Then: Maiden event.
Then: 15 queers and friends.
Now: ‘Kolkata Rainbow Pride Walk’ now attracts thousands of walkers.
Then: ‘Friendship Walk ’99’ started as the only pride march in India.
Now: Several cities now have their pride marches, in addition to many other celebrations of non-normative sexualities, gender identities and existences.
Then: We needed to persuade others and even ourselves to get to the point of having conducted the event.
Now: It happens for it must.
Then: No NALSA. No Navtej.
Now: Yes. And yes.
Then: Started with me sweating like a pig in labour; ended with us swimming on the pavements, for it had rained cats and dogs while we walked.
Now: Hope it’s not the same – my body that has aged more than 20 years in two decades wants an easier time.
Then: I needed the approval of society at large to stand by my truth.
Now: I don’t give a flying fu$k about who thinks what about me.
Then: Bengal had a very strong and vibrant left; liberals and centrists seemed rightists.
Now: The left seems dead. Liberals and centrists are increasingly seen as leftists. The right is seen as the place to be.
Then: I came from a city in which Gandhi was revered and Godse reviled.
Now: I come from a city that has elected as MP, a woman who has openly said that the Mahatma was the traitor and his killer, the true nationalist.
Then: I was hopeful of the future.
Now: I have given up on it.
Then: I was certain that Essentialism was essentially right and Social Constructionism was completely wrong.
Now: Like in everything else, I take beliefs, including my own, with a pinch of salt. Truth like all else in life is certainly something different from the images created for me by my survival-oriented mind.
Then: I could trust the stalwarts of my queer family without question.
Now: Many of those stalwarts have now stalled and are now more senile than sensible.
Then: I defined myself as a committed top.
Now: I define myself as an opportunist slut.
Then: Out queers (other than Hijras) were countable on the fingers of one hand.
Now: We are no more ‘countable’, other than grammatically.
Then: My most favourite movies – Mother India, Navrang, Mughal-e-Azam.
Now: My most favourite movies – Mother India, Navrang, Mughal-e-Azam.
Then: The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Now: The more things change, the more they stay the same.
The author was one of the 15 who participated in ‘Friendship Walk ‘99’, the first edition of ‘Kolkata Rainbow Pride Walk’ – Editor.
About the graphic: Top left – participants gather at the starting point of ‘Friendship Walk ‘99’ at Park Circus Maidan on July 2, 1999 (photo courtesy LGBT-India); below – six of the first time walkers (first six individuals counting from the right) at the starting point of the 20th anniversary events for ‘Friendship Walk ‘99’, also at Park Circus Maidan (photo credit Prosenjit Pal); top right – logo for the 20th anniversary events (artwork credit Rafiquel Haque Dowjah).