My Life These Days

If I can wrap up my life these days, it is:

  1. Cold
  2. Shimla
  3. Gay stories on internet.

Now, 1. and 3. are easy to elaborate upon. I seem to have a perennial cold which has become worse nowadays during the deepest of winters. As for the stories, they have somehow taken a big chunk of my free time, whenever I get it. This story, ‘Dancing With the Moon‘ by Michael Duggan is one of the best I have ever read. I have read it numerous times and a persistent feeling of sadness has taken place of the initial surprise when I first read the story. I highly recommend this story, if only to encourage the star of the writer to rise.

And 2. Yes, I went to Shimla with my friends. But fast friends as they are, they just managed to disappoint me at every turn. I wasted five thousand rupees on this trip getting nothing back in return if we discount the Tattapani experience (awesome place, must visit). Shimla being the summer capital of British has very old buildings and never having properly explored the city before when I was here 3 years ago with my mother and sister, I wanted to fill the gaps of my last trip. But I didn’t get to see anything that I wanted. Gaiety Theatre. Nope. Kalibari Temple. Nope. Maria Brothers. Nope. Viceregal Lodge. Nope. A walk through Shimla. Nope. I had infinitely more fun with my family and thus have promised never to go anywhere with those people again if I want my friendship to not fall apart due to such silly reasons.

This post is a historical archive for me basically and that is why so little background information is given here. But what I’ll freely say is that the respective loves of my friends’ bosoms are in actuality men with whom I wouldn’t even want to keep up an acquaintance. Love is blind, as they say. Now since I have posted a link to a heart-breaking short story and accepted in writing a disaster that I went through for full five days, I would like to go to sleep to cure the 1.

Good night!

Crimes of Unreason: Danish Sheikh

conanon:

So many things I want to sea but for now listen to this voice of reason. Wish he was sitting on the bench just because of the fact that he knows what logic is. Read on…

Originally posted on Kafila:

A post on the cowardly judgment of the Supreme Court by DANISH SHEIKH. I term it a cowardly decision because if it had said that we are homophobic then it would at least have been admirable for its honesty if not for its belief. It instead chooses to mask its homophobia with crimes of unreason

Now you’re legal – Now you’re not!

With the ease of a particularly sadistic magic trick, a 98 page document has sent millions of LGBT individuals time-warping back into pre-2009 criminality. If there were any constitutional justifications for this act, they are not to be found lurking in the pages of this shockingly poorly reasoned decision. The Supreme Court has taken a chainsaw to one of the most beloved court decisions of our time, and surgically extracted everything that made it such an important verdict. Besides, of course, that little side business of equal-moral-citizenship…

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Tom-boy!

I am surprised that nobody in my Reader list bothered to write that Tom Daley is dating a man! The diver-cutie-heartthrob after whom many gay people shamelessly lusted is dating a man! I pitied those who sulked after him but I was proven wrong in the end; I should have joined them because, in the end, he is dating a man!

Notice the verbosity here. Apparently, he didn’t say he is gay. He is saying he is dating a man instead of girls (with whom he wasn’t “really serious”). But, having never come out as saying he is gay, I can’t label him one; the term is too restrictive – exclusive to males – and since he claims he still has feelings for female gender, he is not gay. But he is not even saying he is bisexual! He is not saying anything except saying that he is dating a man.

But then it is not that I am dissing him at all; I can testify that coming out is a brave process. It takes  lot of courage and the way he gulps and pauses in his coming out video, those who have done it time and again should know. I wish I had a chance to put on a single video so that I don’t have to do this again and again for a variety of people; but he took the plunge in a single bold step that would have been all the more difficult knowing how many bigoted and homophobic people are out there.

Media is speculating what his coming-out does for the larger LGBT(QSAPXYZ) community: whether his not labelling himself is an act of privilege or an act of individualism. To me it is neither, I feel he is just hesitating to say it out loud, I have felt it at so many times myself. Now I am not comparing our situations at all: I am an Indian living in isolation, he is living in a more accepting country whose mother, family and friends support him, but he is also an athlete who must have inculcated a lifelong habit of not expressing his feelings towards men being in such close approximation of his peers in locker room and beyond. Having denied all his life his feelings, it is quite bold to suddenly say you are gay/bisexual/whatever.

