This post gave me inspiration to write about how my gay life is going. And it made me sigh and wonder. What if I lived in London? Hoe different would it have been to find that I am gay, in London and not in Delhi. I cannot imagine that. But I was reading a gay-themed story on FictionPress (truly well-written but incomplete!) and it made me realise I often read stories regarding people in closet and how they come out in open. I realised I am searching for pointers from people in same situation as me.
Yet my situation is different from any story written in US/UK/Australia or any foreign land. I live in a country where handholding among men is not looked down upon in large parts of country, if only because they don’t know the meaning of homosexuality. And since many people do now, after the release of Dostana, it makes me wonder whether the two men hugging or holding each other are actually a couple or just two close friends either of which would have been completely plausible in Delhi. Some kind of city, huh?
And then I look at myself. I have overstepped myself way too many times in my life, only to stop midway and wait for others to catch up. My being gay is one of them. And following is the story that is one of my favourite, starring me, me, me… the younger me! It starts when I was 11. I used to think life was unfair for women; they had to shed their clothes and behave as semi-nude dolls on TV but men didn’t and couldn’t? Totally cheating! After some time, I understood that I subconsciously wanted to watch nude men, that’s all. It was a slow process but an important one nevertheless. And suddenly the realization hit me that I was attracted towards men. Remember, this when I thought gay meant happy and rosy (!). It felt different to be attracted towards men. I wondered whether there would be more men like me in this whole planet. But my universe was my little colony which inhabited both my home and my school. I couldn’t gamble my life at the risk of telling someone that I liked men. No, I couldn’t. It is not that I felt dirty; I was sure I liked men. But I instinctively knew what was wrong in a society; never had I ever heard of any man who loved another man in my life and it didn’t seem likely that there would be many, if I were to go by movies, TV serials, ads, stories, jokes and living breathing people around me. Even if, by chance, any other gay person existed, he would have also felt the same as me and would have had to be bottled up all his life. I took two of the most important decisions that would shape my entire life at that young age of eleven – 1) I could under no circumstances come what may tell anybody – however much I may trust yo – that I wanted men the way I could never think about women, and 2) I would never marry anyone in my life. I was destined to live alone and die alone, I willingly decided.
This is not an exaggerated version. It is true and if anything, the most that I remember of that day, other thoughts having faded away with time. One can remember only so much for so long, however important it might be. But I can recall awfully lot of that moment. It was a time when we all lived in joint family and I was standing at the door of my aunt two storeys above mine. Their TV in the drawing room could be seen easily from that angle and I was lusting over the bare chest of a man in an ad. The realisation hit me then and there when I was alone and then wanted to be alone. I settled on their sofa for some time thinking through all my possibilities. Incidentally, I didn’t visit them often even after living in the same building. This is actually one of the only events that I remember just being in that apartment.
Anyways, that was a time when I didn’t have a computer at home and internet and gay were words that were as alien to me as McDonald’s or Czechoslovakia. We just never crossed our paths, computer and me. Even in our so-called computer labs, we opened MS Paint and ran wild with our imaginations. (And to think that now I cannot live without internet. India has truly progressed much, if this is the story of every home.) As a disclaimer, I don’t actually have a very good memory and thus I cannot tell you whether I thought about it anymore or not in the meantime. I got my computer in 8th class and internet connection in 9th class. It was MTNL and the slowest broadband we could afford. Later on, when we got the hang of the World Wide Web and outgrew our measly quota of 200 MB/month by a GB or two, we got a better connection from Airtel that offered unlimited download, their 555 (triple-5) plan. I miss that one badly, even today.
If you were reading carefully, you might be curious as to what got into us that we were using 150 MB one month and 1.5 GB the very next. Yes, the world out there, I discovered porn. It was gay porn to be exact. Sometime before that, we used to search through URL. If we wanted to know about a mango, we would type www.mango.com or www.mangotree.com or even www.tastymangoes.com… ad infinitum. Well, until we found the right site. It was a very laborious process that some 10-15% of people still employ to browse internet just as I’m typing this post! It was an evolution during that period: we first employed Yahoo! and then shifted to Google when we came to know there was one. One day when nobody was home, I turned on the desktop and searched ‘hot naked men’ or something along the lines. Soon pictures upon pictures of men were posing seductively in front of me and was I aroused! I was sifting through the excitement filled pages and then I encountered a word, over and over and yet again. Gay. There was a fear as to what it could be. The sites looked dubious and – naive as I was to click any random link – I knew that they carried the risk of virus. But since neither Google nor Wikipedia could ever spread any virus, I searched ‘gay’ and the first entry came from Wikipedia itself. Click. I was amazed and relieved at finding that I had a label. I was gay and so were thousands of people all over the world. About 10% of human population to be exact. Soon, I was deep into all these issues and gobbled up everything when I had time about the stonewall riots, Kama sutra, pride parades, protests for acceptance of marriage, third gender in India since olden days and many more of such things. I learnt tons of new words and phrases: I was ‘gay’ and my female counterpart was ‘lesbian’; the phenomenon was ‘homosexuality’ and the rest of the world was ‘straight’ or ‘heterosexual’; I was ‘in closet’ and had not yet ‘come out’. This and more.
