By Atharva Pandit:
“Kya gay-giri chalu hai yaar! (What is this gay business!)”
“We are proud that our college is hosting an event as socially and politically important as it is culturally significant.”
“I did not like the idea one bit. I think that gays are unnatural, and by promoting them, we are committing a crime.”
“Such a beautiful theme… to take an initiative as you guys have is absolutely commendable and noteworthy.”
A cocktail of students’ and teachers’ views, these opinions (with the exception of the last one, which was expressed by Sushant Divgikar, who appeared as one of the guests) were shared a few days after the Ruia College Rose Day.
The college, known for its liberal arts and sciences faculty, has been making the rounds in media and academic circles lately – be it for its “College of Excellence” status or for the various government grants being awarded to the college on account of its academic merits. Be that as it may, however, most students and teachers, across Mumbai, have come to agree that one of its biggest achievements, perhaps in its entire history – since being in 1937 – was the hosting of this year’s Rose Day, centered around the theme of “Inclusiveness” which urged all those planning to come for the day to don any of the rainbow colours, and which sought to promote the LGBT rights.
“I was glad to see that the college took up a socially relevant issue, for once,” said Sahil. M. Parsekar, a second-year student and the Coordinator for Team Literary Arts, one of the 13 teams that organized the Rose Day, when asked about the theme. “I think it is absolutely essential for us to raise such topics time and again. As an institution that has certain regard, this not only creates awareness but it also sets a lasting example,” commented Gargi Kowli, another second year student.
The Rose Day, which was promoted across social media sites rigorously, was hosted on the 12th of September. The guests invited included Harish Iyer, an activist promoting awareness regarding the LGBT cause, and Sushant Divgikar, Mr. Gay India and a VJ, who were to judge the Rose King and Queen from among several participants.
“In a world ridden by bigotry, hatred and pain, a voice that screams for love and equality is a blessing that the world needs,” wrote Mr. Iyer in a Facebook post, adding that “sexual diversity” must be celebrated with “all the fervor.”
The event was a hit, as can be guessed through the frenzy it created. However, there were some students who were not quite happy with the theme, and seemed largely opposed concept of same-sex love. I realized this when I went around asking students what they thought of the theme and the day, and, when asked whether I could perhaps quote them, some refused, and some demanded that their names be excluded.
“I did not like the idea one bit,” a student said, arguing that even his “parents think it’s unnatural.” This was, surprisingly or unsurprisingly, echoed by many students across the campus, some claiming that while they support the cause wholeheartedly, their parents don’t. “I tried explaining to them why it’s absolutely natural,” another student said, but her parents “are orthodox, and they just wouldn’t listen.” Another said that she couldn’t come for the Rose Day because her parents forbade her to, owing to the theme.
And some who did come began commenting. Some of the students standing behind me giggled and laughed. “Kya gay-giri chalu hai yaar, kya hai ye?” I turned around to answer, but by that time another volunteer had briskly walked across and confronted them. “You,” he said angrily pointing at them, “Are the very reason this event is being held. More of you people should attend it and understand why more of such events are necessary.” And then he asked them to leave, politely but firmly.
It was precisely because of this, most agreed, that the theme was necessary. When it was put forward, it created some debate, but refreshingly, nobody – including the professors and the management – denied it completely. It was discussed, however, that some organizations could object to it, considering that the college is known to be a bastion of the right-wing ABVP. But it was decided that more security shall be added if need be.
The theme, and its success, represent a slow, positive change in the cultural, social and political attitudes of the society in general; perhaps, then, other colleges could take a leaf out of this and create their own, unique ways to promote the rights of the LGBT community, and make their students aware about how beautiful love is, irrespective of gender.
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