In Conversation: Being Gay and Vocal in India

Interview by Natasha and Chandni for Department of Journalism, Lady Shri Ram College for Women.

Written and Compiled by: Chandni

Ram and Prince, both work at Naz Foundation, and fit into the archetype narratives of homosexuals in modern India. They provide two starkly contrasting pictures. Ram- the upper middle class, well educated gay who leaves India, only to come back a few years later, more liberated and more resolved to work for the Indian LGBT community; and Prince- the confused village boy who takes more than a quarter of his life to reach the conclusion of his identity, and who faces more hurdles and pressure to ‘come out’ before moving to a metropolitan city.

Chandni Ahuja and Natasha Ahuja, from the Department of Journalism, LSR, have a heart-warming chat with them over some piping hot Green Tea.

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Chandni (Extreme Left) and Natasha, in conversation with Ram

‘The root cause of this aversion towards gays is the patriarchal nature of the society,” says Prince. “Look at any household, the kids are always taught to behave in a certain manner. A boy with effeminate tendencies will always be chastised, whereas girls are taught to be rough and tough like boys. That is why gays, many of who have effeminate characteristics, are looked down upon. We are made fun of, called ‘Chhe Number’ (referring to the ‘Chhakka’, a North Indian slang used for both Transgenders and Gays).”

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Prince (Left) with Natasha

What does he then think of the mainstream Bollywood cinema, which has glorified machismo since the yore, with the types of ‘Angry Man’ Amitabh Bacchan, Vinod Khanna and Dharamendra, along with the farcical representation of the LGBT community, from Bobby Darling to Dostana?

“Well, we can’t really blame the film-makers. They need these masala elements. But we would like if they portray not just one type of gays- that is the effeminate ones like Bobby Darling, and that too in a negative manner. Many gays like Ram and me, are absolutely like other men. No one can judge our sexual orientation on the basis of our mannerisms and dressing.”

Adding to it Ram says, “Actually, it’s a good thing that they are at least portraying us. We are being included in the mainstream. Because of Bollywood, people in villages know that there is something like homosexuality. It’s a positive step forward. Also, some great art films have been made in India on the subject.”

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Prince feels frustrated when hears that parents force their homosexual children into heterosexual marriages, and believe that homosexuality is curable. “Why don’t they understand that it is biological? If a 17 year old boy ‘comes out’, his parents refuse to accept it, and try their best to persuade him. 10 years later, when they see their efforts turning futile, they have no other option, but to accept him. Just imagine the mental turmoil the young boy must have gone through in those 10 peak years of his youth. The age where most people enjoy their lives, he was engaged in an excruciating dilemma, of either being himself or making his family happy. His parents could have saved all of it by accepting him 10 years earlier.”

How much of an impact does law make into their lives, with the archaic section 377 and the entire debate around it?

Prince responds, “I don’t think the law is that important. Law is essentially a regressive apparatus set up by the state. And what law should I comment upon? The one that the Delhi High Court gave (decriminalizing homosexuality in 2009), or the one which the Supreme Court gave (scrapping Delhi HC’s judgment)? Law doesn’t matter as long as it doesn’t cause an impediment in my life.”

Ram feels that is the society and the mindsets that need to change, rather than the law, and the law shall follow. “After the Delhi High Court’s ruling in 2009, you did not see people coming out on the roads and saying we do not have any problems with gays and lesbians. Even though the law decriminalized homosexuality, the society did not. The stigma continued.”

Where do they see the future of the Indian queer community? Ram says, “Undoubtedly, things are getting better. This new generation is more accepting of alternate lifestyles, even though there is a long way to go.”

Prince echoes Ram’s feelings. “Earlier, the people from our parent’s generation, spent their entire lives without revealing their identity. They got married, had kids, and never uttered a word about their actual desires. So even if we are not accepted today, at least we have gained that much of a confidence to assert ourselves.”

As Jawaharlal Nehru said, ‘We shall overcome some day’.

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Dementors Are Real

Dementor-wasp-2-1200x520For those of you who don’t know (Muggles!), Dementors are mythical creatures in JK Rowling‘s fictional series Harry Potter.

The HarryPotterWiki, describes a Dementor as ” a non-being and Dark creature, considered one of the foulest to inhabit the world. Dementors feed upon human happiness, and thus cause depression and despair to anyone near them.”
Rowling’s inspiration for these creatures was her own bout of depression after her mother’s death.
She described the phase as the most unpleasant thing she had ever experienced. “It is that absence of being able to envisage that you will ever be cheerful again. The absence of hope. That very deadened feeling, which is so very different from feeling sad. Sad hurts but it’s a healthy feeling. It’s a necessary thing to feel. Depression is very different.”
When a Demontor strikes, everything around you becomes cold. No matter how many bonfires you light, or layers of clothes you cover yourself with, the chill gets to you, infesting your body, getting inside your bones.
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In the past few months, what I’ve learnt is that Dementors are not mythical creatures. They do exist. I encountered a Dementor for the first time in my life when my grandmother passed away. After the initial shock and denial phase, the Dementors started surrounding me late in the night.
No matter, in which part of the world I would be in, my day began with her Good Morning, and ended with her Good Nigh calls. She would be awake till 3 am just to call me up and and wish me Good Morning, reminding me to eat properly when I was in Japan for a student exchange.
When I went to the USA, on a vacation, she would remain hungry in India, till she got to know that I had my lunch, 7,000 miles away.
Dementors feed on our happy memories, sucking them away, till nothing is left.