Internet was like my wings, I was flying further and higher, into the lands and times I had never seen or imagined. But the more I learnt, the more the restlessness grew. I was gay, I knew it and the world didn’t. It was a fact that didn’t bother me until then but it suddenly did. It was an itch inviting me to scratch it. I wanted to shout out from the rooftops even though was deadly afraid of the reactions of my family and friends. Till now, I had only read rosy romantic tales on nifty.org or facts and information on Wikipedia. Mostly and apart from all the unhealthy stuff on tube sites.
Thus I decided one day, caution thrown wilfully to the wind, that I had to tell people that I was gay. 10% of Indian populace was hiding this statistic and I couldn’t be a part of it anymore. I updated my sexual orientation on Orkut as ‘gay’ one afternoon. And sat back. A flurry of scraps was what I expected or maybe phone calls too, but pin-drop silence was all I got. Except a couple of incidents. A guy I had been talking to on Orkut since a couple of weeks asked me if it was true and I said yes. I didn’t get a reply anymore, except that he had unfriended me. How dare he! And when my sister’s friend asked me on Orkut itself whether I was gay or not. I don’t remember exactly but I was a little rude when telling her that ‘yes, I am’. She replied back in a hurry saying, ‘Oh no! I don’t mind it! I am just asking.’ And I was on the lines of, ‘whoa, she has a lot more depth to her than I ever saw’ but said back to her that, ‘oh ok, sorry for being rude’ and blah. That was the peanut of response I got for the mind-boggling sensation. An unheard news in my network.
But that didn’t mean nobody saw it. It only meant that nobody reacted to it. They couldn’t have known what to do. Should they befriend me or bully me? There was no precedent. I was their guinea pig. It was only a year later that I started getting reactions. Rounaq was his name and I had disliked him the instant I stepped inside my 11th class. Snotty, two-faced pompous people usually don’t get my sympathy, especially when rolled into one.
Derailing my train of thought a little, here is a little summary. From whatever I have heard, schools in other countries have a system of flexible timetable and students have to shuttle between various classes every day and the faces they see are new for many of their classes. Not in India. We all study the same subjects till 10th standard. Each standard is divided in various sections – A, B, C and henceforth. Thus, students in each section sit in the same classroom for a year and get transferred to another the next year. Thus, I was a B-section student: I-B (first-B) to X-B (tenth-B). We were the same students together with a few joining us or parting away each year. (I have explained so much because when I read about others’ school system, I was dazed and confused that a class was a temporary and transient concept for some! I can happily tell more about our schools system for whoever is interested!)
11th is the class where we have to choose our streams from the available three: science, commerce or arts/humanities (from top to bottom in terms of social status). I chose science but many of my friends didn’t or couldn’t. It was the first major shuffle I had ever witnessed in school. And I saw so many students of other sections joining us in XI-A, whom I had never seen. I am stating this as a fact and not a massage to my ego, but I was topper in my class and quite intelligent among my peers and as result, a favourite among teachers and students. Not that I cared much, but again this I am saying because I want to tell you that even though I was not a star or idol for anybody (not a single person) but I was a prominently pivot in my class. Yet at the same time, I was a silly child who didn’t have a proper haircut or good social skills for a man-to-man talk. I lived in ideals and was living in a sea of acquaintances but a select few chosen friends. But I didn’t have enemies. I could never have enemies. Friction was synonymous with me but I am not the one to openly hold grudges.
Till Rounaq and Prashant were two of those. I quickly made it a point to pronounce Rounaq’s name as ‘Rɔ-nə-kyuː’ instead of a proper ‘Rɔ-nək’. I still cannot pronounce the ending ‘q’ correctly after acquiring the bad habit. But I rarely interacted with him. I was a bit of distant polite mixed with hidden sarcasm and open mockery behind his back. His arrogance and ego ticked me off, I guess. He had managed to rattle our calm and composed principal who slapped him tight across his cheek after he made witty comeback to her (to the principal of your school!). This was my favourite story for the next two weeks. I had turned around just in time to see principal balancing on her toes and somehow managing to strike a little above his cheek, which in turn made his specs fly away in slow motion. All of this in a split second and it was a recipe for comedy! We never actually confronted each other directly ever. My name-calling was merely restricted to whenever I actually had to use his name, which I usually shied away from.
