Lawyers by the day, drag queens by the night

Ayush has a wig emergency. His eye make-up is almost complete. The sequinned gown is basking in the dressing-room light. His lips are lusciously crimson. But his blonde wig looks like a “mop”. In five minutes, he will take over the stage at the Queerfest organised by Harmless Hugs in Delhi. The 26-year-old human rights lawyer from Delhi is nervous. “Hand me the Afro wig,” he says, like a true diva.

Minutes later, he tears onto the stage with the confidence of a veteran performer. Ayush is Lush now. An emerging name in India’s very nascent drag world. He can, in his own words, take on the world with his bare hands when he is in drag.

Lawyers by day, drag queens by night, Ayush and his friend Ikshaku are navigating tricky territories now. India’s drag queens have to fight prejudices at every step. “People think drag queens are hijras, which is not the case at all. Drag is a performance,” says Ikshaku.

As lawyers, Ayush and Ikshaku feel that it’s their duty to change mindsets about this culture. “For us, drag is all about freedom of expression,” says Ikshaku.