When Durga gets on the stage, the crowd can’t stop their excitement. Durga yells, "F**k gender!” and goes on to shake a leg to Daft Punk’s ‘Lose Yourself to Dance’.
Durga Gawde, also known as Shakti, is a gender-fluid individual who defies preconceived gender norms and is set to educate the world about why gender shouldn't exist at all. On some days, Durga sports a beard. On other days you will see the 25-year-old being very ‘graceful’.
Durga, who is based out of Mumbai, has landed in Delhi to perform a Drag King show. A first of its kind.
At the event that is being hosted in Lalit’s Kitty Su, a posh nightclub in Connaught Place, the partygoers are prepping for a night of revelry. A closer look at the walls with sculptures replicating erotic scenes from Khajuraho, a screen flashing “#purelove” against a rainbow background and same sex couples getting cosy on the dance floor reveal that this isn’t one of those routine nights.
After a long wait, Durga takes the stage at around 12:15 am in a bottle green suit and the crowd cheers on. They are not in a mood to leave even though it’s a weekday.
Durga is quick to correct the use of pronoun and prefers to be referred to as “them” which is gender neutral.
With a blob of unruly hair in the centre of the head and shaved sides, they says that maintaining an androgynous appearance is what helps in embracing both genders easily.
A sculptor and activist, Durga sports a rainbow badge with every attire of theirs. "I feel incomplete without it now," they said. The rainbow badge isn’t the only object they owns which represents pride. Durga has a tie, which they wore when they went to meet the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. One of their friends even gifted Durga a glass prism, that lights up the whole room as a rainbow.
Just before the show, Durga goes on to describe life in a society that preaches heteronormativity, hate they receives and the difference between sex, gender, sexuality and more.
“My family has been very supportive and my dad loans me most of my clothes for the shows,” Durga says. “They try their best to understand it even if it’s difficult,” they adds.
However, constantly explaining the nuances of being gender-fluid tends to get tiring. “It’s like I’m always educating people. Sometimes I am with friends and they have all these different questions when I just want to chill and play a board game!” Durga rues. “But talking about it is also the only way that people get to know more and it gives others like me the courage to come out” they added.
Right now, Durga is saving up to go and stay in Goa because they feels that it’s the only place where people don’t stare as much. “People need to realize that we’re all humans first. So we shouldn’t forget humanity when we deal with those who are different from us,” they says.
But Durga’s dream doesn’t just end at living in Goa. They plans to “build a new education system and a new university in India which focusses on learning through making”. They wants to pursue higher education in gender studies and use all to “deconstruct gender and eradicate it”.
At the event, the audience was visibly comfortable. Ruby, a transgender from Dehradun, who’s visiting her friend in Delhi said, “This is the only place we can be truly be ourselves. We can express what we feel. And not be viewed as strange objects.”
Outside the pub, the bold lettered “This is a freakshow” on the black and pink wall is unmissable. The ‘freak’ part is just how, perhaps, the society looks at them.