Some of the attendees at the Hugging Club of India. | Photo: Facebook/Umang Sheth
A ‘Hugging Club’ where people come together to talk has helped many gay men and even stopped some from taking their own lives.
The Hugging Club of India ran for six months and people from all walks of life attended the sessions in Mumbai and New Delhi.
But the gay-friendly version of the club had a lasting impact on its members and provided a safe place to express themselves.
Gay Bombay founder, Umang Sheth, started the gay Hugging Club which referred five people mental health professionals. The group even managed to stop one man from taking his own life.
‘The Hugging Club Of India completed six months. So far, we have taken five people to psychiatrists or counsellors, and have convinced and stopped one person from committing suicide. Our next meeting will be a workshop with a gay-friendly counsellor on May 20,’ Sheth told DNA India.
Gay sex is illegal under Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code. Even though that law is up for review in the Supreme Court, homophobia is still big issue in India, with many people living in the closet.
Helping each other out
The Hugging Club meets every Sunday and for many is the first time they can talk openly about themselves.
One man, Devdutt, told the group that as a 33-year-old single gay man he had face a lot of rejection. But his confidence grew and he was very proud of himself, even though it was a tough road.
‘The memories of my parents boycotting and throwing me out of the home haunted me once again. Being gay and lonely hit me hard a few days back,’ he said.
‘I’m glad that I am getting fitter and wiser every day.
‘I met a guy who was confused about his sexuality, I spoke to him for an hour and made him comfortable. I was happy I could help him.’
Nayeem Khan Rajput, recently went through a major life crisis and the Hugging Club helped him overcome his troubles.
‘HCI (Hugging Club of India) not only helped me get through the tough time, but also helped me realise that I am not alone, there are many like me, and people have deeper troubles than me,’ he told DNA India.
‘When I heard their stories, I was like I am not the only person suffering. This has helped me a lot.
‘Now, whenever, I get into a depression, I talk to people. I recollect the stories and I have realised, that it helps. I have made friends via this club and we share our problems here.’