Pride In The Time Of Pandemic

Fashion designer and celebrity Rohit K Verma speaks about Pride, the pandemic and the future of the LGBTQ+ community in India


Fashion designer Rohit K Verma debuted in Bollywood as a costume designer in 2007 with the film, Main Rony Aur Jony. He would later appear in the film Fashion as an actor in 2008. The following year, after participating in the reality TV series Big Boss, Rohit Verma gained global recognition for his representation of the LGBTQ+ community. 

Impact Of Pandemic 

Verma did see his business suffer the pandemic. Weddings were cancelled and budgets were cut and even with things opening up again, Verma sees that customer behaviour has been transformed. People are more cautious about how they spend their income post-pandemic than they were before. He states, “After coming this far, having built your business over so many years, to have that kind of disturbance all of a sudden can be quite demotivating. It also blocks the creativity of a designer.” He had no problem giving discounts and did his best to accommodate his clients, as all business must change with the times. “It’s worldwide, everybody’s business suffered but I guess it’s part and parcel of life,” he says.

As a self-declared extrovert, Verma speaks about the impact that being confined to home had on him. “We all were glued to our television sets and talking to our friends but stepping outside home became a big thing; it transformed society”. However, not all changes were bad. For the LGBTQ+ community, it was a big time. “A lot of people came out of the closet and started talking about their sexuality.” Verma believes that spending time with family and getting to really know them allowed individuals to feel comfortable enough to speak their truth. He adds, “I believe that every individual has got their limits and every individual wants to feel liberated.” Some people want to share their stories about coming out and others do not, it’s all up to the individual, but there were more accounts of these stories during the pandemic. 

Influence Of Social Media  

Verma always knew that he loved design and fashion. He was grateful to be able to follow his passion. “I’m very fortunate enough that lord Krishna has given me the job which I love doing,” he states. He continues to encourages people to live their truth, follow their heart and be proud of who they are. 

While Pride month began as a western concept, it has quickly spread around India and continues to grow in popularity year on year. He states, “In June, we celebrate love, gender equality and human beings. There is nothing bigger than humanity.” Verma admits that social media has played a major role in this, but interviews with members of the LGBTQ+ community have also help spread the word regarding the Pride month and can play a significant role in helping people feel proud of themselves, regardless of orientation or preferences. Verma declares that Pride “is about love, not anybody’s sexuality” and anyone is welcome to join in its celebration and hopes it can also spread to tier II and III cities

Celebration and awareness through social media can also help parents, friend and community members have a better understanding. He reflects, “During the 1990s when the things were not so open, it was very tough for us to talk to our parents”. Pride month and social media have played a large role in changing mindset now, Verma says, adding, “Parents are also becoming very liberal in their mindset, they’re accepting children for who they are. Children need to speak to their parents more about their happiness and about their mental peace. Communication is vital to progress.” 

India Is Progressing

On a recent visit to Haridwar, Verma recalls wearing a saree in front of 2,000 people. “While people looked amazed, no one passed any mean comments or gave me any dirty looks. You can see that India is transforming.” Representation online, on television and in movies is now allowing people to accept and understand each other. Verma states that understanding yourself is the key to making the world a better place to live in. Change is there for those paying attention. Verma optimistically adds, “Time is not very far when people like us will also be respected in the Indian society.” The message he wants to spread is for everyone to respect themselves and love each other as “love and the soul have no gender”.

(The article appeared in the August issue of BW People publication)

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