Nowadays, preparation for English, the rule-based one which we don’t really use, is a part of my entrance exams next year. Plus, I am taking German classes. So it is natural that my interest in any kind of language is piqued. When I listen in to the conversation between my sister and my mother, I realise there is so much that the both parties exchange implicitly, but it remains unsaid. And as a disagreement arises, my sister can safely say her words are being twisted; she didn’t say anything of the like! For example, when my mother asks her to have her dinner, she replies she is going to study. She gets across that she wouldn’t eat her dinner right away without actually saying so. Complex is our language!
Thus, I find myself agonizing over the fact that there is no good way to say “I’m gay” in Hindi. The most natural choice remains to say “main gay hun (I am gay/मैं गे हूँ)”. But I can’t. Gay is not a term on par with ‘school’ or ‘table’ – it doesn’t sound integral to Hindi. To me, it is a weird sentence that is neither English nor Hindi but rather a hybrid Hinglish that new-age mommies use who tell their children, “vo paper pick karke dustbin mein throw karo”. This sentence doesn’t need translation unfortunately since it merely uses structure of Hindi with the full spectrum of English vocab thrown in. I am openly digressing, but this sentence exposed a few wounds buried within. I feel sad that the more influential and intellectual you are, more terrible is your Hindi. When I try to use proper Hindi without English, people comment on it (even though I am terrible at it). We use Latin to write Hindi on computers; Devanagari as the original script looks comic and foreign. Google translator actually has the option of phonetic typing to help people key in Hindi phrases using standard English keyboard. More unfortunate is the lack of demand for Devanagari keyboards. And we are talking about a language spoken by 40% of a country with 1 billion+ populace. No doubt, there are millions of people who don’t know a word of English. But they know English exists, feel awed by those who know it and feel that it is the only path to success; English is a glamorous language to the “down-trodden” Hindi speakers. I wonder what the future holds for the two of them in the next 50 years or so!
And yes. We were talking about a foreign word that has no equivalent in Hindi. There has been a third gender in India ever since… eternity, at least mine. They are variously known as ‘Hijras’, ‘Kinnars’, or ‘Chakke’ in slang. Yet, all these terms are, unfortunately but understandably, tainted. They are not just a label of some sexual orientation, it is a historical subculture that has remained on the fringes with its own set of highly visible expressions, dress, habits, traditions and beliefs. As a shocking example, they are believed to bid farewell to their kin by stoning the dead body (note: it is dead) as a part of the last rites. Otherwise, the dead body would be rebirthed as a Hijra again, and no hijra would want such misfortune for one of their own. To believe one’s own life is one big black hole and doomed to hell! They are harassed by police and struggle to meet their end and have to employ a combination of prostitution and beggary, both of which are illegal. They can get no respectable job, just for being a hijra. Yet they are feared by other people, as their word is believed to always come true and nobody wants to be at the receiving end of their tongue. It is almost customary that they would gatecrash any marriage or child-birth and negotiate with the family for money. It is not remotely extortion though; we always welcome hijras in our homes when they come for their blessings on such a happy occasion. Moreover, their sharp and witty tongue is always ready to cut any ego to pieces; such is their repartee. Their simple dance shows can be hilarious as well as moving at these times. Yes, we forget about them, but we expect them at the same time to be markers of important times of our lives; they are a part of our overall culture.
It is what I know of Hijras as a living, breathing person in Delhi. But if I get into murky details I am a novice. They are believed to kidnap little children and cut off their reproductive organs. It is strictly a rumour but a very reasonable one; how would you continue your family if you can’t reproduce? Plus, nobody knows who they actually are: I suspect a mixture of transgenders, hermaphrodites, gays, lesbians and other such people. What I know is that they project a very colourful and over-the-top life with full-blown make-up and exaggerated movements, especially their trademark style of clapping with stretched out fingers.
