Its Spring again. The freezing winters have receded and the scorching summer is yet to visit the extreme climate of Delhi. But delhiites are right in the middle of it. Its spring. And everyone’s going crazy. Crazy about what? Duh! That ‘L’ word. Isn’t it Valentine’s this month? Oh yes. The celebration of ‘Love’. Everywhere, every single minute you face this mushy-cheesy-corny thing called love. Sometimes it get’s just too much. Like half the birthday cake which you had to finish as no one else took a second helping because it was too sweet. Yes Love is sweet. But is it just me or is it a normal thing that with too much sweet you feel like throwing up. Seriously. Sometimes this constant chanting about love and everything related gets so excessive you just feel like bawling out in exasperation and storm out to some jungle or something. But to no use. Even there you would probably find a bunch of deers mating. Never mind. And the world keeps on chanting about love. Love makes the world go round. Love is in the air. Love is blind. Blah Blah Blah…
But what about those who are yet to find love? Let’s make it simpler. What about those who don’t even understand yet what exactly is this love and what is all this brouhaha all about? Well, I was one of them. The unloved ones. The Love-illiterates who would just gaze at the macho guys in the class flirting around with every single girl in front of them and the pretty little girls who would try so hard to be the perfect bitches to these boys. And I would simply remain silent as I never really understood what was this all about. I was in eighth standard then, and in public schools like mine eighth standard meant first year of college. Most of the students had reached puberty by now and were obviously going dizzy with their raging hormones. But more than that it was the influence of a far more significant hormone: Peer Pressure. I just didn’t understand why, simply why, was having a girlfriend or a boyfriend was such a mandatory thing. And if not that, then at least a crush on some guy or a girl probably from the neighboring class was the passport to the teen society. You can’t be human if you haven’t fallen in love. Maybe I’m exaggerating too much. Maybe it’s just a frustration that till date, now that I am in college, this phenomena still exists. You gotta have love in your life to be famous. Not that anyone executes you for your single status. But no one hardly remembers the names of all the single guys in the class. Girls have it easier. The more single they are the more are they the apple of all the boys’ eyes, provided they’re not total behenji’s. So what was I supposed to do now? Here I was making out with an another guy who was already famous as one of the Casanovas while I slowly was gaining popularity as one of the bad asses. Now getting hitched was the only pit stop to the ultimate promotion: “The Cool Kids” And for that I needed a girlfriend.
Life is never black and white. You can never classify it any two extreme categories. There are just too many things in between. Even a black and white picture (which is not actually black and white, as the technical term is ‘grayscale’ for it doesn’t just contain black or white as its constituents) generally contains 256 shades of gray! And its just a two dimensional representation of a fragment of a moment from the never ending three-dimensional life (I know, it does end. But when you’re in a total soup, you feel like you’re stuck in this for eternity) So imagine in life itself, not everything can be just right or just wrong. There are definitely a million shades of “Don’t Know’s” in there. Yes. Sometimes when you don’t know whether if it is right or wrong, you simply say “Uh! I don’t know” But still you got to do something. So you do something that feels right at that moment. Maybe ten years later you’ll regret that action, but right then and there itself it feels simply right. So you gleefully plunge into the whether-wrong-or-right situation, just the way you gleefully jumped up to pose for the black and white picture when you were three, oblivious of the fact that you were in your not-so-dry diapers. So there I was, in a complete soup. And then there was a girl in my block, Jahnvi. We had been childhood friends for long. You can say we grew up together. But I won’t say we were so close. Because any girl who would be a close friend of mine would without deciding about my sexual affiliation, decide that I am too much of a bitch to be taken as a boyfriend and rather more fun as a pajama pal (Yeah, girls are that intelligent. Accept it. So if she’s not giving any ghaas to you that probably means she’s not that into you. Accept it!) But Jahnvi was somewhere between a close friend and a general acquaintance. I can’t quite describe our relation till then as I have not much to write about. She wasn’t really reserve or introvert as such, but I knew she held a lot back within herself. She seemed so happy all the time, but I knew there was a cloud of melancholy hovering upon her. She was very sure of what she wanted in life, but she was clueless about who she was. And I for once, am just not able to open up myself so easy to such dual personality. But in her case, there was an element of empathy in my heart for her. She lived with her cousin, as her parents were down in Goa. We hung out along with other friends and we made quite a circle when all of us would be together. And she was into craft and I was into art. So generally many a times her beads and sequins would require my touch of brushes and my greeting cards would require her efficiency in Sparkles and glitters. So we used to generally hang out at her place, swimming in a glittering sea of what her cousin used to joke as trash. It was Christmas season. I was helping her with cards when she popped the question. No, not the question of marriage. “You got a girlfriend?” My answer was obviously ‘No’ as being gay I naturally didn’t understand her flirting with me right away, leave alone responding to it and apart from that she was a good friend of mine. Then she asked how would I react if someone confessed that she liked me.
