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. Pride month is about teaching acceptance, pride, history, and love. Several campaigns and drives are held to educate people.
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. Today, CitySpidey talked to the Mumbai-based gay couple, Ashish Srivastava and Inder Vahtwar.
Inder Vhatwar shared, “I was born and brought up in Mumbai. In 2012, I decided to open a store for the LGBTQI+ community, for our crowd in Bandra, Mumbai for providing them the safe space where they can shop for themselves, nobody will judge them while they do shopping. In my stores, we have some LGBTQI+ books and have some rainbow collections and from there I thought, if I will do something it will be for my community.”
He added, “After 2 years, I realised that I need to push my store and then I thought I will start an event company where I will promote my store. Then we started a pride party but initially I faced many problems. My target was to start a pride party at a five-star hotel because the LGBTQI+ community also deserve the same class and the same respect but most of the time we had a place, which was closed or blank as they choose us as an option and on that basis, I started my event company named, 'RageByDkloset'.”
“Initially, we started with a three or four-star hotel and now we are having parties in five stars also. Our company covers everything like art, culture, and dance. In 2012, I used to go to different cities for the exhibition of pride collection and during that time period, I went to Bangalore for an exhibition where I was promoting my stage in pride mela and also on other websites like Facebook or dating websites. From there, I met Ashish where I messaged him to come for the pride mela in Bangalore,” Vhatwar said.
Vhatwar added, “Ashish came with his friends and we exchanged our numbers. We decided to have a pride party as a date. Then we met at a pride party. He was with his friends and I was with mine and we enjoyed it a lot. In December, Ashish stayed in Mumbai with me and my family. He met closely with my family and friends and then he went to Bangalore. Then we had a long-distance relationship for six months and in those six months, we made a decision on a few things, then he took a transfer from his company. Afterwards, we stayed together.”
Further, he said, “Initially, we were room partners. We stayed in a 2BHK flat but after three or four years, we moved to different places and his family kept coming to visit us and I stayed close to my family house so my family also visited. In 2013, when the court verdict was against the LGBTQI+ community, everyone saw our community as a criminal and our landlord also said that we have to change our house. If we don't, then something serious will happen in society.”
“Then, we left and took a rented house again. Everything was normal in that society, but one incident happened with us, where our neighbours abused us from the street and said, LGBT is a sin for our society, Jesus will not accept you and we go to hell and for me it was very weird because I was born and brought up in Mumbai and someone abused me in my city where I have LGBT store or many media coverage and nobody never talked to me like this. However, we never faced any problem after that,” Vhatawar added.
He added, “When I was 3 years old, I lost my father and when I was 16, I dropped my studies and helped my mother financially. I am the younger one in my house and I took all the responsibilities on me and they never questioned me about my sexuality because they listen and read about me from so much media coverage. They saw all my friends and I open a pride store, so I was like they knew but we never discussed this and my family is very supportive.”
Vhatwar concluded, “Four years back when I and Ashish decided to do some kind of ceremony and we wanted to involve our family also in this because they all knew about our relationship. I officially opened it to my brother, sister, and to my mother. My mother said that she doesn’t have any problem and asked me to do whatever I want. She said that her blessings are always there for me. Then we had a small ceremony but we aren't married yet because we wanted to do it legally. And everyone accepted us. My uncle, my brother, sister, and their kids also knew that we are more than friends."
Ashish Srivastava said, “I always wanted to visit the D'Kloset pride store, which is owned by him. It was the only LGBTQI+ store in the country. In 2012, our journey had started when I met him in pride mela. Inder was invited to Bangalore Pride 2012 to participate in a fundraiser for the community.”
He said, “While I was growing up, I had no role model to look up to. Even in my teenage, I was not aware that there is a term called gay or what sexuality is. I always believe that you don't have to come for anyone else, you have to come out for yourself and become comfortable who you are and then tell the world.”
Further, he said, “One of my college friends told me to read more about it and then I started reading articles from medical associations and from world health organisations. That's how I understood the whole concept of gender, LGBTQI+ spectrum, what sexuality is. So what I try to do is, a lot of younger kids need a little bit of direction, that's how I feel.”
He concluded, “With our social media, we are trying to do it if our post reaches some boy who is sitting in his room and wondering what is wrong with me because of the whole society. And we always see Mummy-Papa, Chacha-Chachi, Mama-Mami. The younger kids have a lot of trauma in their minds and our post reaches to one person and gives hope that you are not an abnormal person and that changes that person's mindset. I think my job is done over there.”