Guwahati’s moment of pride

Samhita Barooah writes from #Guwahati Queer Pride March 2017

How is ‘Pride’ such a pride for some or rather for a very few of us? There is always much ado about everything. Within the realm of everything, pride of bruised souls, bodies and minds was somewhere lost in the crowd. Such loss was never noticed, addressed or heard with sensitivity but ridiculed with negativity, violence and torturous upturns within both personal and public spheres. Wonder why people are always concerned about the straight flow of nature. Sometimes they flow with the norms to avoid any form of complexity and confusion. People are wired and transmitted into a world which is either/or, this or that, here or there, for or against, yours or mine, us and them and even more precisely right or wrong.

Stories of pride run through layers of multiplicities. They are beyond the comprehension of just being a part of a whole or rather a whole within a part. Pride is aggressive when it is rooted in jealousy and ego centrism but pride is crucial for ensuring human dignity. In the context of India pride is the key to the dalit, adivasi, disabled, hijra, prostituted minors, ex-communicated individuals and any non-conformist whose identity, ethnicity, religion, colour, status and sexuality define everything around the individual. Pride is a celebration of vibrancy, diversity and disassociation for the normative rigidities. Pluralism is today an urgent need in a world constantly turning universal and singular. Pride walk provides such a space which celebrates pluralism under the hawk-eyed panoptic gaze of single lens.

In a world constantly struggling with its layered existence needs to either belong or become the insignificant other in the pursuit of justice, equality and freedom, Queer Pride holds the ground for alternatives. It is not about being, becoming or belonging to the airtight containers or gender binaries or those queering such binaries but more so the move beyond such identity constructions which relieves an individual from every kind of oppression and restricted living. Youth celebrates pride in many countries across the world and even in Guwahati in the past four years Pride was spearheaded by the youth and the matured to be precise. But age is indeed a state of mind. Every stage of life relates to the contours of Pride to be able to embrace it completely.

Sexuality is a concern for many and sometimes it is also a gender expression. Pride celebrates gender expression and diversity within which such expressions are recognised and reflected within the broad spectrum of gender identity formations. Pride empowers people to bring out their intimate, closeted and most vulnerable gender experiences within the public space. Whether individuals or groups are concerned about public, political or professional issues, pride enables people to engage with their own inhibitions with respect to others and also accept the differences with dignity and power.

Guwahati Queer Pride is an effort towards the expression of such diversity enabling every individual and group with choices. Choice is a matter of pride in today’s shrinking world. Choices are pre-determined, destined or manipulated as per the dominant world-view. But queer pride entails opportunities for individuals and groups to explore the possibilities of dissolving the rigid constructs which constantly leads to conflicting paradigms. During the last 4 prides in Guwahati since 2014 when it began for the first time young people, elders, journalists, students, activists and professionals from diverse fields have actively participated. It is also interesting to note that the pride has been self-supported by diverse individuals, groups and voluntary groups without a single group or institution dominating the donations. People within Guwahati city find the pride walk amusing as the music, colourful attires and vibrant youth sometimes with masks and paints raise a lot of curiosity. Bystanders take photos, police personal walk along with the participants at times laughing along with them. For most of the common people the Pride walk is still a matter of amusement, cultural procession, youthful fun activity and nothing to be worried about public action in the light of elitist participation. This year the pride participants had students, some professors from across North East Universities and a few activists from Delhi, Kolkata and Mumbai but very few from the North Eastern States. Sponsorships for persons from the working class alternate sexuality community are also shrinking which explains their absence. Moreover with the incorporation of the third gender category within the constitutional legislation somehow there is a silence from some parts of the community. Pride is also a platform to raise awareness on the atrocities, associations and assertions of sub-altern identities which questions the binaries and norms on the street. Slogans like ‘Kaun sa kanoon sabse battar…377…’, ‘I am gay…its OK’, ‘1,2,3,4…break open the closet door…’kept ringing along with Bhupen Hazarika’s golden melody, ‘Kohuwa Bon Mur Oxanto Mon…’ It was an afternoon with colours of hope, pride and prejudices coming to a halt.

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Samhita Barooah Written by:

Samhita Barooah has worked with communities of women across North East India, trained professionally as a social work practitioner and currently pursuing her doctoral studies at Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Guwahati Campus, Assam. She likes writing non-fiction and travels often to rural pockets of North East India.

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