If you were wondering, what was the best way to kick-off the pre-pride queer month (actually, a month and a half) in Mumbai, “Q Fest” is the answer. Jointly organized on the by Queer Azaadi Mumbai, Queer Ink, Gay Bombay & The HIVE, Q Fest paved way for the month-and-half long celebrations of freedom, diversity and inclusivity that will culminate into the Pride March on the 31st of January, 2015.
On 14th of Dec 2014, ‘The HIVE’ located in the small lane in Chuim Village at Khar West saw an inflow of over 200 queer, not-so-queer and straight people who anticipated some “good shows” but left the place mesmerized with what they could describe as “amazing experiences”. Q Fest was an assortment of various things – a fun-fair, a movie screening, a self-awareness workshop and stage performances – it offered something to every soul.
The event opened in the afternoon with a fair – Queer-Ink hosting sales of books, badges & pendants along with Lumiere Art & craft selling cards, greetings, pendants, costume accessories, etc. GB hosted a stall where Sumit & Vinay from ‘Queer Kala’ sold hand-made artifacts. There were movie-CDs & DVDs as goodies for those who generously donated money to Queer Azaadi Mumbai. There was another stall where decorative candles of various sorts were displayed and sold. In a land, where the society is less accepting of queer people, it’s important for them to gain financial sustainability, and hence the need of promoting queer artists and businesses.
The movie XXYY, screened by the Queer Ink Film Club, was soulful and at the same time, intriguing. The story of a 15-year-old intersex person, the way her family copes with her condition and the ultimate decision that she must eventually make as she finds her gender identity, engaged every person in the audience and, while trying to answer a few questions, also raised newer ones.
As much as youngsters these days are pressurized by heterosexuality, so also, they are, by metrosexuality. Stereotypes of ideal physiques and images not only affect our lifestyle but also have a deep impact on our self-esteem and may also reflect on the way we handle our relationships. This fragile area within queer relationships was extremely well addressed by none other than our much loved psychiatrist Deepa Kashyap in his workshop “I love My Body”. The workshop had an overwhelming response from over sixty attendees, few of whom were straight. Through videos, narratives and engaging dialogues with the attendees, Deepak gave everybody an insight into the well-known but less-talked sensitive areas of handling relationships in modern times.
‘Rainbow Mic’ was a perfectly refreshing part of the Q Fest which offered a variety of performances that made the audience laugh, enjoy, indulge, get emotional and pacify, all of it together. Uaiza Merchant & Sarvesh Talreja’s performances were awesome. People thoroughly enjoyed them. Nikhil D’Souza’s performance was great. Nikhil sang a couple of known and then a couple of his own compositions. His songs were thoroughly enjoyed by listeners.
Christabel Menezes attracted audience’s attention with a beautiful and small hand-painted Guitar which she played for melody and tapped for rhythm. Her deep and soulful voice made all the songs, those composed by famous singers and those composed by her, slowly drip down the hearts of the listeners.
Navin Noronha’s announcement that he was from Mumbai, Christian, Gay and “normal” created a wave of laughter in the audience, but it didn’t give any hint of how much our stomachs would ache by the end of the show, laughing at his constant jokes and anecdotes. Navin tickled the audience with a combination of heavy & light doses of the ironies of living the life of a GAY Christian in Mumbai.
Rochelle D’Souza, who has lived abroad for over a decade and has returned to India recently, quite ably captured and conveyed through her English poems, her struggle with getting back to her Indian roots, parents expecting her to get ‘settled’, society expecting her to conform to set standards and norms of feminity and more. The sincerity of her emotions was quite evident in her words and was aptly acknowledged by the audience.
A surprise treat to the Mumbaikar queer audience was Ramaneek Singh’s Hindi poetry, which was a mixture of sarcasm and matter-of-fact reality. Born and raised in Jammu & Kashmir, Ramaneek, who is a struggling poet and script-writer, aptly expressed the challenges of living a true life in a world full of pretences. Very rarely have we heard straight Hindi poets composing convincing poems about the necessity of acceptance for queerness in the society. His candid recitation of poems was an icing on the cake.
The Grande-Finale performance of the night was ‘Sangeetika – Indian Classical Vocal by Saurabh accompanied by Sattvic on Tabla’. Saurabh briefly explained the meanings of the compositions and then perfomed Raag Brindavani Sarang with a self-composed slow-tempo song in Ektaal and later, a traditional piece in Teentaal. He then mesmerized the audience with a middle-to-fast rendering of the well-known composition “Eri ali piya bina” in Raag Yaman, which culminated into a Teentaal Tarana. His classical compositions, embellished with aalap, bol-taan & few taans also offered Saattvic an opportunity to render tihaais and laggis in his Benaras-style. Saurabh gave a beautiful finale to the fest with his soulful rendering of the devotional piece “Payo ji maine ram ratan dhan payo”.
We, at Queer Azaadi Mumbai, are extremely happy to have started the pride month celebrations with such a wonderful and vibrant mix of events. We thank all the visitors and attendees for being a beautiful and participating audience throughout the day. We look forward to even bigger participation during all our subsequent events, the next one being, “Queer Games” led by Yariyaan on Sunday, 4th of Jan 2015, after 4 pm at Juhu Beach, Santacruz, Mumbai.