IN MARCH 2009, images from the personal archive of Cory Walia, one of India’s foremost makeup artists, were on display at The Guild Art Gallery in Mumbai as part of a curatorial project I organised. The photographs in question were taken between the 1980s and the early 1990s. Collectively, they depicted a very urban and very flamboyant queer culture in India, allowing visitors to the gallery to gaze at soirées in private venues that were never part of the city’s mainstream consciousness. With Walia’s consent, we made select images available online, allowing them to reach a larger audience. Four months later, Delhi’s High Court read down Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code and decriminalised sexual relations between consenting adults of all genders. It was time for the queer movement to announce its presence even more publically—and to take those urban soirees out of apartments and into the city’s nightlife.
Celebrations are an important aspect of any movement and the Indian LGBT community’s emergence into the public sphere can be charted through the changing character of its celebrations—from the city’s notoriously small, closet-sized apartments and seedy nightclubs to the streets and more mainstream nightclubs. This June, Zenzi, a popular Mumbai bar, launched a monthly LGBT bar night called Khush Nights, hosted every first Friday of the month. And to celebrate the second anniversary of the amendment of Section 377, DJ Ma Faiza organised Qnites—the LGBT community’s biggest and loudest event yet—at blueFROG, a live music club.
There’s no cause for alarm; the party does not signal an end to the pride parade. The street party—Mumbai had its first in August 2008—has been shifted to a more amenable time of the year.