The flight to Mumbai was short and easy, and there were some beautiful views along the way. I landed around sunset and took a cab to my hostel/hotel in the city. This was my first introduction to how big Mumbai is; the cab ride took a very long time and I got to see a diversity of housing, businesses, and sights as we drove and waited in traffic.
I arrived at the hotel exhausted so I ate dinner and headed to bed to get ready for the next day.
On the way to Mumbai
Landing at sunset. Apparently there is something about the pollution that makes Mumbai sunsets particularly beautiful. Ironic but they are incredible here.
The next day I explored some and then headed to a pre-Pride event that was a combination of films from the queer festival here, Kashish, and a panel on 377. I should note that somewhere around 5 hours was spent in commute. Did I mention how big Mumbai is?
The films were great. Here is a trailer for one of my favorites:
I wish I were able to attend the festival in full.
The panel on 377 was also excellent and included representatives from diverse backgrounds who were related to the ruling and the fight against it in a variety of ways.
One of my favorite speakers, whom I had seen a few times before, is a mother who has been a named party in the case for several years. She always speaks very passionately and frankly. There were also speakers from some of the LGBT organizations in India, activists, professors, and others. It was a great introduction to Pride festivities in Mumbai and it gave me a chance to see a considerable amount of the city.
The train station
At the film series
The 377 panel
The next day I explored on foot and started researching and emailing organizations here and also in South Africa! It is time to get ready to go, which I really can't believe. Cape Town is my last majory stop before home, meaning I am weeks away from the last leg of my Watson journey. I have incredibly mixed feelings about this and I am working through them but right now it's my goal to enjoy exactly where I am and where I should be.
I was really looking forward to Friday night because a group of us had tickets to go see Dirty Talk, a pre-Pride event with a happy hour and a bunch of performances from musicians, actors, and comedians. In a super delightful coincidence, Sara and Rohini were both in Mumbai visiting and Eliza works here, so we all met at the Three Wise Men, where the even was set to take place, and grabbed some drinks before settling in to watch.
The bar was packed. It was crazy and there was definitely not enough room. We ended up sitting on the ground in front of the stage, which gave us a great view but also left me a little nervous because it was prime space for audience interaction a la Sydney and the drag show in Cordoba.
In the end it was fabulous and funny and there were a number of great acts. My favorite was probably the comedy group that ended the show. There were definitely a fair number of jokes that went straight over my head culturally but the ones I understood were very funny, and the ones I didn't were a huge hit with people who knew what was up.
We grabbed dinner after the show at a delicious schwarma place in Bandra and then I headed back for some pre-Pride sleep!
Walking around the city
Gay India version of If You're Happy and You Know It
All the pictures reflect my awkard angle, ha.
Mumbai Pride started at around 3pm on Saturday. Early that afternoon I had brunch with Kavya, Eliza, Sara, and Rebecca. Afterward, Kavya and Eliza and I took a train and then a walk to the starting point. The crowd was massive, much bigger than in Delhi and much more than I was anticipating. It was really exciting to see such a big turnout at the first major Pride event since the 377 ruling.
We marched for several blocks, and there were representatives from many organizations and many different places, including Delhi. Partha was there, which was fantastic, and I can't believe I forgot to get a picture of the two of us but I did manage to snag some pretty great ones of him dancing during the parade (see below). The march was inspiring and fun, as they tend to be, and it was interesting to see the similarities and differences between Delhi and Mumbai in terms of the way they celebrate and protest.
Many of the chants with which I am now familiar didn't make an appearance, and I am not sure if it was because of the celebratory atmosphere or because those things change regionally. Those that were used were confined to a very small portion of the crowd. Maybe it was size that made getting united voices so much more difficult.
The march ended with a bit of a whimper in the middle of traffic but there were a few places where the party continued, and we visited at least four of them, including Cafe Ideal, the beach, Cafe General, and Liquid (the club where the official after-party was held).
I love a good Pride day. Seriously, I cannot emphasize enough how invigorating those days are. Especially here in India, where same-sex affection of a romantic nature is restricted to the extent that I generally see it only in all-gay groups or most commonly, on Facebook groups meant only for the community, these days are a chance to create a safe space, however fleeting.
Always music, always dancining, love it, love it
Passed this appropriate advertisement on the march
With Kavya and Eliza
On the beach after Pride
By the time the after-party began we were a little tired and not sure whether or not to go but I thought I would at least go for a little while, and I am so glad that I did. There were openly affectionate couples everywhere. I saw couples making out, which is taboo even between straight couples. (I once had a friend showing me some pictures of vacation and he and his wife were leaning toward each other in one, as if to kiss. His friend looked at me and laughed, "They were pretending to kiss! In public!" I am not sure what the equivalent would be at home, not that I believe there should be one, but it was an interesting adjustment in perspective.)
The crowd was skewed male but there were a fair number of lesbians as well, definitely a more balanced representation than what I generally experienced in Delhi. It was overwhelming in the same sense that every crowded club is, but I was not annoyed by it the way that I generally am because it was so great to find that space and just be there for a little while. We didn't stay terribly long. It was ridiculously loud and impossible to talk or really meet new people in any meaningful sense, but it was a great way to end the evening and it definitely introduced me to a new aspect of queer life in India.
We said goodbye and I headed home, really excited to wait for Mimi to get in for a visit early Sunday morning!
This week I am particularly thankful for:
1. A new city and a new chance to experience Pride and its impact and importance
2. The Fulbrights for continuing to be so awesome and providing me with a totally unexpected and totally fabulous community of great, interesting people
3. Safe spaces