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

Society - - CONTENTS - By Meeta Mishra

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.

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...with his part­ner Cyril Fueille­bois

...with family

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