujari. "My parents didn’t speak to me for days. My mom would said, ‘Forget all this and get over it.’ She was in denial for a long time, but I knew at the end of the day, what I was," says Pujari. The B.Com graduate, who came out of the closet seven years ago, has been a part of the Humsafar Trust for five years and works in advocacy and online outreach programmes for the Trust.

A long journey
Darshan Mandhana’s story is nothing short of a Bollywood flick. From being homeless in Mumbai to going to doctors who misled his parents implying that he could be cured, he has seen it all. "Going to hundreds of psychologists and endocrinologists just makes your life hell. Through the competition, I want to tell the youth who are struggling to come out, that it will be fine. It gets better," says the 31-year-old who works at a retail firm.

Hailing from a small town named Jaiselpur near Kolhapur, Mandhana's coming out confession came as a shock to his parents. "I don't blame them at all. It was a natural reaction, but now they have slowly started accepting me, and my partner as well," he says. After a few months, however, Mandhana came to Mumbai.

For this Worli resident, however, things completely changed when he met his partner. "We have been in love since the past four years, and had it not been for him, I wouldn't have got the courage to participate in the pageant. For us, it's less about the competition and more about making India a safer place for the community," he said.

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