Monday, April 20, 2015

Q - Queer Parade – San Francisco – 2003

Four generations: Three continents: Two world wars: One village   
These are tales spanning four generations spread across three continents in between and after the two world wars of people who set forth under different circumstances from one small village called Agaramangudi.   

The story line traverses through different time lines, locations or incidents with no particular order. The only order being the alphabetical one – A to Z meant purposefully for the A to Z challenge. These posts can be read as standalone posts, but would be best comprehended if you read them along with their prelude provided as a link.

Queer Parade – San Francisco – 2003

It was a long weekend in California. Meera, her niece and her husband Rajesh wanted to take Kannammal for an outing to some place nice. This was the third year that she was doing her six month stint of baby sitting on her tourist visa. Every alternate six months Rajesh ’s parents would fly down on a tourist visa that enabled them to stay over for six months to baby-sit their grandchildren.  It was a convenient  arrangement that worked well for everyone.

Kannammal was more than a baby-sitter to Meera and Rajesh. The easy going maternal warmth, combined with a progressive outlook made her an instant hit with anyone from a different generation to relate to her. She had a knack of listening to people and reading their minds. Increasingly Meera and Rajesh found themselves seeking out to her to unburden their worries and life dilemmas with her.  They would enjoy the long philosophical discussions in the evenings about life in general.

For the long weekend, Meera and Rajesh were suggesting to her a few places where they could drive down with the twins.  Kannammal said she wanted to go to Downtown San-Francisco on Sunday. She had an event to attend.  

Meera and Rajesh  were perplexed. As far as they knew, she had not had any social life whatsoever in the six months that she would  come to live with them. What event could she possibly be interested in , that too in San Francisco ?

In the first year that she was there babysitting her brother’s grandchildren in Palo Alto, where her niece worked as a software programmer, Kannammal  stumbled upon some strange words  in Television news and newspapers.  Over the years she had picked up a decent English vocabulary. But this was the first time she stumbled upon the words like ‘Gay’ and ‘Homosexuality’.  Soon she began to decipher the news headlines and all that was happening with a group of people with a different sexual orientation who were fighting for their rights which was the television news headlines in California. In some states across USA and in other countries that were relooking their legislations for people who were not heterosexually oriented. She watched and followed the news about them keenly over the next few years. 

That weekend they drove along the Golden gate bridge and to downtown San Francisco. The city was buzzing with activity. It was not unusual, because that is how most cities are over the weekends.  After they checked into the hotel, Kannammal said she wanted to retire soon and start early the next day. She seemed anxious.

As they set out the next day, the streets were filled with the events that the Queer pride activists had put out all over San Francisco. People from all over United States and the rest of the world had gathered to give support and gather momentum and recognition to the Queer pride movement that was gaining attention and discussion.

After lunch, later in the afternoon they drove down to  Civic centre where the event was going to be culminated.  Meera and Rajesh were excited as they were spotting well known movie stars, musicians, artists, wealthy  businessmen and many other famous celebrities among the crowd.

Little did they know that they were actually with one.

When the old widow with a tonsured head and a pale white saree from India stood up behind the podium and spoke, the world took notice.

In her speech she said she wished the Queer pride movement would soon gather  momentum the world over.

Perhaps, in India as well she wished.
Perhaps not, she was convinced. 
Most Indian languages particularly the ones that Kannammal  spoke, never had these words in their vocabulary. Atleast she had not known them. It was almost as if nothing of that sort existed in that time and in that place where she came from.

In her days she could not articulate what it was. That was in 1954.

Had she known them in her days, she could have made better sense of her destiny. Even if she had not been able to do anything about it, she could have consoled herself that...
It was not her fault.
It was not the fault in her stars.
It was not even the fault in that poor man’s stars.   

For she alone knew.

What it felt like being married to a man who was not a heterosexual ... 
What it felt like to live a stifled existence in a loveless, sexless and a childless marriage...
What it felt like to live and die as a widow and a virgin... 

In a world in which Heterosexuals would always be a demographic majority, the voice of the minority should not be vanquished by senseless legislations and stifling social  and moral constraints. For it was in the best interests of heterosexual majority that more and more people needed to feel safe and welcomed to be able to come out their closet.  Her’s was a  classic example of a life that was wasted being a victim because of stifling social and moral constraints imposed by the society. 

It was Kannammal’s pioneering efforts through her writings and this speech that set this movement to include the Allies of the LGBT community.   On that day the LGBT movement added an ‘A’ at the end of the acronym. The LGBTA – now signified the Lesbians, Gay, Bisexuals, Transsexual and Allies or the friends of LGBT  community. 

She died a few years later, but not before she spoke up and made a difference to the world.

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