If the rest of the UK is a Banoffee Pie served by the maître d’ herself, Brighton is candy floss on a stick, served by a 40 year-old-lady in violet pinup curls, sporting a Hare Krishna tattoo and peering down at you mischievously through a pair of cat-eye glasses.
Lying on the southeastern coast of England, it is a city where freethinkers and bohemians unite, to use their bodies as a blank canvas; where Age doesn’t stand high on the altar and judge you for not conforming; where not conforming meant that you were. Here, I could be whoever I wanted to be.
So, one fine summer’s day, I decided to be a water lily.
I let my bright pink petals unfurl and slathered some SPF 50 on my bare arms, just as a bunny in a glittering silver corset blew a kiss my way. I blushed and walked towards the other dancing lilies who were busy pouting against a backdrop of the shingle beach. It had begun. The steady, pulsating rhythm of the drums permeated the air, only to be drowned by a roar that erupted from thousands of spectators, tiptoeing on the sidewalks to watch the biggest LGBT parade in the UK.
Our hips gyrated in unison as we threw our arms skyward and watched the famed Brightonian seagulls squawking and circling overhead, slightly unsettled by the booming ‘Dancing Queen’ chorus. All along the sea of people, you could see children bobbing up above the crowd, taking in the colours and chaos from their vantage point. We inched along gracefully, past healer’s dens, tattoo parlours and a vegetarian shoe shop – haunts that are utterly, uniquely Brighton. A siren blared, heralding the arrival of the local police force with bronzed drag queens riding pillion and waving flags.
True to the arty hodgepodge that is Brighton, the Royal Pavilion, a majestic Indian-styled palace lay smack in the middle of the city; another mark of Brighton’s spontaneity. We danced around its towering minarets with gay abandon, led by human-animals on a leash. Rebellion was all around; a woman in a black dress with a beard to match, a pirate rolling past in a wheelchair and a father breastfeeding his baby while swaying to the beats.
As the pace of the drumbeats quickened, I slowly floated up and looked down at myself. How did I, an Indian girl with a homophobic family that tut-tutted at any display of public performance, land up as a dancer in one of the boldest LGBT parades ever?
It was simple. I didn’t want to watch Brighton from a distance. I wanted to be Brighton for a while.