gay pride

Lucknow holds its first Queer Pride Parade: They marched 1.5 km, but their message went a long way

Among the 300-odd participants, many had come from as far away as Mumbai, Chandigarh, Jaipur and Kolkata.

Eighteen years after India held its first Queer Pride Parade, the event finally came to Lucknow on Sunday. The city’s LGBIT (lesbian, gay, intersex and transgender) community walked a distance of barely 1.5 km, from the Sikandarbagh crossing to the General Post Office Hazratganj, but their message went a long way.

The first Awadh Queer Pride Parade saw at least 300 people march hand in hand, waving rainbow flags or wearing its colours. Many of them had come from as far away as Mumbai, Kolkata, Chandigarh and Jaipur.

“This was a full-fledged Queer Pride Parade,” said Darvesh Singh Yadvendra, the organiser of the event. “The first one was held in Kolkata in 1999 but in that, very few people turned out. Here, for the first time it was held and not only LGBIT but their family members turned out in support. It shows that they are also getting acceptability.”

The first Awadh Queer Pride Parade in Lucknow on Sunday.
The first Awadh Queer Pride Parade in Lucknow on Sunday.

Yadvendra said the parade had two objectives: to celebrate the diversity of sexuality and gender, and to protest the harassment and discrimination the community faces. “There have been cases where such people have committed suicide,” he said. “We have seen discrimination in the family, at the work place and in society.”

But Sunday’s march was mainly about the celebration. Participants danced, shouted slogans – “I am Gay, It’s OK”, “Hey Hey Ho Ho Homophobia has to Go”. One placard that got all the attention read, “I’m a Queer Muslim, Babes, Get Over it.” The young man holding it up was happy to oblige the many people who flooded him with selfie requests.

The parade had many Lucknow residents curious about the message behind the march.
The parade had many Lucknow residents curious about the message behind the march.

Curious onlookers asked the participants who they were, why they were dancing on the road, and about the colourful clothes they wore.

By evening, social media users in Lucknow had flooded their pages with photographs of the city’s first gay pride parade.

Participants danced on the streets and shouted slogans. It was a celebration.
Participants danced on the streets and shouted slogans. It was a celebration.
Colourful clothes, masks and rainbow flags marked the occasion.
Colourful clothes, masks and rainbow flags marked the occasion.
Many participants came with their families in tow, said the organiser.
Many participants came with their families in tow, said the organiser.

The parade comes just a few weeks after a new government, led by the Bharatiya Janata Party, has taken charge of Uttar Pradesh. Could it have been conducted under the previous regime?

“We started the preparation for a whole year. At that time, it was the SP [Samajwadi Party] regime,” said Yadvendra. “Whosoever is in power, we have to engage with them. It hardly matters. We took proper permission [for the parade] and it was given by the present BJP regime. So for us, there is no such issue. We have to engage with them for our cause.”

Selfies and photographs of the event had flooded social media by evening.
Selfies and photographs of the event had flooded social media by evening.

For Lucknow, often perceived to be a conservative city, this was indeed a brave step. As woman who attended the parade later said on social media, people were now terming her association with the parade as “un-Islamic”.

But there were many others who were cheering on the community.

All images courtesy Darvesh Singh Yadvendra, organiser of the parade.

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Changing the conversation around mental health in rural India

Insights that emerged from discussions around mental health at a village this World Mental Health Day.

Questioning is the art of learning. For an illness as debilitating as depression, asking the right questions is an important step in social acceptance and understanding. How do I open-up about my depression to my parents? Can meditation be counted as a treatment for depression? Should heartbreak be considered as a trigger for deep depression? These were some of the questions addressed by a panel consisting of the trustees and the founder of The Live Love Lough Foundation (TLLLF), a platform that seeks to champion the cause of mental health. The panel discussion was a part of an event organised by TLLLF to commemorate World Mental Health Day.

According to a National Mental Health Survey of India 2015-16, conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS), common mental disorders including depression, anxiety disorders and substance use disorders affect nearly 10% of the population, with 1 in 20 people in India suffering from depression. The survey reported a huge treatment gap, a problem that is spread far and wide across urban and rural parts of the country.

On 10th of October, trustees of the foundation, Anna Chandy, Dr. Shyam Bhat and Nina Nair, along with its founder, Deepika Padukone, made a visit to a community health project centre in Devangere, Karnataka. The project, started by The Association of People with Disability (APD) in 2010, got a much-needed boost after partnering with TLLLF 2 years ago, helping them reach 819 people suffering from mental illnesses and spreading its program to 6 Taluks, making a difference at a larger scale.

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During the visit, the TLLLF team met patients and their families to gain insights into the program’s effectiveness and impact. Basavaraja, a beneficiary of the program, spoke about the issues he faced because of his illness. He shared how people used to call him mad and would threaten to beat him up. Other patients expressed their difficulty in getting access to medical aid for which they had to travel to the next biggest city, Shivmoga which is about 2 hours away from Davangere. A marked difference from when TLLLF joined the project two years ago was the level of openness and awareness present amongst the villagers. Individuals and families were more expressive about their issues and challenges leading to a more evolved and helpful conversation.

The process of de-stigmatizing mental illnesses in a community and providing treatment to those who are suffering requires a strong nexus of partners to make progress in a holistic manner. Initially, getting different stakeholders together was difficult because of the lack of awareness and resources in the field of mental healthcare. But the project found its footing once it established a network of support from NIMHANS doctors who treated the patients at health camps, Primary Healthcare Centre doctors and the ASHA workers. On their visit, the TLLLF team along with APD and the project partners discussed the impact that was made by the program. Were beneficiaries able to access the free psychiatric drugs? Did the program help in reducing the distance patients had to travel to get treatment? During these discussions, the TLLLF team observed that even amongst the partners, there was an increased sense of support and responsiveness towards mental health aid.

The next leg of the visit took the TLLLF team to the village of Bilichodu where they met a support group that included 15 patients and caregivers. Ujjala Padukone, Deepika Padukone’s mother, being a caregiver herself, was also present in the discussion to share her experiences with the group and encouraged others to share their stories and concerns about their family members. While the discussion revolved around the importance of opening up and seeking help, the team brought about a forward-looking attitude within the group by discussing future possibilities in employment and livelihood options available for the patients.

As the TLLLF team honoured World Mental Health day, 2017 by visiting families, engaging with support groups and reviewing the successes and the challenges in rural mental healthcare, they noticed how the conversation, that was once difficult to start, now had characteristics of support, openness and a positive outlook towards the future. To continue this momentum, the organisation charted out the next steps that will further enrich the dialogue surrounding mental health, in both urban and rural areas. The steps include increasing research on mental health, enhancing the role of social media to drive awareness and decrease stigma and expanding their current programs. To know more, see here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of The Live Love Laugh Foundation and not by the Scroll editorial team.