Navin Dargani, left, and Navin Manglani, have been together for six years
Both had fears about what their
son’s futures would hold without a
Manglani and Dargani spent mon-
ths fielding questions, some more awkward than others.
They discussed safe sex, AIDS/HIV, sex changes and how
transgender is different from homosexual, if it was possible
to marry a woman to satisfy society and keep their sexual ori-
entation a secret and if they were born this way, or made a
choice to live this way. And both agree that honest and open
communication between them and their parents is what cre-
ated the solid foundation they built their relationship on.
But after years of intense education about homosexuality
by the couple — who met on Friendster, a social networking
site, in 2005 — perceptions and attitudes changed.
Dramatically. Both Manglani and Dargani say they fully
realized the brave and unconditional nature of their parents’
love, eventually fearless of how their communities would
respond to their gay sons.
Already living together in Manhattan’s Murray Hill,
Manglani and Dargani made the decision to take their rela-
tionship to the next level and formally commit to each other
in front of their closest friends and families.
“At first, the wedding was a difficult concept for our par-
ents to grasp, that we were doing this partly because we want
to kind of open the floodgates,” said Manglani. “We want to
show people that it’s no big deal and that there’s no reason to
be ashamed of this. You know, like we’re doing this also
because we want to set an example.” It worked.
The San Francisco sangeet and Sonoma commitment cer-
emony and reception was a historical moment in the Indian-
American immigrant experience. It marked the start of a
transformation in the mindset of a community. Supported
by their immediate and extended family and friend circles as
well as friends of both sets of parents, Manglani and Dargani
pledged forever to each other. There was even a Hindu
prayer offered by a pandit, an adorably quirky first dance
and a you-may-kiss-the-groom part that was tender and
sweet. And as if on cue, at the end of the ceremony, two huge
rainbows appeared in the sky.
The rainbow flag is commonly used as the gay pride flag,
symbolizing diversity and inclusiveness.
“It was like the universe saying you’re done right,” says
“Like the heavens approved,” added Manglani.
Post festivities, other young gay Indian men have reached
Inspired by their omance and courage, other young ay Indian men have reached out to the two Navins
out to both Dargani and Manglani for advice.
“You know, if we make a difference in two people’s lives, it’s
so amazing. To know that we’re making it easier for people,”
said Dargani. “Or that other people can just come out and be
who they are, that they’re not the first so they are not tread-
ing in uncharted waters.”
Added Manglani, “It definitely validated a lot of the deci-
sions we’ve made in the last few years. I feel extremely priv-
ileged to have a family and a partner as supportive as I have.
But I think with that privilege comes a lot of responsibility to
be a role model.” ;
‘I did not want queer people to be invisible’
of gays and lesbians living closeted lives in
India and elsewhere. What impact do you
think a film like this can have on people
who are not out?
You know that scene where I came out on
that show Salaam Zindagi on NDTV? Well,
soon after that show aired, an air hostess
came up to me and asked if I was the same
person on that show. And when I said yes,
she told me a story about her sister, who was
engaged to a man — an arranged marriage
situation, who saw the show on a Thursday
when it first aired and then she called her
sister (the airhostess) on a Sunday when it
was going to re-run and asked her to watch
it. After the show was over, she told her sis-
ter that she too was like me. The air hostess
helped her sister break off the engagement
without outing her sister to her family. I’m
sharing this story because I think that visi-
bility and being out can have an impact on
Through this film, I’m not exactly advo-
cating that everyone should come out of the
closet. I know and acknowledge the fact
that for some, coming out is not even an
option. However, I do hope that the film
makes people in the closet feel less isolated.
I’m also hoping that this film serves as a
resource for people who are struggling to
come out. For instance, I wish that a film
like this existed when I was considering
coming out to my mother.
A scene from I Am, a moving study of the stages
through which some parents of Indian gays and
lesbians accept their children’s sexuality
relationship. My dad is very much alive even
though he’s not in the film.
There are LGBT struggles in India and the
US, even though the US seems far ahead.
What do you think should be the focus of
the LGBT activists in India?
Indians have done a phenomenal job in a
very short time. If one compares the two
movements, Indians have achieved a lot
more over a shorter span of time.
Actually, I think that there are lessons that
people in the US can learn from Indian
activists. For example, this idea of creating
masks for people to wear during Delhi pride
parade was such an innovative idea — one
that allows for people to come out and sup-
port the cause, have their head-counted and
not be outed publicly. I think LGBT activists
in this country could definitely borrow that
In India, parents have taken a huge stand
in advocating for their children’s rights and
are spearheading the Supreme Court case
where the Section 377 decision is currently
being challenged. Such a strong support by
straight allies is integral to movement
building and change. ;