Take me, as an example – as we always do, it’s all about me in this blog after all. I now share my stories about being gay etc. to many people but I still keep my feelings towards an actual person in check and in secret. For example, I think I like Sushant, my roommate in Roorkee, but then I like Mittal also as a dear friend. What is the difference? I don’t let myself indulge into the nuances of my feelings for the two. And thus I try to remain aloof to Sushant and make fun of his looks (privately: good looks). He knows I am gay so it gives me even less degree of freedom to appreciate his presence in my life. Isn’t it only civil to keep feelings to yourself in a society if nobody wants to hear it? Now I am not saying here I like Sushant. I am explicitly saying that I don’t know what I feel for him, but then I am not even trying to remove this confusion. That such a confusion exists itself is alarming to me. This is what I call a drape of secrecy; I am not just hiding some secrets from the world (e.g. I am gay) but also from myself (e.g. what I feel for Sushant). I have turned from a real closeted gay man to an abstract, emotionless, semi-outed man. I have unconsciously developed the habit of uteering “gay” in a practiced whisper, saying it mutedly time and again. I still uncomfortable saying “lesbian” out loud.

Can this be happening to Tom Daley? Maybe he is taking it slowly. He has found a man he likes/loves and it is all that means to him. If he is on the market again (that his rabid fans would be wanting for right now), maybe he would be forced to choose a label for himself. That is what they say: ignorance is bliss, because once you know a truth, it is hard to run away from it. When you are transparent to truth, there is no inner battle, but once you become conscious of it, contradicting it takes a mental dissonance. And when it is too much, people commit suicide or just come out (healthier option). I hope for the sake of British Diving Team that he is experiencing no cognitive dissonance (even if it means less medals for India [as if it wins any medals in diving :D ]).

But then I have too much time on hand. Whatever Tom Daley is or is not, he is certainly brave as I have said before. That such a video exists itself would impact the lives of so many people in his area. In his own way, he changed the world for the better.

So what does it mean for me immediately? It means I can share a picture of Tom Daley here without feeling the guilt of staring at a straight man:

Image

…that lucky bitch who got this!

A “Friend” in Need

I have been taking a friend from Roorkee to various tourist attractions in Delhi for two days now. Not a friend really, but he calls me one. So I have to resign myself to the fact that I am his friend. And it has its pros and cons. Pros: none. Cons: I have to revisit every conventional place in Delhi once again, burning a hole through my pocket and that too with a guy I barely like to see (or smell).

Yet his presence is good because he flares up old, forgotten insecurities in me. Am I the same like him? Do I embarrass my friends too? I am not beautiful to look at, or smooth to talk with compared to the people I see nowadays. I don’t like getting a haircut because suddenly they have become so complicated. I am still flabbergasted by “posh” restaurants that have these unwritten rules that only come by experience. I am not a good dancer. I am not quick with my responses. I have neither a nice tanned body nor a sharp tongue.

But then people seem to like me; I have heard, a girl in my class has a crush on me. One of friends is holding on to me praying I shouldn’t go to IMT in France else she would die in that city all alone (I do the same to her in case she cracks CAT exam for MBA). I have a lot of people who tell me that I am a “good” person with a “golden” heart but is it enough if I find myself competing with a guy with vocal fry and magnetic eyes? Yes, mindless paranoia.

But back on topic. So this guy is from a small town and is a self-professed simple man. He is. It means he has some mannerism that is a little rough on the edges — like throwing paper plates on the road, moving to and fro continuously when bored, gaping at romantic couples sitting together, smelling like a fish and so on. These are minor things that I never react to but are things that I can’t ever ignore when I see them happening. And it humbles me because it means people notice my faults too but ignore them. It is a nudge for me towards a better, more refined way of life.

To say the truth, my dissatisfaction is intensified due to a fact that unfolded at the very start of the trip when I picked him up from the ISBT: his train that I thought departed at 27 Nov actually had to depart at 28 Nov. So it wasn’t 1 but rather 2 days of him in my house. Yes, Guest is God and all that shit but 2 days are just too much for a guy whom I am forced to call a friend. He is nice and I do talk to him much more than any random acquaintance but my sister has her TIFR exam just 10 days later. She has never complained of the alien presence in the house and has always been ready to clean the house and serve the food. But it is obvious she needs quiet for her studies given how vast the syllabus is that she is trying to catch up to. (PS: She wins my coming-out for all her TLC as an elder sister over the years once her exams get over.)

So my friend and I visited Connaught Place yesterday on short notice because he arrived in the afternoon and then Akshardham, Red Fort, Chandni Chowk and NSP today. It is 0157 hours right now. He will wake up two hours from now. We will reach bus stop 3 hours from now and I will be coming back from Anand Vihar Railway Station after bidding him farewell at about 0650 Hours. Yay! However much you may love a person, if you know her/his departing schedule, it is time for them to just pack up and leave.

