Aari and I don’t like crowds and Noisy gatherings- we try to avoid it as much as we can. But 7th of March was something that I did not want to miss- the Sydney Mardi Gras parade. A parade to celebrate among others; Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and intersex pride.
Interestingly, it would be the first carnival that I would ever attend (the closest I have come to a carnival would be the annual parades of the Dasara festival in Karnataka and Ganesh festival in Mumbai). I wanted to be there to show my support to a section of society that has been discriminated against, for illogical reasons that I can only call as bigotry.
It was a Saturday and the parade was to be held in the heart of Sydney along the Oxford Street. Aarina, was not sure if she could take the crowds and loud noises and asked me to go alone and she would be there in spirit ! Public was strictly discouraged from bringing their cars and hence I took a train to St. James station, a very prudent decision indeed.
The moment I exited Hyde park, where St. James is located, I was taken into a world of colour, music and laughter. I was just in time for the commencement of the parade and could see a lineup of tableaus, set up on various vehicles charged up for the parade.
I walked the entire stretch of the Oxford street and could not find an inch of place from where I could view the parade. The first and second row along the Oxford street was completely taken; terraces and balcony’s were overflowing with people. I kept walking along the street, when someone in the crowd moved from their position along the street and I managed to sneak in that slot. I did not move from here for the next three hours. It was not the best of the views, but at least I could see and cheer.
The first in line were the bikers- a cavalcade of Harley’s, with its characteristic Vroooom sound, set the noisy crowd alight. The cheering was so loud, that I felt it could even drown the sound of a jet liner taking off.
The Mardi Gras parade in Sydney started in the late 70’s when a small, motley group of people, walked along the oxford street, demanding equal rights- irrespective of sexual orientation. The next tableau was of these very people, who are now called the ‘First Generation’ 78er’s.
The long spectacle of tableaus then started, one more colourful than the other, one more cheerful than the previous. Although I am tempted to enumerate many of these colourful montages, I must refrain from doing so, to maintain the brevity of this post- but I hope the photographs convey what, words fail to do.
It was heartening to see not only many local clubs and organizations but also multinationals like Google and Air BnB having their own display’s. The surprise to me was a display, by a local parish and choir- A case of compassion overcoming religious ideologues perhaps.
Well, it was also during this week, that there was hullabaloo in the Indian media over the use of the word ‘lesbian’ in one of the movies! (rabble-rouser’s don’t need much to incite crowds) and I was pretty much dismayed by such a development in India; but what delighted me was to see a very big Indian flag- proudly fluttering during the parade. Whoever was carrying it has my standing ovation for the act.
Well, the atmosphere of the place was great. There was a lot of cheering, dancing, hugging and kissing around. I could see smiles all around the place, you just had to look into someone’s face, and sure enough there would be a warm smile. I have probably never seen such a loving crowd ever before. Well, I must also mention that there was a couple standing next to me and the guy was carrying his not so petite girl on his shoulder, so that she could see the parade from a vantage point. Yes, he carried her for the entire duration of the parade- which neared three hours.
Well, for the entire duration of the parade, I felt I was in a very different world; a better world in fact. As I walked back home, I had a sense of hope- that someday, as humans accept other humans for what they are, rather than what they want them to be- the world will be a much better place to live in.