Now that I know that Andhra Pradesh has legalised Transgender as third gender option and their legalized acceptance is becoming more popular, I can peacefully revert to my dilemma of coming out. The dilemma of what shall I say when I actually come out? I am definitely not a hijra, since it not just a third gender (which I don’t identify with) but in itself, a unique culture. Thus, no actual term exists for gay in my knowledge that I can borrow from history. Let us turn to modern times. ‘Sam-laingik’ (homosexual/समलैंगिक/səm’læŋgɪk) is a very bookish word, just like one can’t imagine a person claiming he is homosexual, except on podiums or TV debates. ‘Gay’ has an emotional force that can’t be conveyed by ‘homosexual’ at once.
So, ruling out every single possibility in Hindi, I have decided to use ‘gay’ to describe myself in future, since it is the most appropriate word I can find in Hindi. Perhaps, it is just me. Many men and women use it naturally – in gossips and discussions – like it is nothing. On the other hand, I tend to avoid it like plague, just like the poor joke doing the rounds in my class; a classmate was getting people to say ‘gehun’ (wheat/गेहूँ) and twisted it as ‘gay hun’ (am gay/गे हूँ) – notice that space in devanagari script. Where people just brushed it off or laughed, my vocal chords got mangled in the lump around them right in the middle of the throat and I was able to only wish the joke away with a hand before I rushed out. Not anymore. I would own the term. Though not in the mixed Hinglish way, but a proper I am gay, period. And this is exactly what I wrote on the piece of paper that a friend snatched from my hesitant hands last week.
Yep, I came out! Finally. It was a most clumsy way of coming out; all the confidence drained away leaving a lump of me in the fifth chair. Three of them were curious and concerned to see me transform so drastically (one of them was saying my name repeatedly in concern; tragic-comic moments), the fourth was shooting encouraging glances. She ‘knows’. My heartbeat quickened, I stopped breathing, stood suddenly to run towards washroom to cry but sat down as abruptly when I found it was some distance away (laziness overrode tears). Finally, my confidante suggested my literacy as a mean to come out, when my tongue had decided to betray me. Overall, it was unexpected; some took it better, others worse, than expected. At the end, everyone encouraged me that it was no big deal and that this was anti-climatic almost. Really? I know you want to support me, but your faces tell a different story altogether! They ignored me even to let me cool off. It was brilliant; that was the only thing that kept me from breaking down pointlessly.
We haven’t talked about it since, but I’ll make it a point to openly check out a guy now, just in celebration and to make these decent girls uncomfortable (heehee). Otherwise too, I am feeling more open about talking about homosexuality in the couple of incidents that happened to me in the meanwhile. First, we were studying commutative relations in our class and our teacher was saying that ‘A is a wife of B’ means ‘B is a wife of A’ is false. I put up my hand and forcefully objected that it is not necessarily false. In jest it was, and everyone took it so but I couldn’t have imagined myself doing it before. When the teacher tried to explain himself that he was talking about normal people, I countered, ‘what is abnormal about the rest of them? (!)’ It was certainly not me, was it now?!
Then today I called a school friend who was pouring over me parchments and burdens of her difficult relationship with my cousin. In between, she told me I would have to get married, now or then. But I flatly negated it: ‘I can’t; mine is not allowed.’ We don’t talk about my sexuality ever even though she knows I am gay. But here was I, boldly putting it on the table and changing the stakes of the game forever. This is what coming out of closet does to you. At least with me, a new-found confidence has woke up inside me.
Peace it is now. The fact that I managed to diverge from the main story above at all is proof enough how less I think of my coming out now that I have come out. The treat for my college friends is due where I would thank them for their support (corollary: this is the extent to which I was out of my mind last week, coming out). My life is on track again, and I am happily plotting the details of the colour of wig I would wear to Gay Pride Parade this year, as vigorously as before, hopefully accompanied by some friends. I am more focused on studies and am able to laugh more freely sans any weight in the chest. I am free to test the limits of the sky. If I reach it, there are always other people to come out to. ;)
PS – It feels bad that I am not reading the blogs that I follow. The counter seems to just increase every time and the backlog is growing exponentially. I will try to clear it today. :)