Pink Parties Kolkata is about to complete a year of its existence. Having carved out a social space for people from Calcutta’s LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) community, moderators Anindya Hajra, LGBT rights activist, and Nil (one half of designer duo Dev R Nil) spoke to t2 on the eve of the group’s first anniversary.
Pink born to party
It was a spontaneous search for a social space to hang out and party in, that led to the formation of the Pink Parties Kolkata last April. “My friends and I used to hang out a lot at a club near New Market. The problem was, they would never stop me, but they would often stop my other friends from the LGBT community. If I was there, I would put them on the guest list, at other times, they would call me and ask me to intervene on their behalf,” explained Nil.
Things came to such a pass that one day after receiving a call from a friend, Nil served an ultimatum to the club management. “When they didn’t get back, I sent a message to a few nightclubs telling them that we are a group of 40-50 people looking for a space to party. Roxy, Underground and many other clubs got back. We chose Roxy for that first party, because it is most centrally located.”
The success of that party — the revellers did not get back home till the next morning — gave birth to Pink Parties. “Later that night, we launched the group on Facebook,” says Nil. The virtual world then helped spread the message faster and wider.
Whenever you see pink, think of us
“Pink is a beautiful, vibrant colour. But for ages it has been looked upon as a feminine colour, and for effeminate men. We wanted to be proud of the colour,” says Anindya.
Adds Nil: “The colour pink has been associated with the LGBT community for very long. Take the concept of the ‘pink dollar’ or the ‘pink economy’ — it refers to the LGBT purchasing power.”
|A Pink Party in Calcutta
Pink Parties do not simply spell party. “It is a social space for people from the community and also others to meet, talk and hang out,” explains Nil. Adds Anindya, “There are quite a few LGBT dating sites. But one has other needs than sexual ones. This gives like-minded people the chance to come together and interact.”
Though it started with a party, the group has diversified into other things, such as Pink Movies, the movie club, or Pink Coffee, the organised meet for members every Wednesday at Mocha. “We start assembling at 9pm and often carry on till late,” laughs Anindya.
Pink Parties are held twice a month in winter and once a month at The Stadel hotel in summer. “We had a Pink Picnic in winter. It was a lot of fun and was organised by one of the members. We believe in delegating responsibilities,” says Nil.
Pink Parties is not an NGO, clarifies Nil. “There is no set agenda, which gives it a unique appeal. We are a more spontaneous group,” he says, adding, “We are completely self-funded.”
The group that started with 50 members now has 800-plus. “Till March, our membership was 400. Then as soon as we announced the first anniversary celebration on Facebook, it became viral. Our membership has crossed 800,” smiles Nil.
Members include those living in other cities like Delhi or Mumbai and sometimes even abroad. “They join in when they are in town. In fact, on a trip to Delhi, I was sitting listening to some people talking, who didn’t know I was one of the administrators for Pink Parties. They were wishing they had something like that in their city!” recalls Nil.
There is a do-and-don’t list, and the moderator steps in if the rules are flouted. “Would request all the enthusiastic party people to control their physical desires right there in front of the whole world whether straight or gay…” reads the Pink Parties rulebook, before going on to mention, “We are expected to be adults and drink responsibly. Kindly do not drink and drive, the group holds no responsibility whatsoever for those individuals who would break these rules.”
There are chatroom rules and even rules pertaining to the use of community space on Facebook. “When we started out, we were not sure how the others would accept us. We wanted to be accepted as part of the mainstream, but we wanted to be careful not to hurt anyone’s sensibilities. One year down the line we have been so well accepted that we might just remove those rules,” says Nil, adding, “Initially, we would also tell the hotels to train their staff not to stare if two men or two women were hugging or kissing, but we’ve never faced a problem.”
If anything, the so-called ‘straight’ community was more than eager to join in the fun. “We were at Underground once, partying in a big group. The others at the club stood around watching us for a while; then they all wanted to come and join us because we were having so much fun,” recalls the designer.
The group has planned a two-day anniversary celebration. On Friday, April 20, the group is hosting a play — Ek Madhav Baug (Journey of a Mother Through Her Gay Son’s Diary) at Weavers Studio Centre for the Arts. On Saturday, Pink Parties will host its anniversary bash at Nostradamus in Fortune Select Loudon hotel.