‘I don’t know.’
‘ Come on, Do you or do you not need love in your life?’
That was the moment when I realized where the conversation was heading. Amidst a total air of awkwardness, I just stared blankly at her. Even my mind was blank.
‘What if I said I like you?’
It was a long pause. As if the time had stopped and my whole body was numb. No, not out of excitement, out of complete dumbfoundedness. I just didn’t know what to do. How to react. What to say. She brought the whole moment to an end with a kiss. Yes, that was my first kiss with a girl ever. And I didn’t feel a thing.
I guess our human brain has an auto-shutdown system. When it gets overloaded, it shuts-down and your brain functions on a standby mode, void of any logic or reason (Probably that’s why most geniuses go cuckoo) Maybe that was an auto-shutdown period for me that followed, for that whole period is such a blur to me now. Or maybe it was the shallowest thing that I had ever done in my whole life which was so against my Capricornian ethics that I tried so hard to erase them afterwards. What basically happened was, I agreed into that ‘relationship’. So we were officially Girlfriend-Boyfriend. I know it sounds too corny but it was the coolest thing back then (or maybe it still is, considering my brother’s obsession with that perfect hairstyle while he’s just 13 right now). And what all followed was too low for my fingers to end up in spasms from hitting the keyboard. I publicized my relationship well. Everyone at school knew that I now finally had a girlfriend. The boys were curious about it. The girls teased about it. And I was just heading where I wanted to. But the auto-shutdown period had to end with my senses switching back on.
On other fronts, things weren’t quite general as such. In last couple of years my parents had been rehearsing ‘The Break Up Showdown’ They broke up a couple of times only to get back together the next day or even the same day. And the showdowns that would happen everytime seemed too similar to be not thought of as being staged (They were not, but it seemed too Bollywood to be true). The sequence went something like this: they would break into a fight, dad would say something chauvinistic, mom would shoot an acidic retort that would hit the bull’s eye- his ego, he would throw tantrums and start packing his stuff and threaten to leave the house, there would be another round of heated argument over his leaving itself, so mom would snap something even harsher and he would dramatically storm out with his bundles and mom would look at me with that look that said ‘It’s finally over’. The finality of this saga happened so many times now that I simply gave up the hope that it will ever be final at all. So this time when it happened again, I was like ‘Yeah, Whatever’ But it did. He left. Me, my mom, and my brother were left alone in that house now. Not that I missed him really as I was never really close to him for the most undiplomatic thing I did by openly taking mom’s side everytime, unlike my brother. But yes, when a family member leaves you, it changes each one of the family members’ lives. Half of the household chores fell upon my responsibility. Groceries, Bill payment, Escorting brother from daycares (he being six then), and a lot more stuff. I realized that if not emotional, physically dad’s presence had been after all beneficial for me. But since none of us were habituated to his absence, it was an another showdown for us. Only that this showdown was a tad bit too prolonged. Somehow we were managing. Just when my life was about to change with a sudden discovery.
On my personal front, my physical foreplay kept playing on and on time and again. It had been such a regular thing by now that it stopped being solely sexual in nature. It started to affect me in other facets too. I started to question myself “Why am I only attracted to a guy?”, “Why don’t I feel like kissing Jahnvi again? And why do I feel guilty about the last time?”, “Am I abnormal?”. The last question on my normalcy was the most tormenting one that kept swirling in my mind all the time. But still, I took it in my stride. My life till now hadn’t been normal enough. So this abnormalcy shouldn’t hit me as a surprise. Maybe I am abnormal. Maybe I have a psychological disorder. Maybe I am the only one. So I won’t tell anyone. Let things be the way they are for now. I’ll see what to do in future. But one thing for sure, I may have done a heinous thing by stepping into a ‘love affair’ that didn’t even exist, I surely wasn’t going to play along for long. I had decided. I maybe abnormal, but I’m definitely not going to ruin a woman’s life by marrying her. This was the last straw of integrity I could preserve from burning down. I started telling my parents and relatives, that I’m never getting married because I had no interest in it. Everyone took me lightly. Everyone thought that I’m a kid scarred by the memories of his parent’s bad marriage, so it would be obvious that he refutes ever getting married. He will come around when he grows up. Today I don’t know if I have grown up, but seven years later my grandmother (one of the very few people I haven’t still come out to yet and don’t plan to either) has finally come to terms with the fact that she has to leave this world without cherishing the joy of witnessing her favorite grandson’s wedding and welcoming her eldest grand-daughter-in-law. Tears swell up my eye right now, thinking of the fact that I can’t fulfill the only wish she ever had from me throughout. It breaks my heart to see the disappointment in her eyes when she speaks about her grand-children growing up and getting married in near future. She just looks at me and says nothing. It was only because seven years ago I had announced my decision to renounce the prospect of me ever getting married. And like then, even today I am left with no option but to endure the immense pain my chest feels when I think of this- the only reason that makes me wish… had I been straight.
