Bhai Dooj

Unmesh Potdar

 

“Happy Diwali! Happy Bhau-beej!” chimed sister right from the bungalow gate. Mother ran down the steps as usual to shower kisses on her grandchildren. It was Diwali 2015; day of bhai dooj: when both my sisters will come down to Satara to celebrate the festival.

Day went well, exchanging gifts, jokes and family gossips. Once that quota was over, father turned towards his favorite subject: His son’s marriage.

“I am not forcing you to do anything”, he hissed. “I am just curious to know your plans for future. Look around in our colony. Most boys of your age have at least 1 kid now. Your mother and I have to answer people, you know!” By now, I had lost appetite even though there was a plate full of my favourite Chakalis and Khoya Karanjis in front of me. “Let’s have a discussion.” He said. This is his favourite line because in such discussions he’s the only one who gets to talk.

I have not thought about marriage yet, Baba.” I tried sounding disinterested as possible – “You know I am not stable career wise. Let’s take possession of our Pune flat first, let me buy a car and have some savings, then I can think about it. Jaldi Kya Hai?”

I knew I had pressed Play button on a record player. I am so used to this- He starts off by saying how I never listen to him, How I am not serious about my future, How he’s always tried to be my friend more than a father but I always cling on to my mother’s Pallu; etc etc etc. I prefer to keep mum. Else it’s WW III on the dining table.

20 minutes of him going on and on about the same topic, there was a moment when I lost my patience. “I don’t wanna get married”; I barked. “Look around! You think marriage is the ultimate goal of life? Sorry to disappoint you but I don’t think that way. I don’t believe in the institution of marriage. So henceforth don’t ask me anything about getting married.”

I could see his flushed face. “What the hell are you talking about? Did you learn these things in the UK? What now…. you want to be in a Live-in relationship or what? I may even agree to that! Who’s the girl? Is there one? Tell me! I am talking to you!! Tell me!!!”

He had always mocked me and mother with a phrase- ‘Mounam Sarvam Sadhanam’. (Silence can convey everything) I chose the same path. Being quiet. He kept staring at my face with a demanding look. I was still biting my nails. “FINE!!!!”; he suddenly bursts like a volcano, “Don’t tell me anything! I don’t want to be part of this conversation anymore. Talk to your mother and sisters like you always do. I am out of here!”

We heard the car engine growl. Before mother can even utter a word, he was out of the bunglow gate.

“What is the matter, Unu?” She turned towards me. I can sense her concern in that kind voice. “Why are you saying all this? Has anyone said anything to you? See, we all have to get married one day. We need someone to look after us in our old age. Spouse, babies, grandchildren: they give meaning to our life. What’s causing you this fear towards marriage? Why this hatred towards girls?”

“Aie, sit down” I muttered. “You want to know if I am scared to get married? Do you think I have hatred towards women? I’ll tell you something that I have struggled for 28 years of my life. Don’t think that this has dawned upon me overnight. I have given it serious thoughts since last 3 years and only because of that I can gather enough courage to tell you that I don’t have any feelings for women. I have feelings for men.”

I am sure if anyone had dropped a pin, we would have heard its sound. I was just cold and numb. Cold and numb with sweaty palms. Most awkward 5 minutes of our lives.

“Have you considered visiting a counsellor…….”, sister tried to mumble but I cut her off. “I have done the counsellor as well as psychiatrist bit, Tai. As I said, I have given this enough time to gather courage to speak in front of you. I am not saying accept this right now. I have taken years to accept myself. Take your time. But this is me.”

Silence just grew deeper as the night progressed. I tucked myself in the bed yet my ears were stressing themselves to catch traces of whispers outside my room.

Next day was the real struggle. I think it sank into everyone what exactly happened yesterday. I knew: an open dialogue is much needed and that’s what I did.

“Put yourself in that girl’s shoes.” I had told my sisters. “Every girl wants and deserves a perfect husband. Do you think I’ll be able to satisfy her emotionally? You both are married. What if you discover that your husbands are Gay? How will you feel? And who gave me rights to toy with a girl’s emotions?” They gave me a startled stare. “I agree to what you are saying, Unmesh” elder sister spoke. “But what is the future of this? This isn’t legal in India. You know what sort of narrow minded city our parents live in. How are you planning to deal with this?”

I had to explain to them that though it is bit difficult to find a stable partner, but there’s always hope. How we are fighting our battle for our rights and how family is the first place where we get immense support.

“We are always there to support you but you understand that we have our families too. Focus on your career and find yourself someone to take care of you. For god’s sake, don’t die like Parween Babi.”

