Sex is very easy to find in a city like Delhi. I don’t know how the dynamic works here, since Delhi was definitely not a very evolved city compared to Kolkata when it came to perceptions on sexuality. Strangely for me, it was still a lot easier to avail sex whenever I desired. Delhi in the late nineties was still turning and tossing in the coffin of a residual shame culture. At least from my view point, it wasn’t exactly a very accepting environment to the idea of teenaged boys having sex with other boys. In my world, there was no Planet Romeo. There were no Prides. There were no Pegs and Pints. ‘Gay’ was still a legend juvenile public school boys would callously joke about. But somehow, I always thought that the sexual repression that I saw around me was probably the reason why it was so easy for me to practically seduce almost anyone capable of an erection with the simplest tools like exhibitionist nudity. I was fourteen and I already had a threesome. Only after I began to settle in to this new city that I realized how I had started to get comfortable in my sexuality with those two boys back in Delhi, which probably marked my passage into adulthood.
Kolkata surprisingly on other hand presented itself as a very non-sexual space for me. At least in the first year. I could feel all the radical sexual energy exist on a level different than mine. Television, media, culture – everything was pasted with this liberated embrace of sex, unapologetic of breaking any taboos or traditions. But it was beyond my reach. Perhaps there were several factors which prevented me from seeing any openings. The main one being I was new here. I still didn’t feel like I belonged here. Also the general psyche of the city is pretty sorted when it comes to sexuality. There seemed clear demarcations of what is sexual and what is not. Which is probably a good thing on a larger picture. Anything which is sexual, the world is their oyster. Anything is possible. From the most evolved understanding of human desires to the most perverse explorations of the unknown, everything was welcome. On other hand all those things that are not supposed to be sexual, are simply not. And gay sex with an underage boy was out of question. There were no blurry lines either. My old tricks didn’t work anymore. Even the slightest exhibitionist idea came with an intense fear or ridicule and backlash. Also I didn’t really have much of an opportunity as I had no friends or even acquaintances. And with mom suddenly turning stay-at-home there was no physical space either to construct any situations whatsoever.
It would be only many years later that I would come to terms with my massive sexual appetite. But back then, this phase was the time that plunged me into a pacing guilt trip over it for the first time. As the days of a pretend Bengali bourgeoisie passed, I kept craving for sex more and more. Porn was the only sexual outlet I could experience after walking down to cyber cafés, blocks away from the house. I started wandering into random isolated parks in the hope of finding anything. Even the idea of meeting a random stranger who would sexualize my presence even though I would eventually probably run away; was something I desperately wanted to experience just for the thrill of it. Sadly there was absolutely nothing but disappointment. Even more so, when I once got caught in one of those cyber cafés and was curtly asked to leave. Strangely the humiliation didn’t last very long. As I said, I was getting more and more invisible by now. I had stopped caring about what anyone thought. I had become very proficient in maintaining my anonymity and dwell in a parallel universe where all of this didn’t exist in the real world.
What I was concerned about was, why was I behaving this way. I felt like a nymphomaniac who just couldn’t get laid. While I was too busy cursing myself for this ‘madness’, I absolutely had no idea how my sexual craving was only a manifestation of so many a complex emotions my mind was experiencing but couldn’t compose in words. If I could go back in time, I would sit myself down and explain myself: ‘You are only 14. You just discovered sex. Sex with boys. Something you never talked about with anyone. All of this is just in the confines of your own head alone. For you sex is the only way you feel you could truly connect to other people right now. Sex is the only thing that makes you feel real and frees you from any pretense. The reason why you crave sex so much is actually because you were extremely lonely. And all you want is to feel real again. That’s all. There’s nothing to feel guilty about loneliness. It happens. You won’t be lonely forever.’
Before I knew it I had started to get homesick. It was this particular year that made me realize that Delhi will always be my home no matter wherever I be. I started to miss my friends. My somewhat recent recognition in school. My grandparents. My personal space and freedom spanning between 2pm to 5pm on weekdays. I had started to miss Piyush. I haplessly grabbed onto the single memory of that day when he had come over and we almost had sex, but we didn’t. I don’t what happened, but we had abruptly slowed down while making out and I just rested my head on his chest with one arm around his torso as his fingers stroked through my hair. And we just lay there, just like that, without saying a word for hours (Until we absolutely lost track of time as my mother returned from work and we sprang up scrambling to get dressed and let her in) Now I would just lie in my bed wide awake trying so hard to relive those hours and remember every single detail of his warm skin against my face as I tracked the rhythm of his chest. Longing is a word that doesn't do half the justice to what every nerve in my body would experience night after night.
I am 25 now. I have learned and experienced enough by now to be able to tell when I am feeling absolutely miserable. Once you realize you’re in misery, you can accept it and then figure out how to deal with it. But back then, I had no inkling of an idea that my first brush with a very personal misery of my own had just begun.
Blood Tastes Sweeter
The closest physical proximity to any sexual gratification was 80 kilometers away from Kolkata. I had been sleeping with my cousin since before I freaked myself out with my first orgasm. I was probably nine or ten. And it wasn’t even sex. Well, technically. A dear friend of mine defines sex as “If you cum in the presence of one or more persons who have consented to it, then its sex.” So by that parameter it wasn’t sex, as we didn’t even have pubic hair back then leave alone the ability to cum. It was just a pure pre-pubescent sensual exploration of each other’s speechless nudity within the four walls of an unsaid mutual secret; concealed beneath the pitch darkness of an overnight power failure. That night remains to be one of my most beautiful memories, as the sexual encounters with him that followed never really matched up to it. Over the next couple of years whenever we met, the occurrence of sex was just taken for granted. There was never an existential doubt about what we were doing. Sex became my relationship with him as we kept meeting after year-long intervals.
