Band, Baaja, Pride

At the first Chandigarh LGBT Pride Parade, Punjabis came out of the closet and walked like around town like one big wedding “baraat” dancing to “Saada Haq”

Jas March 21, 2022

“Is it that necessary to air your sexual identity?” The mister just couldn’t wrap his head around this one. For a straight guy, he really doesn’t have a queer eye and while he is pretty okay with the homosexuality wave, like millions of other Indians, he still has his reservations: “I don’t know how to interact with them or approach them or behave around them,” the mister confesses.

So, when Chandigarh announced its first LGBT (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender) pride parade on March 15, the mister, along with lakhs of yuppies preferred to not make a big deal out of it. Even the authorities let this one pass -
a) the parade coincided with the President of India’s visit to the city, and the cops were on a round the clock vigil. And b) They just couldn’t understand LGBT!

The Pride Vehicle. Picture: Jas

“It was difficult, making them understand what the parade is all about, so finally, we decided to take permission under the AIDS awareness march,” says its organizer, Dhananjay Chauhan. A married man and a father of two (20-year-old son and 18-year-old daughter), Chauhan came out of the closet and formed the Saksham Trust, an NGO that deals with LGBT and AIDS awareness. Saksham joined hands with Hollaback (an international movement to end street harassment) and NGO Younique (group for LGBT and straight folk) and registered about 500 from across India for the parade.

The day arrived, so did the President, but of the 500, hardly 50 showed up in support, most of them being transgenders. This is where the Punjabi in LGBT came alive and the parade turned into one big marriage
procession with its dazzling members dressed in brightest of possible clothes waving their multi-coloured flags, and - wait-for-it - indulging in some heavy duty giddha and bhangra! That’s right. It was a truck with balloons, the beating dhol, band baaja and potloads of pride peppered with Sadda Haq playing in the background. And this actually made the parade quite unique, as it proceeded from Panjab University in Sector 14, through Sectors 15 and 16 before culminating at the Sector 17 Plaza where the community organised a play, dance performance and awareness speech.


The Pride Baraat. Picture: Jas

March 15, 2022 was a special day in Chandigarh. Not because the Pranab Mukherjee landed in Chandigarh. It was because one man decided enough was enough and it was time to air the closet. Chauhan took upon the task of organising Chandigarh’s first LGBT pride parade. A homosexual himself, he braved the society, faced his own demons, confronted his family (his parents, wife and two kids) and accepted who he is. Now come the straight questions: does it really matter? Whom we share our bed with, strike companionship with? Is it that a threat to the very existence of mankind? Is it that important? Personally, these are private choices of consenting adults.

Sometimes these are natural turn of events, sometimes circumstantial and purely situatioal. Still, the bottomline is the fight for one’s identity. The human identity lives under a nagging fear of being crushed, stolen, imposed or lost. It’s in a state of constant crisis. I am what I am - yes, but I still gotta fight for it. The problem in India is that we still have to scrape for basic necessities, and fight bigger battles and divides - rich, poor, employed, unemployed, divorced, single, widowed, black, white, brown, tan, Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Christian, Athiest…. Our basics are warped, deficient and in a state of perpetual famine. Food, water,
housing, electricity - these are the issues we are grappling with, and so when a bunch of people fight for their sexual identity, we find it not “so” important. That’s the ugly truth. And uglier than this is being a lesbian in this drama. It’s hard being a woman, and announcing to the world that you are gay makes life impossible.

This is where Chauhan’s father, a regular middle class man, made sense when he remarked: “At least my son is fighting for his right, for his identity, for his community, and not behaving like eunuchs do who take money, which is wrong. Everyone has to work for it. We have to earn our place, our living, our life, and co-exist.” Because I view life through the cinemascopic lens, this piece would be incomplete without a filmi flavour.

Here is a request: Homosexuals are not funny people, and it is unfortunate that cinema, Indian Hindi films, have portrayed them wrongly most of the times. So, films that have funny effeminate characters who wave their twinkies, prance and dance around, have hot flashes, a singsong voice and wear Gaga clothes, are out of the league. These include “Student Of The Year” (Rishi Kapoor plays a gay principal), “Kal Ho Na Ho” (the mistaken identity between Shahrukh Khan and Saif Ali Khan), Karan Razdaan’s horror of a film “Girlfriend.” Really I could go on.
To get a sense of what all LGBT is and what this community goes through, watch these instead
“My Brother Nikhil”
“Page 3”
“Mango Souffle”
“Boys Don’t Cry”
“Priscilla, Queen of the Desert”
“The Kids Are Alright”
“The Hours”
“The Celluloid Closet (Vito Russo)”
“Tipping The Velvet” (it’s a series based on the book by same title)
“The L World”
“Brokeback Mountain”
“Lihaaf” (it’s a play based on Ismat Chugtai’s writings)

For more, log onto this site. There are some fab titles to play: