Queer Mumbai Tour
It was time for nostalgia and a walk down memory lane, literally. ‘Gulabi Yatra (Pink Tour)’ organized by the city’s youth LGBT group Yaariyan last weekend took a large group of young gay, lesbian and transgender youth to some of the historic sites in Mumbai that was frequented by gays in the older days. These were places where right from early 1980s gays in Mumbai would go to meet other gay men, often clandestinely, for pick-ups or sexual encounters.
The stopovers for the tour were Bandra Railway Station, Maheshwari Gardens, Gateway of India and Gokul Restaurant. Ashok Row Kavi, Chairperson of The Humsafar Trust, and Sridhar Rangayan, filmmaker and Founder Trustee of The Humsafar Trust, provided insightful and humorous notes and anecdotes about each of the places.
Ashok Row Kavi said, “These were the only places for gays to meet, interact and know each other. Many of the lasting friendships and relationships actually started at these very places. Alternative families were formed at these very public spaces”.
It was also discussed how, in those days when everything was hidden and invisible, meeting at these places sometimes could also lead to dangerous situations – being picked up by a plainclothes policeman and threatened or blackmailed by hustlers.
“With safe LGBT spaces available now and also the presence of internet dating sites, very few physical spaces are being used now-a-days as meeting places”, says Sridhar Rangayan, “These places, used for cruising, were also places of community intervention where safe-sex messages were given and condoms were handout to the then underground community”.
“Through Ashok and Sridhar, we heard such funny and fascinating incidents! We need more such interactions so that younger guys know more about their efforts / trials / struggles for that little safe space which we take for granted today”, said Sibi, one of the forces behind Yaariyan.
“It was wonderful getting acquainted with landmarks and places we have spent years visiting, only to see them in a whole new ‘pink’ light this time!”, said Shruta, one of the youth organizers of the event.
The Gulabi Yatra was certainly a delightful way to spend a Sunday evening, learning and reliving the good old days before parties / internet and safe places for gay men to meet was scarce, felt the busload of young gay, lesbian and transgender persons who were part of this tour.
“It is important to record and document some of these histories, otherwise they will be lost forever”, feels Rangayan who would like to take up a video project to document these spaces.