“WE CANNOT BETER MED CRIMINALS FOR CHOOSING LOVE REGARDLESS OF GENDER” - KESHAV SURI
Being homosexual has never come in the way of him running one of India’s most established hospitality groups. He is also the one who challenged Section 377 in the Supreme Court, which is finally getting the due legal consideration. Society speaks to Kesha
Keshav Suri is the man who challenged Section 377 in the Supreme Court. He spills the beans on his fight for LGBTQ rights and his marriage to his French partner
The scion of one of the most prominent hotelier families of the country, Keshav Suri, came into his own when he launched the glamorous Kitty Su at The Lalit. It was a nightclub concept that took Delhi denizens by surprise and captivated the partygoer’s attention in such a way that they are mesmerised by it even after seven years of its launch. Suri took it to other cities as well. But there is more to the Executive Director of The LaLit Suri Hospitality Group than the breakthrough with this hospitality project, for which he gives his DNA and upbringing all the credit. Son of popular businessman, late Lalit Suri, the founding Chairman and owner of Bharat Hotels, which runs the Lalit Suri Hospitality Group and Dr Jyotsna Suri, Chairperson and MD of the company, Keshav has been in the news for taking up the fight for decriminalisation of sexual activities between homosexuals to India’s top court. He filed a petition with the Supreme Court challenging Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code that criminalises a consensual relationship between consenting adults of the same sex. That the court has agreed to hear his plea is not the main news. This champion of LGBTQ rights in India recently tied the knot with his partner Cyril Feuillebois in Paris. Let’s hear it from the man with the fighter’s spirit.
It is an uphill task to get Section 377 scrapped. Yet, you have taken it up. What made you decide to take it up now since it has always been there? Was it tough to file a petition with your name on it?
I am a Gay man and have never denied it. I have been fortunate enough to have the support of my family, my work family
and my friends. However, there are so many out there who don’t. Some members of the LGBTQ community started reaching out to me post me getting an International Drag Artist to India. Something then pinched me and I wanted to reach out and help. It is as simple as this: Each one of us has the right to live with and in respect. We cannot be termed criminals merely because we choose love regardless of gender. Especially, post the privacy law, I think it was the right time to do it. I debated it in my head, and it is daunting to put yourself out there for public scrutiny, but once I decided, I had to do it.
You recently got married. Congratulations. How did you meet your partner and when did you guys decide to tie the knot? Would you guys be living in India or would you be making your home somewhere else as of now?
Thank you! I met my partner Cyril ten years ago in India, in my hotel in fact! We have been together for the last ten years. We recently decided to tie the knot. India is my home and I am very proud to be an Indian. So, I will be living here with my partner. Cyril too loves the country. He, in fact, fell in love with India, even before he met me, when he visited the country first and decided to stay here and start his business...
The Lalit Suri Hospitality Group introduced a Mediclaim Policy that covers same sex partners, children born through surrogacy and single parents. That’s a huge step forward. How has the response been so far? Would you know if it has made other companies think on similar lines?
We started our #PureLove Campaign in 2017 with sensitising my team, hiring people from marginalised communities
and hosting events. We took The Lalit Equality Pledge and initiated endeavours to ensure inclusivity to be the norm. We spoke to our insurance company to include same sex couples and single parents as part of our Mediclaim Policy. I don’t know if other companies are following it, but I know my employees have felt very happy and included after this was given to them.
In an interview to Mid-Day a few years back, you had said that you wanted to become an actor at one point. How did the switch to hospitality happen? We know it’s your father’s legacy but you could have made different career choices.
I participated in a lot of plays during my schooling at St Columbus, but I never really wanted to become an actor—this is misquoted and keeps coming back to me. I wanted to try different things, which I did, because I knew at some point I will be taking my father’s legacy forward, but never really wanted to become an actor.
You launched the glamorous Kitty Su that made people sit up and take notice of your bold business acumen. How did the idea occur to you? Were there any moments of doubt especially because the property where you launched it was perceived as a serious, business oriented brand?
While launching Kitty Su, I wanted to create the kind of space where I would like to party. So I followed my heart and there were no doubts. It has been seven years and we have never shut down for any renovation, and still, the place is considered path-breaking. The Lalit has always been an inclusive brand. Many years ago, we had a club called AnnaBelles, which was the best nightclub of its time as well.
...with his partner Cyril Fueillebois