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Love, Flags, and Friendship

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As I powered up my laptop this morning, a vibrant Windows wallpaper, which you can see here, greeted me: rainbow flags tied to a fence, fluttering spiritedly in the wind. The colours danced against the cloudless golden sky, embodying the joy and resilience of Pride Month (June).

My Swedish Summer of Acceptance

It was a simple yet powerful scene that stirred inspiration within me, urging me to write and celebrate the beautiful diversity and inclusivity it represents. I could not let June end without mentioning the one particular evening that left an indelible mark on my heart. Fifteen years ago, I took my first solo trip abroad to Sweden…

My BlackBerry beeped with an email from Lucas Black. Who knew that that single beep would mark the beginning of a journey that would profoundly shape my life and perspective? As I read through the email, I could feel the excitement bubbling up inside me. It was from the Youth Exchange Chairman in Sweden, welcoming me warmly to the Lions Youth Exchange Program at Camp Viking in Sweden.

The mail brought an opportunity that seemed too good to be true. I would be staying with a host family in Stockholm, and then I would join fifteen other participants from various nations at the Viking camp. The chairman’s words were kind and inviting, making me feel both welcomed and important. He requested my travel plans and offered assistance, which further reassured me. The anticipation of embarking on this new adventure was exhilarating.

The Pride Month (June) held a special significance for me. Keep reading, and you’ll know why! The camp had begun, and we had been dropped at Strandvägen, a gorgeous promenade in Stockholm. It resembled the Marine Drive promenade of Mumbai.  

With my friends Kay, Rose, and Amby, I wandered through the lively streets that night. We stumbled upon a colourful spectacle. I could hear a mellow pulsating music that brought a sense of celebration. What caught our attention were the vibrant rainbow-coloured flags that seemed to dance and flutter throughout the crowd. I walked a little further. It was a tiny lane on the left, and as I left the promenade, I froze. I was completely taken aback. I had only heard about such things in passing, maybe in movies or jokes with friends. However, witnessing the open display of affection between same-sex couples, without a hint of hesitation or fear, was a revelation. It was a moment that opened my eyes to a world I had never imagined. It filled me with wonderment, excitement, and a tinge of shock. It was a moment that forever changed my perspective on love and acceptance.

“Stockholm Gay Pride Festival,” Rose read loudly from a large hoarding. She continued, “The parade is tomorrow. There is a concert tonight to celebrate that parade. Let’s please go!” She jumped. 

“Uh… no… I attended the one in Amsterdam last year, and I’ve heard this one isn’t as great as that one,” Amby shook her head and turned around. 

“I-I would like to go,” I stammered meekly. 

I had never heard of or seen it before, so I was thrilled at the prospect of experiencing it firsthand. My friends looked at me, shockingly amused by my enthusiasm. 

“Oh great! See Amby? I love that curious attitude. Kay?” Rose beamed and pulled Amby’s arm. 

“Yeah, I don’t mind,” shrugged Kay. 

As we walked on, both sides of the entry were decorated with humongous hangings and banners of rainbow colours—the gay flag. After checking our passports, yeah, it’s mandatory to carry them everywhere; we walked into a small, open-air area, like a cozy little park, but with a different kind of vibe. There were about 70 to 80 people gathered there, and what struck me the most was that most of them were gay. It was a new experience for me. I saw guys with guys and girls with girls – kissing, holding hands, and hugging, which was a bit surprising initially. But you know what? It wasn’t unbearable or weird. It was just something I hadn’t really been around before. I was sure that this kind of scene would become more common and accepted in the future. I wasn’t really paying much attention to the concert’s music, but I could tell it was all about ‘freedom.’ Rose and I collected the big rainbow flags they were distributing. As we walked out, I felt glad that I got to see it, even though I didn’t completely relate to the sentiment in the air or sway to the music like others. 

‘The Stockholm Gay Pride Festival’ was a pivotal moment in my journey of acceptance. It opened my eyes to a world I had never imagined and taught me to appreciate love in all its forms. It was a lesson in empathy, compassion, and understanding.

As Pride Month comes to an end, I am reminded that everyone deserves to be loved and accepted for who they are, don’t they?

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