SUZY SIZE BLOGS
From Mumbai to Kolkata – The rainbow is flying high over India
Homosexual acts were decriminalized little over a year ago
By Michael Lenz
“Incredible !ndia”: The catchy tourism advertisement slogan for India is incredibly true! India is incredibly poor, incredibly rich, incredibly beautiful and incredibly ugly, incredibly modern and incredibly medieval, in one word: incredibly colorful.
And since July 2nd, 2009, the many colors of the rainbow are flying high over India as well. In a landmark ruling the Indian High Court decided that day to decriminalize homosexual acts by rescinding paragraph 377, which penalized sodomy acts, an inheritance from the prude British colonial times.
But naturally, predominantly conservative Indian society did not become over night ultra liberal due to the historic ruling and there was – on the other hand - a gay-lesbian scene in India before the official decriminalization. According to Udayan: “The first Gay Pride took place 1999 in Kolkata, but only few people dared to participate.” Udayan, in his mid twenties, is editor in chief of Indias first Lesbian-Gay-Transgender-Bisexual (LGTB) Magazine, as he explains in a very correct manner.
“Pink Pages” (which is listed in the India section of Sticky Rice Gay Guide Asia and Gay Guide World) is a direct product of the court ruling. “Before hardly any gays or lesbians would have dared to write for such a Magazine or advertised any contact ads in its classifieds”, explains Udayan who is under stress these days, since “Pink Pages” takes another important step: “From October onwards we will have a printed edition.”
Up to now “Pink Pages” could only be downloaded as PDF from the internet. The user profile highlights the Indian reality: The “Pink Pages” were only (100 %) downloaded by users from an urban context, mainly Mumbai and New Delhi. “In rural India, where 70 % of the population is living, access to the internet is scarce, in many villages there is no electricity and hardly any English spoken”, Udayan explains.
About 70 % of the downloads were made by gay users: “The LGTB movement is still dominated by gay men. Women are suppressed in India and lesbian women are even more discriminated against.” But the percentage of lesbian users is on a steady rise: “Slowly a lesbian scene is evolving.”
Bollywood is thriving. Proof for that is the ecstatic Indian dance music played every Saturday at the “Boyzone” party at “Polka”, a dance place in Kailash Colony Market, a fancy neighborhood of New Delhi. Those, whoever have seen a Bollywood movie, with its opulent dance scenes, have an idea how Indians can enjoy life. But live scenes are even better, are more ecstatic, really incredible: Indians know how to have fun.
But Indians can be cruel as well: This was recently shown again by the sad case of Professor Siras. The 62 years old philologist at Aligarh Muslim University was outed by his students, socially destroyed by a smear campaign in the local press and finally committed suicide in April out of shame. “His case is symptomatic for many Indian gays”, explains Udayan, “many have no gay identity and are ashamed of their sexual orientation.”
Then, again, there is a more tolerant India emerging: In April the first LGTB public film festival took place in Mumbai. And in August the LGTB movement had another success: The authorities in charge of the census recommended to include “transgender” besides “male” and “female” into the questioners.
One of the pioneers of gay-lesbian tourism to India is Sanjay Malhorta, an openly gay fashion designer in New Delhi. His travel agency “India Pink” (listed in the Pink pages of Sticky Rice Gay Guide Asia and Gay Guide World) offers tailor made tours to all parts of India, including gay-friendly and luxurious accommodation and a “deep insight into the soul and culture of India”. This includes an insight into the gay community, which, according to Sanjay Malhotra, “develops at breathtaking speed”.
Sanjay recommends April as well as August and September as best times to visit India: “Then it is not too hot or rainy.” According to Udayan, one can add Pride-month June to come to India as well: “We now have Pride events in every bigger city of India.” He recommends for instance the gay-lesbian hotspot Bangalore for a visit. Udayan, volunteering as “Pink Pages” editor, works as a software developer in Bangalore: “The Silicon Valley of India attracts thousands of computer specialists, many of them being gay and lesbian.”
But Udayan admits Bangalore to be less attractive for tourists than Mumbai: “For gay and lesbian tourists, Mumbai with its bars and parties is still the best place to go.” The beaches of liberal Goa, about 400 km South of Mumbai, are best for the Chill-out after the parties. Cocktails under palms, joints in the beach, relaxing visits in Spas, swimming in the Arabic Sea – the fun potential of India is incredible as well.