I did everything till now as a duty: inviting him to my house, agreeing to go sightseeing with him, seeing to his comforts et al. But then, as I have realized, it is something all of us have to do once in a while. He feels alone in Roorkee and I am his crutch, someone in whom he can confide everything. But it is a burden to me, I say it openly here, and a waste of time too (WOT as one of my professors likes to abbreviate), a time which can be spent productively and unproductively in so many ways that makes my head spin. Yet I know I can’t do any of those things when I see him come from a faraway place among strangers and kill his time listening to Bengali songs in nostalgia. I can’t let him be self-destructive and if all it takes is a few moments of my life and nothing else, I will happily agree to it, even if I reserve the rights to crib, bemoan and nitpick here. And also make self-choking expressions if I learn that he is already actively planning to visit me again in the future to cover the rest of the city that we didn’t get time to see.

Oh. God.

Back from the Dead as Undead

Happy pride!

It was the 6th edition of Delhi Queer Pride March yesterday, 24 Nov 2013. I am lucky to be able to witness it with my own eyes. The excitement there was palpable. And the colours were vibrant. It was a fun parade to watch because Kinnars and some other flashy people were hilariously flirty. People wore masks, wigs and footwear. The expat population was out in force and there were plenty of straight people too. People assembled there at 3pm and went to Jantar Mantar protest area at about 6pm. It is a short road but dancing to the drumbeat etc took its time. Unfortunately, I have no photos of the celebration. A fun event where I was outsider.

People came in groups mostly and most of them had friends who supported them. I was alone. People were gregarious and dancing, smoking, laughing. I was shy. There times, numerous instances where I had a chance of reaching out to other people to chat. But I didn’t because of what-they-would-think-of-me syndrome. In the chance cases where I did put myself upfront, was I too closed off? In the end, I didn’t do what I could. It is a good thing I was the part of the parade alone to know how much work I had to do on myself. If I wasn’t able to enjoy my own company, how can I ask others to bear me?

But that is too pessimistic a view. It is not like I regret going there. I did shout slogans and waved flags. I also laughed, cheered and jeered as I liked. I drank some Maaza and chewed on Orbit when I got bored. I sat when I was tired, I smiled at smiling people. But I remained in a sphere of my own. There was a huge flag which was held by a a lot of people and I couldn’t even gather my confidence to go upto it and wave it with others. Wish I could. I approached only two people, one a photographer and the other a straight guy whose brother was a journalist. I was approached by a self-professed poor man who was there just to get someone to sleep with him for the might – hopeless flirt. And the other was a guy from Guwahati who is here in Delhi for 3 years now. He was a student in psychology and was there to support gay rights. He saw me at my best, when I was shouting “Kinnar-samaaj zindabaad” (approximately: kinnar society ftw). And that was when he decided I was good enough to be talked to. Actually, we had exchanged glances in the midst of a happy moment when he was bold enough to come up to me to talk. Slow and methodical. Maybe he was applying his psychology studies on me? Whatever. A nice person is a nice person and he sent me a friend request too, so as it turns out, the parade was not a complete waste.

Then also, I saw with my own eyes what it was like to be gay in India. Gay pride parade is mostly an upper-class phenomenon as I saw it. I wish I could change it somehow; that Supreme Court would pass its judgment on article 377 next month, hopefully taking a broader view of the situation, a bigger parade might be there. I would ensure to be there; I didn’t even know before yesterday that Supreme Court judgment was still under review. So I would try to be more active n the politics of it all and also be more confident as I was in the year before: it was one coming out after another among my peer group as it all culminated in my coming-out speech in the Hansraj farewell party. But in Roorkee, I again went in a closet. It is true that Varshini and Saikat know about me, but then many others don’t. Yet I have had meaningful discussions with many people, none of whom have been able to understand me still. There is a yearning to tell my story ou loud, which was at its loudest when I was departing from the scene yesterday.

It was 6.30pm and I didn’t know what to do with myself. People talked among themselves in small groups, the rush of the moment drained now. It was dark and many were already leaving; I didn’t want to. I was wandering lifelessly, almost lost in the familiar CP. I was furtively glancing at people around me if I had avenues to talk but it seems like I didn’t like the whole afternoon before. I tagged alongside a funny group of short girls who seemed to be from North-East. Then I slowed down in front of a foreigner who was all alone. But he wasn’t in the parade. Did he come there by himself? If I was someone else, I could have just started to talk with him when he was sizing up the cheap shoes in the stalls behind Indian Oil. But I couldn’t have been smooth and I just withered away. Even a last attempt to talk to a guy with the masks ended with his shooting suspicious glances at me. As the other photographer in the very start told me: “People think it is all about raw sex when it isn’t. It is all about love.”

