Gay ‘Indian prince’ charms Sweden - and vice versa!

August 3rd, 2008 - 12:46 pm ICT by IANS  

By Alfred de Tavares
Stockholm, Aug 3 (IANS) He has become Sweden’s charming “Indian prince” in just a few days. And erstwhile royal Manvendra Singh Gohil, who is unabashedly gay, returns the compliment, thrilled as he is by the openness of Swedish society. Manvendra, the scion of the erstwhile royal family of Rajpipla in Gujarat, is here as a guest of honour of Sweden’s annual gay parade, StockholmPride, which this year hosted the annually rotating EuroPride.

Believed to be the only erstwhile Indian royal who is openly homosexual, Manvendra has worked magic on gay as well as straight Swedish audiences, a la Hollywood celebrity.

“I had been told fabulous legends of a prince-charming since my cradle days, but I never thought I would ever behold one in flesh. Manvendra is truly charming,” said Elin Nordh, a 34-year-old bisexual mother of two sons, who is very devoted to gay causes.

“Had he been a frog and I had caught him, I would have taken good care never to de-metamorphose him with a kiss!”

Princely charms aside, Manvendra is breaking fresh ground in promoting the interests of gays globally.

In a conference chamber in Stockholm’s regal Grand Hotel, the mild-mannered Manvendra told IANS: “If the gay movement needs a paradise, Sweden is the place, the veritable Valhalla.

“Here, I have seen the incredible: members of the parliament, cabinet and people from socio-religio-political spheres, replete with multi-gender proclivities, hobnob without the blinking of an eye.”

The StockhomPride, a 10-day event ending Sunday, was a unique combination of politics and partying. This year’s theme was “Swedish Sin, Breaking Borders”, with the focus going beyond the Swedish borders on the situation for LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) people.

“In India, the hypocrisy and, worse, the cowardice is nauseating. In our parliament and state legislatures, homosexuality is, and has always been, rampant,” said Manvendra.

“But when we (the gay movement) strive to overturn a senseless law, will any single one of these stand up and support the proposal?”

“The draconian IPC section 377 (making homosexuality a crime) has no bearing on the reality of our times, leave alone the times when it was imposed upon an unsuspecting public. Unsuspecting because the illiterate masses were attuned to following official diktats without a word, and those who could understand were too cowardly to raise a voice,” said Manvendra.

When asked what could be done, Manvendra mischievously pointed to the many Swedes swooning over him and said: “Get our presence felt in the legislatures of India, starting with the Rajya Sabha, Lok Sabha, the state legislatures and down the line.”

Asked how a homosexual candidate could possibly be fielded in a sexually prejudiced society, he said with a twinkle in his eye: “There are ways to go about it. Get yourself elected and then show the rainbow colours (the gay plumage)! But we would never wish to hide behind subterfuge.”

Manvedra himself has been approached several times to stand as a political candidate. “Caring people like K. Sujata Rao, (director-general of India’s AIDS body NACO) have urged me, but I have not yet felt ready to abandon the field work I an engaged in fulltime.

“I am all for representation for our harassed community. Mind you, it is by no means a minority community. Our sheer volume and weight can, and will be, effectively harnessed as our community inexorably makes itself seen, heard and felt.”

Incidentally, the Indian capital fielded its first gay pride event in June.

“Also I feel that others, like my most revered mentor and friend, the most heroically outspoken champion of gay rights in India, Ashok Row Kavi, merit the order of precedence,” explains Manvendra. “With his social clout he could flush out many a crypto gay parliamentarian and assorted establishment icons into open.”

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