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Chidambaram Recieves Cambridge City's Peace And Justice Award

Ranjani Saigal

Cambridge resident Sarav Chidambaram recieves Cambridgey City's  Peace and Justice Awards for 2010 from the Cambridge Mayor David Maher in a May 23rd ceremony . He was chosen for his work as an advocate and activist within the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender (GLBT) community.  He is the first Indian American to receive this award. He servers as a co-chair of the Cambridge GLBT commission and  works tirelessly to rally communities together around issues of GLBT rights, racial equality, gender equality and immigration rights.

You can reach Sarav at writesarav@gmail.com

We talked to Sarav about the significance of the awards.

Congrats Sarav, how does it feels to receive such an honor from the Cambridge city? 

I am so thrilled, humbled and floored by this  awards.  I never in the million years would have thought that I would be a recipient of such a prestigious awards for the community organizing/Social justice work I do.   It’s a huge inspiration for me to do more and reach out the community.    The kind of work I do , is considered very controversial within our communities and I hardly get any acknowledgement for the work I do .   I accept this effort as a path on the back and a inspiration to do more.  This award is not a individual accomplishment,  I work with so many and the award is for all of us who work tirelessly.

Cambridge city is the first city to provide gay marriage licenses in USA, What makes it a progressive city?

Cambridge is one of the most diverse  cities across USA.  Cambridge had always been a trend setter in terms of civil rights movement.   I witnessed the gay marriage license being issued from the front steps of the City hall and I decided that I will move to Cambridge to live. It was way back in 2004, since I moved into a Condo in Cambridge port and I enjoy living there.    Cambridge city provided me an opportunity to be do what I do and the credit goes to the Cities liberal policies.

What is one of the biggest issues the GLBT community faces?

GLBT community is not really a separate community.   We are part of the larger community,  we are someone’s son, daughter, brother,  sister,  uncle, niece, nephew, neighbor, friend, doctor, engineer,  dentist etc etc.   The larger community views us as a separate community.  I find this really troubling.  When it comes to tax times,  no one is giving me a concession because I am gay.    So we have to work together to get the full acceptance of the larger community.   Acceptance is a biggest issue.  Even within the GLBT community we are divided based on gender, race, religion, etc.   We all have to appreciate and accept the others unconditionally and that will be the best day in our lives.

How do you work towards solving some of these issues GLBT community faces?

As a gay Indian man, I am a rare face visible within our Indian community or  within the GLBT community.   I am forced to be who I am and there is no one before me who were out and who could play a role model in my life.   Arranged marriage seems to be a biggest issue among Gay Indians or South Asians.   My goal is to be a positive rolemodel within the community.  It is a constant education opportunity of myself and others that help us understand each other.  Unless we talk about  who we are, we wont be able to achieve anything .    I try to be a visible gay man within different communities, that means very less privacy, less of free time and lots of stress.   But someone got to do it, I was forced to do it.  I believe in helping the others,  and this is one way I can work for others.    Being visible helps me to be part of some very key projects like the Cambridge City GLBT commission,  Fenway Health Institute Community Advisory board etc.   There are plenty of opportunities to help develop programs, create safe spaces for the GLBT community and also facilitate dialog between different communities. 

What is the next project you are currently working on?
Currently I am working with few others to put together a support group for  Gay Lesbian BiSexual Transgendered  South Asians in the Boston area.    We don’t have such support group for the GLBT community and their allies.  We are hoping to get this going this summer.  As always it’s a challenge because of lack of resources and help to get his going.


You are a full time Software Engineer,  Bharatanatyam student,   Odissi student,   you make films,   server on boards of many organizations and How do you manage all of this?

In Tamil there is a saying “Manam  Irunthaal maargam undu”,  it means that if you set sight on something you can do it.  I am very good at time management and I spend most of my free time doing something.  I don’t like to site idle and do nothing.   I ve always been like this since childhood and its something I am born with.   I dig deep into these reserves when I feel tired or need an inspiration.   I am single so I don’t have a family which demands my time and energy.  Moreover, I am surrounded by very supportive and encouraging friends who help me to stay grounded.

We wish him the best of luck in his journey as a community organizer and social justice advocate.

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