Soon after leaving home, dad got a promotion and got himself transferred to Kolkata. Before leaving he bought me an Oxford Concise Dictionary. Till then I grew up on a laughable pocket dictionary. It’s not really odd, many people do so. Mom’s grasp on the Hindi language was professional, in addition to that she had been working in a government office, all the more usage of Hindi. Whatever limited requirements of English she had, the pocket pal served it. So this was my very first concise dictionary. I have a weird habit. I like flipping along the pages of a dictionary and read the meanings of unknown words that looked pretty gorgeous to me. Like for instance, ‘Quintessence’ and stuff like that. You might think I’m such a nerd, but thanks to such geeky habits I’m able to burden this mankind with my gigantic writings. So one evening, I was flipping through the cherished dictionary; (The following details are from an old diary entry I preserved for so long) Foolscap. Foreknowledge. Frontage. Galvanize. Garter. Gazebo. And my eye ran over a preceding word, Gay- 1. Homosexual 2. Careless and worry free person 3. Happy, cheerful. So I obviously looked up the more unfamiliar one: ‘Homosexual’. And Bang! I gasped in elation and amazement. The first thing that filled my head was pride. Pride and that’s it. What I understood was that I was not alone. I was not even merely alone. Even my so called ‘abnormal’ condition is stated in the dictionary and it has a much more non-scientific synonym, I’m definitely not alone. I was filled with pride to be a part of a such a great majority. At that point of time my joy didn’t even consider the fact that the gay community is perceived as a minority. For right at that moment, I didn’t even know that there’s something called a ‘Gay Community’. All I could think of was just the word ‘Gay’ and the fact that it was important enough to be in the dictionary. Till night I just kept smiling. Mom even asked me why was I so unusually happy that day. I obviously had no explanation, but all I could think of was “I am GAY!” and was so proud about it. I must have been the lone case who had been so glad at coming to know that he is gay. After all it was completely different way around for me. Although I had accepted my abnormalcy very conveniently, the obvious apprehensions would constantly replay a haunting music in the back of my head. But I would force myself to accept my situation and move on, trying hard not to pay attention to that music. But now, being something off the dictionary was so much better than being a nameless abnormalcy. The fact that I was not alone relieved me of so many worries. I had so many hopes now, so many wishes, I started dreaming. Even though I didn’t really know why was I being so hopeful, I was just plain happy at not being the only one who was different from everyone around.
Over the next few months there was a great change in me. My self esteem had been on a see-saw with my social life being ‘cool’ and ‘popular’ and my personal life trying to embrace an ‘abnormalcy’. Now, the slab was suspended right in the middle. My low self-esteem got a kickstart. I somehow stopped thinking of myself as abnormal, or different or inferior. Probably that’s why I started developing mutual contentions with my first ‘boyfriend’ (rather as these days they call it: Fuck Buddy) You might wonder why was I feeling so alone at thinking I was abnormal when he too was equally indulged in this with me. Well as I said earlier, life isn’t just black or white. Its way more complicated. He had made it clear that he was interested in girls. Sex was just a matter of fun for him. He didn’t even consider it sex as such. Slowly over the time I could feel that the intensity with which we plunged into this had been slowly diminishing. We were just doing this to tame our carnal cats that would bare their teeth time to time. But after this major self-realization, I started waking up to my dignity. I would just not be hurt, but rather infuriated at the fact that I was being used like some sex toy. Sex was no more fun. I sometimes argued with him. I stopped calling him over, and often I refused his calls. On other hand, the obvious had to happen. My so called relationship with Jahnvi too was amidst a storm. She started to get emotional. And more dependent on me. She was going through some personal crisis of her own. And how I wished if we could just remain friends, I would have been able to comfort her so much better. But the sort of solace and consolation she desired from me start affecting my peace as I was just not able to provide her with that. But in spite of all of this mess. I slowly started standing up. Standing up to myself. I decided that I had to end my relation with Jahnvi. And I had to say ‘No’ to him. Maybe it wasn’t such a great plan yet, but at least I was thinking now in the right direction. The discovery acted like the jolt that turned the switch to my senses back on.
