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Tilak Rishi, born in India, has been working as a career corporate executive, after doing his MBA. Passionately pursuing his hobby for writing, he also remained a regular contributor to newspapers in India and the U.S. Many true happenings and characters he came across in life, including interaction with former president Bill Clinton, inspired Paradise Lost and Found, his first novel. A family saga, it starts from Kashmir, when this paradise on earth is lost for the tourists who thronged in thousands every year to enjoy its scenic splendor. Terrorists have turned it into one of the most dangerous places in the world. The family is not only a witness to the loss of this paradise, but also to another tragedy of much bigger magnitude. In the aftermath of the partition of India, along with millions uprooted from their homes in Pakistan, the family leaves behind all that it has in Lahore. Starting from a scratch on the difficult path to progress, it still has many joyful moments when along the way it makes a difference in many a life. The survival-to-success story climaxes in California where the family finds the paradise that was lost in Kashmir.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Gay Pride Parade In India

The mainstream acceptance of gays and lesbians, a hard-won civil-rights victory gained through decades of struggle against prejudice and discrimination in the West, was also clearly visible in India, when Gay Pride Parades were organized recently without any fuss from any section.

In New Delhi, on Sunday June 29th, it was a mixture of defiance and celebration when several hundred participants in New Delhi's first Gay Pride Parade rallied through the capital, beating drums, shouting slogans and waiving rainbow-striped pride flags. It is learnt that simultaneous marches were held in Calcutta and Bangalore.

Mumbai's first ever Gay Pride march came one day after Independence Day, which was symbolic as it gave greater voice to the primary aim - freedom from Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) that criminalizes homosexuality. Gays and lesbians, bisexuals, transgenders and straight supporters wore rainbow hats and waved rainbow flags as they congregated for the parade. One could feel a sense of pride in the air as people thronged the maidan waiting for actress Celina Jaitley to flag off the march.

As if the parades were not enough to strengthen the Gay Pride movement in India, opens the 60-second promo of Karan Johar's Dostana. The video shows leading men Abhishek Bachchan and John Abraham as lovers. Without wasting much time, the promo cuts the scene where John and Abhishek are doing the tango, with Bachchan Jr, holding a rose in his teeth. In another scene John announces to a woman, "Hum gay hain!" and pointing to Abhishek adds, "Yeh mera boyfriend hai!"This is the first time that a mainstream Bollywood film with big actors has based its entire storyline around the gay theme. There are multiple shots of John and Abhishek romancing each other.

There is nothing wrong with the parades and the promo if their aim is to show that gays were regular people, just like you and me, and that the stereotype of homosexuals as hedonistic, sex-crazed deviants was just a destructive myth. But if the organizers of the parades go beyond, and start copying their gay counterparts in the West, it could be intolerable vis-a-vis India culture. For example, the parade in San Francisco, intended to "promote acceptance, tolerance, and equality for the city's gay community," accomplished just the opposite, as the event confirmed the worst fears of thousands of non-gay spectators, cementing in their minds a debauched and distorted image of gay life. A photo spread in media chronicled many of the event's vulgar displays which horrified previously tolerant people.

Gay people are just like everybody else–decent, hard-working people who care about their communities and have loving, committed relationships. Looking at the marchers in India, one realized that while so many countries in the West are debating same-sex marriages, here we are still talking about a law criminalizing homosexuality. The overall feeling though was that of triumph. This Pride is a milestone for the gay community here. Slowly and inevitably the walls of opposition will come down. Like a Pride placard said: 'I am here, I am queer, get used to it'.


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