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What is normal… is it a crime to be different? June 8, 2008

Posted by nitinkarani in English, Gay, Homophobia.
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A new weekly column in The Asian Age:

What is normal… is it a crime to be different?

Ayush Maheshwari

When the editor approached me to write this column my heart started pounding. My heart really wanted to do it but my mind said no. After all I am in India, and knowing that I really cannot hold myself back, I was not sure if it would be the best thing for the “image” I have been building for years.

That night I had a big dinner (and a couple of glasses of wine) and tried to sleep. Food can be very comforting at times. However I could not sleep all night. I tossed and turned all night thinking. My whole life has been about breaking stereotypes. It’s been about being myself and creating a place for me in this big world. If I do not write this — who will?

My cousins are here holidaying in Mumbai and are staying with me. They are great but are extremely conservative. Raghu, one of the oldest, has been dating a girl for three years and has never kissed her. When the photographer arrived to take pictures for this column my cousins started to ask me why the pictures were being taken. I told them that it was for a weekly column.

Well, then came the haunting question, “what is the column about?” We do not talk about anything related to sex or sexual orientation in a family setting and especially not with small town cousins. I knew whatever I say will spread like wild fire among my extended family country wide, putting email communication to shame. I gave in to their insistence and told them that it is a ‘gay’ column.

My cousins looked at me really shocked and gave me this extremely uncomfortable look. To my utmost surprise one of them broke the ice and said, “Bhaiya do you remember Mohan’s family who lived five doors down? Well Mohan is ‘a’ gay. He has relations with truck drivers, carpenters, gardeners etc.” Then my cousin reminds me that this is the same Mohan who, along with his family, allegedly burnt his wife 20 years ago supposedly for dowry. Since then his family is treated as a social outcast in town and he has been on a sexual high.

While I was just taking in this information another cousin breaks the news, “Bhaiya grandpa’s childhood friend Motilal Dadaji is gay too!” I was like “What, isn’t he like 85 now or something?” My cousin says, “well he is been like that for years even when his wife was alive, nobody wants to visit his house…”

Ok now, this is surely not what I was expecting from my innocent cousins. I took a drink of ice-cold water and asked them a question, “Do you think Motilal Dadaji is at fault?” There was silence in the room, this silence echoed hundreds of questions which exist in our minds. The room filled in with my cousin sister’s voice (who mind you has just graduated with a psychology degree), asking the million dollar question, “How does somebody become gay?”

We will tackle questions later. Maybe since it’s the first column I should introduce myself. I am Ayush and I was born into a conservative Marwari family in Kolkata. I was fat and dark and according to most, very different. Well I did not like to play cricket or run around after a ball. I would rather sit and play with dolls or dress up nice with my mom and sit and have tea. When the world would say I was fit for nothing, I would see myself doing cabaret to a large audience at the age 10 (mind you I have always been a performer). Was that my way to deal with the fact that yes I was different then the other kids… was I not normal?

Is it a crime to be different? I cannot help but wonder what is normal?

You can email your experiences to ayush@bigindian.in

The writer is an IT wizard, motivational expert, pop singer and a social worker

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