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VIEWPOINTS Touring queer Mumbai
by Sridhar Rangayan

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It was time for nostalgia and a walk down memory lane, literally. "Gulabi Yatra (Pink Tour)"—which Mumbai, India's youth LGBT group, Yaariyan, organized—recently took a large group of young gay, lesbian and transgender youth to some of the historic sites in Mumbai that gays frequented in bygone days. These were places where right from early 1980s, gays in Mumbai would go to meet other gay men, often clandestinely, for pickups or sexual encounters.

The stopovers for the tour were Bandra Railway Station, Maheshwari Gardens, Gateway of India and Gokul Restaurant. Ashok Row Kavi, chairperson of The Humsafar Trust, and me, a filmmaker and founder trustee of The Humsafar Trust, provided notes and anecdotes about each of the places.

Kavi said, "These were the only places for gays to meet, interact and know each other. Many of the lasting friendships and relationships actually started at these very places. Alternative families were formed at these very public spaces."

It was also discussed how, in those days when everything was hidden and invisible, meeting at these places sometimes could also lead to dangerous situations—being picked up by a plainclothes policeman and threatened or blackmailed by hustlers.

"With safe LGBT spaces available now and also the presence of internet dating sites, very few physical spaces are being used nowadays as meeting places," I said. "These places, used for cruising, were also places of community intervention where safe-sex messages were given and condoms were handout to the then underground community."

"Through Ashok and Sridhar, we heard such funny and fascinating incidents! We need more such interactions so that younger guys know more about their efforts/trials/struggles for that little safe space which we take for granted today," said Sibi, one of the forces behind Yaariyan.

"It was wonderful getting acquainted with landmarks and places we have spent years visiting, only to see them in a whole new 'pink' light this time," said Shruta, one of the youth organizers of the event.

The busload of young LGBT individuals felt the Gulabi Yatra was certainly a delightful way to spend a Sunday evening, learning and reliving the good old days—when, before parties and the Internet—safe places for gay men to meet was scarce.

It is important to record and document some of these histories. Otherwise, they will be lost forever.

Sridhar Rangayan is an Indian filmmaker who has made films with special focus on queer subjects.

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