This is a daytime, mid range shot of the author having her left cheek painted in the rainbow colours as she smiles at the camera. Another walk participant, facing away from the camera, is painting a rainbow flag on the author’s cheek with a small paintbrush. More walk participants can be seen milling around the author. The author is at the starting point of the ‘Kolkata Rainbow Pride Walk’ outside Lady Brabourne College near the Park Circus Maidan. The author is dressed in a blue and red checked shirt and a red cap, adding to the festive look. Photo credit: Hiya

The author at the starting point of the ‘Kolkata Rainbow Pride Walk’. Photo credit: Hiya

‘Pride’ – the very word would evoke a special sensation within me. I would see photographs of queer pride marches in the newspapers – so many people like me walking with rainbow flags, so much colour, and so much revelry. I would wonder if I would ever walk in a pride march.

This year that wish came true when I joined the ‘19th Kolkata Rainbow Pride Walk’ on December 18, 2022. It was a huge personal milestone for me.

Even a year ago, I would worry that if I participated in a pride march, people would come to know about my sexuality. What if photographs of me walking in the march got published somewhere? What would my family say? Would my school and college friends judge me? In fact, I had decided that if I ever joined a pride march, I would mask my face.

Today I have no such worry or fear. For the first time in my life, I have come to know many queer persons, mostly in the year gone by. This has given me strength. I no longer feel lonely. It doesn’t matter anymore to me what people would say, and I thoroughly enjoyed my first pride march.

This is a daytime close-up shot of the author with two of her friends holding aloft a giant rainbow pride flag being carried by several people. The three walkers are all smiles as they walk looking at the camera to their right. They are in a single file, with the author third and last, counting from the right. More walk participants can be seen carrying the flag, though they are visible only partially. The background shows a few buildings, hoardings and trees. The air seems hazy with pollution. Photo credit: Anurag

The author with two of her friends. Photo credit: Anurag

There were many others like me who walked in a pride march for the first time. But some among them did not want their photographs to be published in social media. I suppose it will take longer for them to be comfortable about being visible as queer persons.

This is a panel of two daytime photographs placed one above the other, showing long shots of the ‘19th Kolkata Rainbow Pride Walk’. The photograph below is an aerial shot taken by a drone flying about 30 feet above hundreds of participants gathered at the starting point of the walk, outside Lady Brabourne College. The crowd looks colourful with many of the participants dressed in rainbow coloured attire, holding up assorted banners, posters and flags. In the far end is the main float, decorated brightly, leading the walk. The walk is yet to begin. To the right of the crowd, traffic whizzes past on the road where the crowd has gathered. The photograph above was taken from ground level, from amid a long stream of walkers facing away from the camera. It shows a similar colourful scene as the first photograph. The main float is closer in this photograph and shows a number of people standing on the float. In the forefront, to the right, a photographer takes a shot of a few participants holding a rainbow pride flag. In the background, the sunrays shine on the participants through tall trees lining the road. Photo credits: Swati Das (above) and Hiya

Photo credits: Swati Das and Hiya

The walk this year started from outside Lady Brabourne College, passed through Park Street, and ended at Kolkata Maidan. I came to know that many restaurants on Park Street and elsewhere were decked in rainbow pride colours on the occasion of the Kolkata pride march. Perhaps this was their way of showing solidarity with the queer communities.

However, there have been incidents where these very restaurants denied entry to trans persons and working class people as patrons. There was also the incident of the late Suzette Jordan being denied entry into a pub called Ginger in 2014 because she had been a victim of gang rape! When I think of these incidents, I wonder how supportive these establishments truly are.

On the organizing of the pride march, I think it was not publicised widely enough. Many people I know could not find out when and where the march would take place. Some ended up arriving at the wrong place for the start of the walk.

All said and done, I look forward to the ‘Kolkata Rainbow Pride Walk’ becoming bigger, better and providing an opportunity to more and more queer people from different backgrounds to celebrate their love without fear or shame.

This is a panel of two early-evening photographs placed next to each other showing scenes from the end point of the ‘19th Kolkata Rainbow Pride Walk’ at the Kolkata Maidan. The photograph on the left shows the author posing for the camera holding a poster with a rainbow-coloured heart drawn on it and text that says “One love”. The author is leaning on an autorickshaw that has a pride walk banner fitted on its windscreen with text that says “Wanna ride me?” The autorickshaw is decorated with rainbow pride paraphernalia and flowers. The photograph on the right is a continuous shot of a walk participant smiling brightly and waving a rainbow pride flag in a circular motion. The continuous shot mode has stylistically blurred the colours of the flag. The participant is dressed in black clothes that provide a perfect contrast to the flag colours. The background in both photographs shows largely dried shrubs, some trees, a few buildings in the distance, and a hazy sky. Photo credits: Anurag and Swati Das

Scenes from the end point of the walk. Photo credits: Anurag and Swati Das

This is a long shot of the main float of the ‘Kolkata Rainbow Pride Walk’ taken at the end point of the walk at Kolkata Maidan. The photograph is a dusk-time shot. The float is brightly lit and decorated with the pride march paraphernalia. A dance performance is under way on the float; someone on the float is waving a rainbow pride flag. All around the float and in the foreground are hundreds of walkers milling around. In the background, the silhouette of several trees, two lamp posts, and tall buildings on Chowringhee Road seem to tower above the float. A grey and hazy sky forms the larger backdrop. Photo credit: Hiya

Photo credit: Hiya

About the main photo: The author poses with a ‘Kolkata Rainbow Pride Walk’ flag on Park Street, the main route of the walk. Photo credit: Hiya