Talking to mother was extremely emotional for me. I am attached to her deeply since childhood and I always felt like I am cheating on her by hiding this big secret of mine. I knew that behind her disappointed face she was trying to hide her worry for me. More than the society, she was worried for me, haunted by the common question: Humare Baad Tumhara Kya Hoga?

Father had his own doubts about what is homosexuality and I’d never blame him as he belongs to a city which takes immense pride in defining masculinity and femininity: Kolhapur. “I know you watch blue films”, he said in hushed voice, making sure mother isn’t around. “I have seen those CD’s in your room. Dont you feel aroused looking at those women? Khada nahi hota?” “Hota hai”, my tone was cold as ice. “But looking at the man in porn, not because of the woman.”

And then there was silence.

Since then three more bhaidoojs have come and gone. I think they’ve made peace with the fact that I am not going to marry ever, with a girl at least. I still think they are struggling to understanding homosexuality. I am glad that I took a step to take that huge burden off my chest. They are still worried about my future, but at least they are happy, because I am happy.

My mom expressed her desire to see a Pride walk

Rohit Bairagi

To Parents:

Hyderabad, 2013

I remember it was a warm summer morning. I had a big fight with my then partner and I thought that was the end of the relationship. My best friend was not available over the phone and I wanted to burst out. Being an introvert I really did not have many with whom I can talk freely. I was in pain and suffocating and thus called my mom and told her everything that I wanted to tell her for years. I told her that thing for which I was preparing her for so many years. I said “I am gay and the person, whom I stay with, is just not a good friend of mine but he is my boyfriend for 4 years now. We are in a live in relationship”.

I belong to a suburban lower middle class Bengali joint family with quite conservative thinking. My mom never knew that something like homosexuality even existed. I probably understood about my sexuality when I was in 89th standard. When I was around 17, I started educating mom about the topic of homosexuality and alternate sexuality. I used to make her read articles, watch talk shows and take her to movies and theatres which depict homosexuality (In Bengali, there were quite a few films and tele-films which touched the topic of homosexuality without making mockery of gay characters). So by the time I started working she knew about homosexuality and also that I have few friends of mine who are lesbian/gay. The same was conveyed to dad through her.

Coming back to the day, I was extremely scared as I had no idea how my parents would react. But thankfully she consoled me and assured that whatever happened she would always be there beside me. I am her son and I will always be a part of her. She cooled me down and asked me to trust time, it will fix everything. After some time dad called and asked me to listen to Rabindra Sangeet or watch a nice movie and that shall cool me down. Now, that was so unexpected. I kind of expected that my mom would understand but I was absolutely sure that if dad gets to know this he would be super irate which he was not.

Few months later my mom’s health deteriorated and her BP(blood pressure) shot up and I got to learn that she started thinking that I turned gay only after I moved to Hyderabad and started staying with my then partner. He turned me gay. Again, I had to explain her that I was born this way. I reminded her of instances in school and as a kid when I was different from other boys. I educated her about few of my school friends who knew about me. Am not sure if mom spoke to them personally thereafter but she is fine since then. A couple of years back my mom expressed her desire to see a PRIDE walk. She saw pictures and videos but she wanted to witness one. Somehow our timings are not matching. Moreover she stays in Kolkata and I am in Gurgaon. Mom has become a close friend since coming out. We possibly discuss everything under the sun without any inhibition. I have seen my bestie also talking to her more freely.

Image representational

I am partially out to my family. That means I am out only to my parents and not to my relatives. I am 30 now and since I stay away from my hometown my relatives keep asking my parents about my marriage and my parents keep on giving vague excuses to them. Somehow my mom does not want me to tell them about my sexuality because of their conservative nature and lack of understanding. My mom faced the taunts of the family for being the only working woman in our family. So she does not want me to go through a similar trauma. I am still struggling to find a way to deal with this, without hurting my parents as they have always stood by my side.

At Work:

Gurgaon, 2014
I came out to my ex manager on my Birthday. I was little emotional at work after reading my mom’s birthday message wherein she encouraged me to be happy. She was concerned because I recently broke up with my partner and perhaps after 6 years I would be alone on my birthday. My boss noticed that and when asked I told her the reason why. She hugged me tight and told she just wanted me to be happy. “I am super proud that you are in my team. You be yourself and love yourself, I am always there for you” she told.

And that was the starting. I started coming out at work and made so many good friends after that. Some of them are my selfie partners. My boss Rajshree Nair later on encouraged me to go ahead with the PRIDE India chapter at American Express. There were so many times I lost hope coz things are so slow but she kept on motivating me along with my few other peers. One thing I realized in life is that whoever I came out to, they became better friends. The bonding became so strong. So I never repent coming out to anyone. It gives me confidence. It gives me joy and brings a smile on my face….