And then he discovered that I am gay on Orkut. He made sure to make my life hell. It was a little ‘psst psst, are you gay’ at first but quickly turned into full-blown insults. My library had a quote from Mahatma Gandhi hung in front of the library – Meekness is not weakness. I loved it. And that became my shield; that I am not weak if I am meek. And I was silent. Little did I know that silence to bullies is what kerosene is to fire. They thought I am afraid of them. I wasn’t; I was afraid of my friends as to what their reaction would be. They were still silent. I still had my popularity behind me coupled with the fact that my school had only bully-wannabes, not actual real bullies whose stories I used to hear from other schools. My schoolmates were nothing but cowards.
And a coward likes nobody more than a bigger coward. I became one, running away from any name-calling and soon a bunch of guys started calling me gay. We had to live in the same class and that fact made them a little reticent, but they liked to torture me. And I silently went on like nothing happened. I believed that they would go away if I stand my ground. But no, I was wrong. Fire burned the air and air stoked the flame, a vicious cycle. It was the peak of bullying when a classmate whom I at least respected inked ‘G A Y’ on my arm. That day I broke down; don’t remember if tears were involved but it had silent onlookers, villains, victims, encouragement, hooting… if I imagine a rape scene, I imagine the setting of that day. But it was not. It was a far more innocent yet brutal enough assault on my confidence. And when I went away to wash that tragedy away, I encountered my sister’s classmates at the water stand. They were laughing when they saw what I was washing away. Instantly, they lost many points in my book. Yet again, I did nothing and silently carried on my resolve. I was a Gandhian now, if only by ego. I had chosen a path and I couldn’t just turn around.
The next couple of days were a blur. The guy who had written GAY on my arm had started calling me ‘gay for <insert my name>’. It starts with a ‘k’ and he deliberately mispronounced it in front of other girls. Yes, my friends were some of the girls only, with whom I remained all along and who didn’t ever mention any of these incidents, as if they didn’t happen. It was the most I could ask anyone at that time. There were other kids – boys and girls – who never called me out and talked to me as if nothing happened. But they listened too. Whether they sympathized with me or enjoyed it, I cannot ever know but I always give them a benefit of doubt. Anyways, that guy started to call me gay in the morning and started again in the afternoon. We didn’t have a teacher that time and it was the last period. The class was a chaos. I mockingly asked him to stop else I would slap him. I had told him totally non-threateningly and he took it as it is. He dared me to slap him and I warned him I can. Laughing, he cleared out a little space and stood and dared me to slap him. We were both standing now. I was almost about to let it go, but something inside me rose. I could feel it going up and up and reach my head. The burst of energy inside me made my blood boil and… SLAP! I really slapped him hard on his cheek. I cannot ever imagine I can ever slap someone again with that intensity. I was calm the second before the sound of that slap was enough to make me burst out of my shell.
That was a day I cannot forget. Nobody (even me) could fathom I, Con Anon, slapped anyone of any breed. The guy was rattled. The seconds that took him to get back his senses were my lifesaver. Just when he started to pounce on me, the other guys intervened. They held him back and tried to hold me back to. But I shrugged off their hands. I wasn’t looking for a fight. It was a statement and that was it. I was not an obscure child and that I had slapped anybody for any reason spread faster than a wild fire. I had a certain image that I shattered to crumbles that day. If fury was expected from me, it would have been an ordinary day. But it was not. Ordinarily I can seethe with anger from inside, and yet project myself as a happy man. I am not a natural actor. When others think I have gone absent-minded, I am thinking at double speed inside. It comes out as reluctance or even lame jokes. But that is my forte: I joke about everything and anything, most of all about me and my bone-structure. But I always shy away from tackling anyone head-on; I am afraid to. That day was a complete 180° for me. I am thankful it was.
The very next day, the bullying stopped. Halt, none, nada. Nobody spoke; as if the last one month never happened. Had I realised that a statement was all it could have taken, I would have done it ages ago. But foresight is a rare gift that I lack severely. My belief in Gandhi is not shaken much, but now I am more open to confront my own feelings than chasing a stupid ideal away from reality.
Either way, this post has gone down the road where I didn’t want to take it. I wanted to talk about why I didn’t tell my family about my coming out directly and what I did when they confronted me. Also, I wanted to merely contrast gay life in Delhi with that of London. Even if I have mentioned it to some people since then and even in a brief post some time back, I have never penned so much about it and my feelings. Something clicks into place and you just have to say it out aloud, although it happens to me dangerously frequently nowadays. I might even stop now that I have failed to talk about why I look forward to the next gay pride parade of Delhi and how I missed the last one. :(