The autumn was here. The springtime leaves turned orange and descended on the face of earth. I was having constant fights with Jahnvi. We wouldn’t talk most of the time. And on other hand, although I kept making out with him, the frequency was low- only when my cat would start purring time and again. But then, I met this guy Piyush. He was in my school and lived in the block next to mine. He was a year junior to me. I knew him from some random introduction years ago between common friends. Recently we met again after the school would end and everyone would crowd at the back gate and for it to open up. He was a well built person. A few inches taller than me and athletic. And the best part about him was that he was decent and humble. There was this sense of ease around him. I liked chatting with him now and then. And so we became good friends. One such day while returning back together (My school was fifteen minutes walk from my place) something came over me and I invited him to my place. I knew why I did that for. And he accepted my invitation. We talked and talked for quite sometime at my place. And then, I did what was troubling me for so long. Yes I confess, I am guilty. Guilty, for seducing him. But all I did was seduce him. And he took the lead of the rest of the act. I just unlocked the door and he led me in. So yet again, no one can accuse me for molesting a minor or anything alike, as I was a minor myself then and apart from that he loved it. Yes, it was my first carnal pleasure of being gay. Because it wasn’t just physical. There was something more to it. I didn’t know what. But yes, it made me feel ecstatic. After that we hooked up quite a number of times. But on our second time, it was Piyush who stepped up to my doorstep.
Piyush made me feel like an air bubble. Whenever I would be with him I would feel so light as if completely afloat. There was this thing about him. His smile, his compassionate gaze, the delicate way he would hold me, his kiss… everything was so mushy. I felt like kissing him all the time. Even when he wouldn’t be there. Oh my god. Was I in Love? Yes, I was. I was in love with him. He was my very first crush. Imagine, so many people sigh over the fact they couldn’t even say hi to their beloved crush even once and here I was making out with my crush but couldn’t tell him wondering if he would even understand it. So I continued. I again let things be the way they were. I would be at my happiest whenever he would be around. The warmth of his embrace made me feel so substantial that I would just love to rest my face on his chest. One day something like this happened. That day he wasn’t quite himself and neither was I. While making out something happened. I kissed him and unknowingly lost in my thoughts. I rest my face on his chest and just lay like that. Even he himself was lost in his own though. For next 45 minutes we did nothing but to lay there completely submerged in some detached thoughts. He just caressed my shoulder all the time with the arm he had wrapped around me and I doodled with my finger on his torso. That day we didn’t make out. And that was the day which still reminds me of him the most even today…
Spring was here once again. And like everytime, everyone was going crazy all over again. Just that, this time, I too was going crazy myself. Why did I never find the evening winds seeping through my shirt, so cool and caressing? Why did I never find the sky unusually blue in the morning? Why did I never find the birds chirping so sweet and the fragrant rose so enchanting? Maybe I was going crazy after all. And worse, it was a clichéd craziness. I was doing all the things that I used smirk at people doing before. Love is after all a wonderful thing. It does make the world go round. And you can definitely feel it looming in the air if you are in love. Its like everything turns into all these cheesy monochromatic shades of pinks and crimsons. Its just too sweet. But this time you just taste that extra sweetness with a wrinkle on your nose and a silly smile in front of the mirror. Also, love is so definitely blind. Here I was, going crazy about everything related to love, but sadly my love was such that I couldn’t even shout about to everyone around. For a year I showed off a fake love for someone who was such a good friend to me. I was guilty of that crime. But still, now that I was actually in love I couldn’t even tell anyone, not even the object of my affection. Piyush came to me time and again. But it was purely physical to him. Although unlike my previous partner, he never made me feel like I was being used. Every time he would be with me, he would make me feel wanted, feel loved. As I said, there was this thing about him. I would haplessly wait for the next time he would return. All my issues didn’t affect me any longer. I was just too lost in my thoughts of him most of the time. I only wished if I could tell him, but I knew he wouldn’t understand. So I let things be. There was a lot of time to go. I still had four years of my school left. I would see what to do in the future. But that’s the worst thing we could do in love. When you’re in love, never wait. Take your chances. Take your risks. And take that darned leap. Stop worrying, what if he rejects you. If he does then it was never meant to be. If he humiliates you then at least you’ll know he never deserved you and get over with it. But at least you wouldn’t be left out thinking for the rest of your life ‘What if I did confess my love to him?’ That ‘what if’ is the worst regret you can ever have. The regret of not being able to do something haunts you worse than the regret of doing something, and failing at it. And that was the regret I would experience in some future. I should have confessed my emotions for him. But honestly, I may have elaborated my feelings in words here but at that point of time I was just too immature to understand it properly. I was just experiencing all these wonderful feelings. I didn’t have words for them. I didn’t have a shape for them. I didn’t even know really that I was actually in love with him. It was the only thing that just because of him I stopped feeling lonely. And that was the best feeling I could experience after a tumultuous 13 years. Only years later would I realize that it was that ‘L’ word.