The only thing I look forward to these days is sleeping. For it is only then, that I see her once more, in my dreams; dreams so vivid and surreal that if feels like being transported to a parallel universe
In those dreams, once more, I feel the warmth of her presence, when she embraces me and feeds me with her hands -the touch that I so desperately long for.
It is then, that I don’t feel like waking up. Waking up to a world, where she doesn’t exist
The early morning ignorant bliss is smashed in the face by reality, when I don’t see her missed call on my phone.

The Dementors refuse to leave.

But Queen Rowling, through dearest Professor Lupin, also tells how to battle these Dementors.

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source: Tumblr

Dementors can be repelled by the Patronus Charm – a powerful charm, which is cast by an extremely powerful, happy memory. You need to be strong, face the Dementor, and cast the charm in its face, remembering your happiest memories. A powerful Expecto Patronum is enough to cast away 100s and 1000s of Dementors at once.

Believe it or not, chocolate is a legit reliever and medical aid post a dementor’s attack. I can say this from personal experience, chocolate helps. If you ever find yourself surrounded by Dementors, cast the Patronus Charm and eat a chocolate. If it helps, you can print these amazing wrappers, and keep a few chocolates asides for times like these.

Dementors are horrible. But they are not invincible.

Harry had just one memory to fall back on to.
I have a million. So do you.

PS: If you are a muggle, and this article interests you, watch and read Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban to know more about Dementors.

Empty Car

An ode to my grandmother, who picked me up from pre-school, school and 2 years of my college, even when she couldn’t walk properly. She waited for me patiently, even as the lectures got extended, or I got extra work at an internship.

Ammaji, you’ll forever be missed. ♥︎

 

I remember running to you, as a 5 year old

with a runny nose, complaining about the cold

you waited outside my school, in the white Tata Estate

as I jumped into your lap, I felt the cold go away.

I remember running to the car, in 4th standard

and telling you about my best friend who fought with me

I slept in your lap, as you took me a gift shop, to buy a card for my friend.

I remember running to the car, in 8th standard,

to tell you about the teacher who scolded me

I cried in your lap, hugging you, my tears soaking your shoulder,

as you consoled me all the way back home.

I remember running to the car, in 11th standard,

After reading a poem in my English class

about a woman who loses her old mother,

and cherishing your touch and feel, and the warm physical presence,

as I hugged you, sleeping in your lap, the way back home.

I remember running to you, in first year of college,

sharing with you, how I was judged by my college friends, for speaking my mind

and I felt the tension ease away, as you fed me with your hands.

I remember running to you, while I interned at NDTV

with a grinning, blushed face, to tell you that I met Kranti Sambhav,

my crush since class 9, and how you smiled when you saw him read news the next day.

I remember running upto you, after an MUN,

excited to show you my trophy, as you waited an extra 2 hours,

because of the delay in the closing ceremony.

I remember sleeping in your lap, in 12th standard,

as you told the driver to keep the car moving, even after we reached home,

Just so that I could sleep longer.

I remember fighting with you, in the second year of college

for coming to pick me up, even when you had unbearable knee pain

I remember you telling me, as I clung to you in your lap,

that you’ll continue to pick me up, all the three years of my college.

Your confidence in your long life, kept me going

And now when I sit in the car, on the way back home

Empty and desolate, and unbearably cold

I feel the pangs, excruciatingly painful

Trying to find solace, looking back at those 17 years,

When the car was warm, cheerful, filled with the steaming aroma of maggi,

reverberating with happy songs we sang, our way back home.

 

The Spirit Of Mumbai

On Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan’s birth anniversary, who died protecting his fellow commando and countrymen, an ode to the spirit of Mumbai. And Major Unni’s courage.
Thank You Sir, you continue to inspire.

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Paranoia abound
Bullet shells all around
Blood stained walls stifling shouts and screams
Telling stories of unheard prayers and distant dreams.
Every eye bleeds a tear
Every soul houses a fear
Every hope now broken and bereaved
Every heart now incorrigibly aggrieved.
This pain would remain for years to come
Rendering the city temporarily numb
But the spirit of Mumbai refuses to die
It remains sacrosanct after the ordeals gone by.

Bismil Ka Sandesha

Inquilaabi iraada hai,
Watan se waqf karne ka vaada hai
Desh par shaheed hue har naujawaan ne dekhe the jo sapne,
Ab ho chukke woh saare apne

Oh firangiyon ke pujaari, tum bhi kar lo thodi sharam,
Tiranga maang raha sarfaroshi,
Kar lo poora apna dharam

Maa ke aanchal pe jo padhe kuch daag hai
Unhe mitaane ki dil mein sulag rahi aag hai

Bhagat, Azad, Bismil, Ashfaq keh rahe,
Ab jo bhi hain ummeedein,
Tumse hi woh baaki hain.

Rubies

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She was a hardened rock in a world full of luscious red rubies
The rubies constantly attacked her, chiselled her
Their taunts never stopped cutting her
Neither did she make an appeal to them
For they remained rubies
And she had turned into a diamond.

Forsaked

She fluffed her short hair consciously
Her breaths quickened as he met her gaze across the dance floor
Turning her gaze away, she swayed more confidently, with a new found swagger
Casting a sideways glance she saw him looking at her with morbid fascination
Her stomach fluttered as he walked in her direction
Her heart slamming wildly against her chest
He walked in closer
She could smell the citrus cologne teasing her senses
Her mouth went dry as he offered her his long fingered sinewy hand
She wiped her sweaty hands on her thighs
And watched with horror as the ruby mouthed woman standing behind her
Put her hand in his, gingerly
Her long cascading tresses falling at her slim back undulating perfectly with his every move
Her cheeks flushed with mortification
Of thinking that he could ever choose her
Over her
She fluffed her short hair consciously
And continued to dance
Trying hard not to look back.