New Delhi: Every year in June, the world celebrates Pride month in honour of the LGBTQI+ community members who have been through various obstacles in life and have come a long way. The LGBTQI+ community has fought a long battle for their right to live a dignified life. It also showcases how far gay rights have come, and what all is yet to achieve.
The pride month is about teaching acceptance, pride, history, and love. Several campaigns and drives are held to educate people. Today, CitySpidey talked to a Drag Queen, Nitish Anand aka Shabnam Bewafa.
Shabnam Bewafa (Nitish Anand) is an Indian Drag Queen and LGBTQIA+ activist. Being one of the first to introduce Drag Culture in India, she has been a part of many events and leading change maker from her community. ‘Change begins in the mind of a student’ is Shabnam's go-to line.
Shabnam speaks at many college events and has been an active engagement with students. A TedX speaker, her journey has inspired many and has motivated more than many to embrace themselves and accept themselves. Nitish’s Drag journey as Shabnam Bewafa started with Kitty Su, New Delhi’s LGBTQI+ club, but now the art form has spread to educational institutions, NGOs, Corporates, and event management companies.
Drag is a performance art to entertain people. For Nitish, Drag is also a way of showcasing his feminine side, towards his young age of 17. However, in the morning, Nitish can be found working his regular corporate job as everyone does but by the evening, once the wig is on and the makeup is done, Nitish turns into Shabnam and takes New Delhi with her dance moves. Nitish is a part of the LGBTQIA+ community in India as he is a gay.
Nitish raises awareness for the rights of his community by organising events. He also volunteered with many LGBTQI+ support groups. He was fascinated by his mother and the Hannah Montana show. Nitish's role model is his mother, who he lost when he was very young. She was the one who identified his femininity and didn’t stop him from playing or wearing her makeup and clothes. At the age of 17, Nitish was confident enough with the truth that he is gay, he came out of the closet in a subtle manner.
Nitish said, “Whatever I am is just because of my family members. My sister supported me a lot and they all are open to me. They understand me a lot but as everyone knows that society and friends don't accept this because they don't have any knowledge on this.”
He further said, “In India, if we search our history, there are so many ancestors who belong or suffer from this but at the same time people do not have knowledge. Drag is not only for the LGBTQI+ community, many straight people did or doing this and entertaining the crowd with their skills. The biggest example is Sunil Grover who did the role of 'Gutthi' in the Kapil Sharma show.”
“Drag came to me in an attempt to disguise myself from an ex-boyfriend! I tried to experiment with dressing up as a lady again and again and started performing frequently in this look. Somehow, there was one night that changed my life. I was at the nightclub Kitty Su, which is known for its queer acceptance. The man was Keshav Suri, the hotelier who owns the club was stunned. He was shocked at how I was doing all this at a young age and said I needed a bigger platform to present me,” he added.
He said, “I started learning how to wear makeup from YouTube tutorials and I bought fake breasts in Sarojini Nagar. It doesn't matter who you are or what your identity is. It is just that society has to be more educated and accept this. Everyone has a unique identity.”
He said, “I remember that once I performed at the British High Commission and I got such a good response from the crowd. I am the only gay guy in the room. Many people ask me why I don't get a sex change operation but why should I? I like who I am. I like having a beard or short hair apart from a blonde wig.”
He also told us the story of how he found his name as Sabnam Bewafa, “Shabnam Be-wa-fa, this name has a story of its own. Shabnam comes from my childhood teacher's name. She always knew I was different and she always encouraged me and saw a spark in me. I wanted to be like her when I was young. She was full of grace and kindness. The first name comes from there."
He added, “Now when I was young I had a fling with this really prince charming guy who left me to become an actor and also called me Bewafa while leaving. I thought instead of feeling sorry for myself, I should use this word as a brand name and this will be a slap on his face. And it worked. And for the world, I became Shabnam Bewafa.”
Talking about the pandemic, he said, “The year 2020 was tough for all of us. Covid-19 has really put us all to the test and even in 2021, it continues to unfold its tricks. Cannot deny though, that 2020 was also a year that made most of us adapt to new ways of communicating, keeping work going on, educating children on track, and keep pace with life. My artist and I did nothing different. We said YES to every opportunity.”