50 or 100 years from today we will not be able to talk about the year 2020 without talking about this COVID-19 pandemic. I wonder, will a teen of that time be able to believe that all the commercial planes of the world were grounded?
Businesspersons, film-stars, industry leaders and other powerful people who hardly had time to eat a meal peacefully, were locked down within the confines of their four walls, not for a few hours or days but weeks and months? That workspace and schools were shut too?
Will they act as surprised as my niece did when I told her that I got my first mobile phone when I was in my first year of college and it had a huge memory capacity of total 500MB and we thought it was magical at that time.
As a child I heard about the stories of the war from my father and grandfather, with great disbelief. I imagined what their life would be like when they had to shut the lights in the night and cover the windows with dark black paper so no fighter jet planes could trace signs of a village to bomb down. I feel the pandemic will be one of the main stories that we as a generation will tell.
As a Gay man, being away from the world, being with oneself, and social distancing is nothing new to me. I have been practicing this for a good 17 years of my life before I came out. So I guess I have pretty much mastered it. At that time my social distancing was for my survival or at least that is what I thought it to be, and even now this social distancing is for survival. The only difference is, I felt it was only me, alone in that journey and now here we are all in it together, experiencing something very similar.
During that time I desperately needed someone to support me, to tell me it’s okay and even today there are so many people, especially Queer people out there who need to hear this message that it is okay, we are there with you, to support you.
With this thought, I have started a financial support Seva Project for any LGBTQI+ individuals who are financially struggling during this challenging time due to the lockdown, job loss, unemployment and stopped incomes. Helping them with basics, like money to purchase groceries and medicines needed for survival, is what I am doing right now.
This project is run by a support group I founded called – Queer Hindu Alliance which is an advocacy and support group that will promote a more inclusive Hinduism through creating safe spaces for LGBTQI+ Hindus and allies to engage, share, and support each other without fear or discrimination. So far we were able to help 103 individuals and their families with direct transfer of a total of Rs 1,33,000 and this project is still on.
So when we will tell this nearly impossible, but so much real, story of the world coming to a standstill, those kids may ask us what did we do to support each other? And at that time, the answer given by us will define us as a generation.
Ankit Bhuptani, a gay activist from Mumbai wears many hats. He is the Chairman and Founder of Queer Hindu Alliance in Mumbai, advisor to corporates on inclusivity and diversity, the editor of Gujarati literature magazine Patrasetu and has been a part of the Mumbai pride parade since 2010. Ankit travelled across the country for six months to campaign for Supreme Court's judgement of IPC 377 and works as Programme Officer for a not-for-profit education organisation VIDYA.