This post is coming after a long time

This post is coming after a long time and I am not saying it out of guilt. I had wilfully abandoned this blog because it wasn’t necessary to my existence and I had more enjoyable things to do in my life separate and independent of WordPress.com. Yet I am back because I had an urge to empty the emotional pitcher inside me as one is wont to do from time to time. (Other ways include watching a tear-jerker like Pixar’s Brave.)

I feel compelled to point out that I am an Indian before I go further. The fact amazes me myself given the fact that surfing the news sites and blogs of American descent, I am more attuned to its intricacies then what goes on back home. I am just what internet made me. As readers should know, there were major wins in US Supreme Court which repealed its DOMA Act that banned same-sex marriage and rolled back Proposition 8 which banned same-sex marriage after it had been sanctioned by its Court.

Being a fan of the advice column Dear Prudence in Slate (you rock Prudie!), I have since grown to appreciate Slate’s content output even if I might disagree with it at times or even roll my eyes at it. It is overflowing right now – as any self-respecting magazine should – with articles dissecting the aforementioned rulings and its effect on American Life and Psyche. They posted a collection of long articles regarding the same and the articles range cover a vast range of topics bound by a central theme of homosexuality as well as a keen quality and clear exposition.

One article moved me more than the others though: it details how Harvard had once expelled gay students from its campus back in 1920s. What surprised me more, as the article notes towards the end, is that there was a culture of homosexual people at all at that time. Although I knew it already, I wouldn’t have imagined how it took place actually. I imagined a lonely man wondering whether he was alone in his urgings for the same sex and would simply see men throwing discrete glances at each other but doing nothing for fear of persecution. Yes, movies play a role in my imagination.

But the fact that there was already a gay culture surprises me to no extent. It describes a dormitory where men having sex with men was nothing new and it was part of its culture. Its dirty secret or its liberating environment… how you brand it is just a function of how you imagine it to be. But the fact remained that sex between men existed in that place with an expectation to play cool about it. Already there were gay nightclubs and bars in New York. The quality of videos made at that time were already of an excellent quality. We underestimate the past with too much dismissiveness.

And yet what moved me was the fact that I saw uncanny parallels with my position today in India. I am not involved with a gay culture here but I am accepted wherever I go. They are people who have already been Americanized and thus feel an invisible pressure to be liberal in order to be perceived as cool. If I remain in this bubble I can conclude that being gay wouldn’t actually be so bad now, would it? But then I realize it is because people don’t talk about it out of their discomfort to talk about it at all. They are silent because they haven’t known a concept called homosexuality at all. They haven’t accepted me but rather grown to tolerate me.

But what would happen if they stop ignoring me? What would happen if I come out as gay in front of people. Then I would be real and those people wouldn’t be college peers but my parents, my neighbours, my co-workers. Maybe they allow me to be out of shock but a day would come when exposure to gay people would force most of them to make up a mind about it. I would grow old to live in my own house and who - like the man in the videos of the Harvard “trial” above – would call me “deranged” and “lucy”. They would warn their kids to stay away from me and then against all my hopes, most of the children would grow up to be homophobic because that is what they would see at their homes.

Indians are already very good at absorbing everything that is bad about India so one more thing wouldn’t be that difficult for them. Ironically, as I have already started hearing about it, homophobes call homosexuality a Western concept when all they have learnt from the West is homophobia itself. But I digress. Crux of the matter is that I have to be optimistic but with restraint. I can’t draw more parallels with a world 100 years before today and on the other part of the world because in today’s globalised world, America’s pro-gay policies would ripple across other countries. But the fact that I wouldn’t be attempted to be silenced later in life seems a little ludicrous just like the unlucky gay bars in New York were closed down later. I would only need to go on with a faith that things do get better.

A Tapori Song for You All!

I downloaded a new song for my library today: it is ‘Jhallah Wallah’ from Ishaqzaade. I fail to grasp the reason but I am enjoying the fruits of the labour. It features melodious Shreya Goshal and the quintessential Indian street music which ironically has become quite rare in my life. The lyrics are so slang that even I don’t know many of the words. I like the Qawwali style, a win in the book of any music lover. Composer is Amit Trivedi; he is slowly becoming a force in the Indian Film Industry belting out hit after hit. I hope you know Hindi because the lyrics make this song: give this fun song a hear anyway here.

PS: Don’t miss its hero Arjun Kapoor. I can’t decide whether I find him cute or macho. But he is unarguably the most handsome actor over here.