On February 3rd, 2018, I attended my first Pride Parade, at August Kranti Maidan, Mumbai. It’s been a week, but I still haven’t been able to put it into words. Words are beautiful, but I guess some things are even more beautiful, like the feeling of being surrounded by thousands of wonderful people, overflowing with love and happiness and more love. Ecstasy is the only word I can think of.
There were a lot of things I felt that day, as I marched with and for a community that is made up of nothing but love.
Disbelief was the first emotion I felt. When the people came into view, all colourful and gorgeous, radiating joy, I screamed with delight, and turned to look at my friends.
“We’re at Pride!” I shouted, and their smiles were warm.
Next came, awe. Everyone around me seemed elated, not a single care in the world, and a fire in their eyes, a storm brewing. On top of that, everyone looked absolutely stunning. I felt out of place for a few seconds, like I wasn’t dressed well enough, before I remembered where I was. I was at Pride, and at Pride, acceptance was the key. No one here would look down upon me for not fitting in. In fact, most of us here were misfits, and proud to be.
“Happy Pride!” echoed everywhere, and I found myself mirroring it with a wide grin on my face. I hadn’t smiled like that in so long.
Two things that were limitless at Pride were: hugs and smiles. I bumped into a person once, and mumbled an apology nervously. When I looked up to meet their eyes, though, they were smiling broadly at me, and they suddenly opened their arms to pull me into a warm hug.
“Happy Pride!” they exclaimed, seemingly elated that I had bumped into them.
I laughed, a little taken aback, but hugged them back: “Happy Pride.”
It was unbearably hot that day, and I was more sweat than body. What made it all tolerable was the rainbow flag above my head, a rainbow flag that looked to me, more beautiful than anything. My hands were raised in the air, and it didn’t matter at all that they were sore from holding the flag up for so long. In fact, I never wanted to let go of the flag, despite the heat and sweat and long walk and hurting body. It made me happy to have it above me, and sometimes, when it slipped out of my fingers, I’d run after it, chase it until I was touching it again. My friends found this amusing, but also understood, without a word, why I wanted the flag above me.
I never wanted to let the Pride flag down because the Pride flag was everything that I stood for.
There is something unbelievably empowering about marching as a part of a community so beautiful, fighting to receive back the love and acceptance that we give. I stood there, one amongst thousands, as a ‘we’ instead of me. I stood in solidarity with everyone that day, with smiles and tears and beauty and rage. Everyone looked beautiful, and for the first time, I told them so, without any fear. The happiness on their faces when I said it made it all worth it.
The march ended quicker than I expected it to. It all felt easier; the people around me made walking less of an effort. We stopped our movements, still filled with exhilaration, the thrill of it all, and I looked around me, wanting to drown in the colours. My friends were as happy as me, squeezing me tight into a hug and smiling affectionately at everyone. We took pictures as memories, but I knew that what I would really remember was the feelings, the emotions.
Pride, to me, is the exhilaration, the pure ecstasy that I felt that day. Pride is the feeling of having gone through a lot, but still not letting go of my beliefs and principles. It is the feeling of acceptance, the promise that I’ve made to myself of always being accepting and kind. Pride is the feeling of not shrinking in, of being yourself and flaunting it without shame. Pride, to me, is everything good and beautiful. Pride, to me, is love.
When I reached home that night, my parents asked me excitedly: “How was the Pride March?”
I smiled, pulling them into a hug.
“I have never seen such love and acceptance anywhere before,” I said.
So, here’s to me, and several other people having the best day of our lives. I am proud to be a part of this beautiful community that empowers me and gives me the strength to grow and explore everyday. I am proud to be myself, and I’m proud of you for being yourself.
Because Pride is not a day, it’s a feeling.
So, here’s to love.
Here’s to happiness.
Here’s to pride.