Mouse: Mine is a long and a sad tale!
Alice: It is a long tail, certainly; but why do you call it sad?
– Alice in Wonderland
I had met him online. When I told him I am gay, married to a woman and also out to her, he found it interesting but had many doubts. He asked how my wife adjusted; wasn’t it unfair to her; could I not have come out to my parents and avoided a messy marriage, why didn’t I do it.
Initially, I tried not getting into my personal details. It’s of no use repeating them. So I talked about the books he had mentioned as his favourites, which I thought were impressive. I talked about Milan Kundera and how a book by him had once prompted me to take a life-changing decision.
But he returned to my personal life. If now you are looking for a partner, aren’t you putting three people (including my kid) in difficulty, he asked. Now that the cat is out of the bag, would you both (wife and I) still plan to stay together?
I explained to him the nature of my relationship with my wife and told him that she is a dear friend. I have nothing (much) to hide from her. But I also told him I had not been hiding any cat in my bag deliberately. I accept that I was irresponsible, but refuse to take any blame, for marrying a woman. It was not entirely my fault.
He still found my life interesting and asked for a coffee meeting. I obliged.
My heart went dhak-dhak as I waited for him. Finally, he arrived. It was raining slightly. I wanted to have a soup and he too.
As we settled down in the restaurant, I felt like an unprepared student in an exam hall. Blank. I started by asking him which company he was working for, what did he graduate in and some such questions. He replied and then asked about my work. I replied.
As we had the soup, I found myself in a place I try avoiding – speaking about the hows and whys of my life. The logic or the lack of it. Why I came to Mumbai (I consider this as an exile; because I felt unsettled in Kerala), why did I not tell my parents (at that time it was unimaginable); why did I become a media professional (because I didn’t know how to do what I loved to).
In the barely two-hour-long meeting, like a know-all Big Brother, I gave him gyan about great philosophical puzzles of life; unleashed my socio-political convictions on him; even surprised myself by giving him some unsolicited career advice. At least twice I found us both yawning. I wondered whether this was indeed the meeting that I was yearning for.
And then he asked me: Why did you want to meet me? I said: Because this is for the first time I am meeting somebody on a date.
I uttered the last word with much hesitation – it was barely audible to myself.
What did you say, he asked. I said: This is the first time I am meeting somebody out of the NGO-activist circle, I clarified (to him and to myself: no, this is not a date).
As we got up and walked out of the hotel, I told him about my routine. Wake up early morning; cook a little bit; go to office early; return late; weekend trips to my family who don’t stay with me.
At this, he broke in: You live a very fragmented life. You are pulled from all sides. On top of it all, you also have a kid. Kids are a big responsibility. I wouldn’t want to live such a life. Had I been in your place I would have decided to be all by myself.
As we shook our hands to leave, he said we will meet again. I will message you, I told him (I haven’t, until now).
On this stage, I feel as comfortable as in mother's womb
-- Ganpat Ramchandra Belwalkar in Natsamrat
For me, the significance of year 1991 is not that Manmohan Singh introduced the so-called economic reforms and that the terrible beauty of consumerism took birth but it was the year I could have opened up to myself – not just sexually but by all means.
By that time, I had broken a hard shell to make friends around. A library situated in the heart of my village in Kerala had a wide variety of books – from Malayalam soft porn novels to translations of Agatha Christie, Marquez, Dostyevsky classics. An enthusiastic bunch of youngsters would hang around the library during the evenings, singing songs and discussing films, novels and of course sharing porn stories.
During the college days, my friendship was even richer. I was lucky to have a great team of well thinking, politically aware, personally supportive, diverse group of friends. In one of those days of heated political activism – in which I mostly managed to escape unhurt unlike others – one of them warned me: You will end up an emotional stupid.
The comment reverberated inside my head for many days to come pushing me hard to take the decision to move to Mumbai, a city where I would be forced to fend for myself.
In the next few years, as I switched from one company to another, trying to not think how happy I would have been had I stayed back in Kerala doing theatre, the search for the comfort of the mother’s womb continued until that fine day when I opened up to my wife and cried and cried.
Oh! Can the ever-victorious hate lower the high flying flag of life? *
The night after my first “date” as surreal. In half-sleep, I tossed and turned in the bed. He – a perfect ‘bottom’ – made his appearance as a ‘top’ in my dream.
Over the next few days, I reflected on the meeting. Why was there no fun in it? Why no passion? Is it because I could not adjust with the next generation man who had little confusion and much clarity? Did my explanations and justifications make mine a ‘long sad tail’ which meant just a burden to him?
For the younger, out-and-cool generation life is about colours and enthusiasm. I have, with much jealousy, ogled at their great spirit and love for life at the Pride parade, Kashish – the LGBT film festival organised in Mumbai – and many other such events.
Would they understand a gay man who belongs to an older generation (I am nearing 45)? Someone with familial responsibilities, still grappling with the in/out confusion? Or are we (I and others like me) all wandering in a different planet altogether?
The self esteem that I had painfully built up during the last few years tumbled down as I revisited the past and scrambled for answers to these questions.
He had also given me an idea: be all by myself; why look for a companion? If I were to be all by myself wouldn’t that mean getting back into the closet I had broken open with much difficulty? And moreover, India of 2016 is not India of 1991.
The awareness about alternative sexualities and their rights has risen of late. That definitely was one reason why I had the guts to face myself (and my wife) some eight years ago. As the society matures, whether the political class acknowledges it or not, the general public will find us all ‘normal’. More men and women like me will come out. The very basis of marriage as an institution may be questioned. So why should I be all by myself?
As I sat down to write this piece, the answers emerged. I came out to my bosses without much difficulty. It was smooth. I did not cry or do any nautanki as in the earlier such situations. I just told them that I am gay and we (wife and myself) are managing it well (almost).
Clearly, each time I come out to someone, I love myself a little more. I accept my sexuality a little more. I become more assertive, fearless, confident, unapologetic.
More importantly, self-hate has disappeared completely. I can assure that like Omar Mateen I will not shoot down or knife the people from my community. Even if some people decide to push me down a building for living the life I lived, I would not hate myself. I will try and be like the dog that wagged its tail when her tormentor threw her off the tower in Chennai.
Because hate can never be victorious, ever.
*A take-off from a famous couplet of Malayalam writer Vailoppilly Sreedhara Menon: Oh can the ever-victorious death/ lower the high flying flag of life.
Updated Date: Jul 29, 2016 09:43:19 IST