He was one of the exciting parts about moving to Kolkata. It looked more like a consolation prize that time. While with the boys back in Delhi we were still grappling with the existential questions of what we were doing (even though we never talked about it, I could sense the question forming a very definite shape in each one of our minds); my cousin comparatively was far more oblivious about any of this. We had gone past all doubts and questions in last five years without even talking about it and had managed to normalize sex to the extent that we were extremely confident in orchestrating our opportunities like matter of fact. Within the first two weeks we managed to celebrate my move to Kolkata with a sex crazed weekend. It was like a low budget amateur porn film inspired by more explicit versions of Mills & Boons, called Silhouette Desires (another discovery to be made much later) We fucked hard all night on my dad’s bed under the corny moonlight flooding in through the windows on the first night of Griho Probesh (My dad had claimed what would be my room later on as it had the least number of windows in the house which could be covered with bedsheets in the absence of curtains. The dark chambers had to be maintained at any given situation.) Next day we were pressed against the least visible location behind the water tank after cleaning up the terrace. There was a silent film version as well in the shower with some ludicrous excuse of some water shortage and the pressing need to save water by taking joint baths. Of course, he was the first one to figure out the taps on the water tank upstairs. And although we did do a shoddy job of deflecting the suggestion that my brother also join us, thankfully everyone was too busy to smell the fish lodged in our excuses (Pun unintended obviously, as the smell of fish is quite common there: Raw in the morning, Fried by mid-day.)
The euphoria over having sex with someone who I was so close to fizzled out sooner than a glass of aerated drink. Within a couple of months both our visits to either of our homes dropped to once a month or two. He had a life of his own. I was building mine. And it was a bit too taxing to take a harrowing two hour long local train ride just for sex. But even in the times we did manage to take a trip, sex drastically became very mechanical. That thrill was gone. And there was no emotion (Not that there was any to begin with). It became a mere physical need like taking a piss. What I realized was that the sex used to be so awesome because it used to happen once a year or two. Now waking up in the middle of the night to his nudges demanding me to turn and ‘relax’ felt more violative than exciting. He had started to objectify me more and more as all he had to do with me was to fuck me. Nothing else. The more demeaning the sex got the more I would hate myself for desiring it. Once his horny insistent demands resulted in an agonizing injury that lasted for days. When I confronted him about it all he had to say was "It happens." And I knew that was it for me. Eventually I started to actively avoid my cousin and constantly fish for excuses to not sleep in his room. I would rather get kicked out of cyber cafes than have to experience the same ordeal all over. Today when I look back, I would say he was indeed one of the hottest men I have had such intense time with initially. Tall, muscular and well-endowed. But back then, it had started to repulse me to the very core. For a while I couldn't even stand myself in the same room with him. I just wanted his existence out of my conscious mind.
As the Rose-Tinted Glasses Come Off
Distancing myself from my cousin fucked with my head even more. I would still desperately crave for sex, but now I would consequently scorn myself at the thought of how easily I could sleep with him and how revolting the idea itself was. Too much angsty self-loathing was on the plate. I got cranky, irritable and reclusive. I would spend my days in the back benches of the school, then inside the silence of my room and then wandering out on random streets until it got dark. Then I would watch television, have dinner and go to bed where I would cry until I fell asleep.
The only person from Delhi I was in touch with was my childhood best friend, Rohan. This was probably the only time we wrote letters to each other. Initially it was quite an exciting hobby to fill up the package with lots of random stuff like confetti, cutouts, candies etc. I guess the whole fad was inspired from VJ Shahnaz’s show on MTV. I hadn’t written a letter to him in quite some time. One night I was crying really hard as I couldn’t stop feeling suffocated. I just wanted to scream. Just for once I desperately wanted to talk about Piyush and how the idea of him had completely consumed my mind and acted as the only escapade from this so called 'Fresh Beginning'. So I got up in the middle of the night and wrote a long, intensely emotional letter to Rohan. I didn’t come out as I didn’t want to do that in a letter. But indirectly I wrote very emotionally about how I have a major secret to tell him and how it’s making me feel miserable and so on. I was crying the whole time. After writing four pages of it I realized I had stopped crying. I felt better. At least I could sleep now.
Next day when I returned from school, I realized mom wasn’t talking to me properly. I thought maybe she had another one of those fights with dad. I decided I didn’t want to engage with it right then so I carried on with my bath and all. While having lunch I realized the food she had cooked was awful. It was floating in oil with the oddest combination of spices I had ever tasted. (And my mom is a great cook) I just asked if something had happened. And she snapped at me with some really nasty taunt I don’t remember clearly (‘The day you stop freeloading you can comment on the food that you’re stuffing!’ or some shit like that). And she got up and stormed into the kitchen. I followed her immediately and was like what-the-fuck? (Wish I knew that phrase back then) And then she yells at me with teary eyes, “Are you in love with Rohan?”
My brain stopped functioning for a moment. It just couldn’t figure out what to process first: The acute invasion of my privacy, that not only did she snoop through my things but actually read the whole goddamned letter; or having to face the main issue that had been bothering me for months and prepare an answer to her question. What was I supposed to say? “No, I’m not in love with Rohan. But I have been fucking two guys for last two years and one of your nephews for last five”? “Oh and by the way, remember that day when it took unusually long to unlock the door and this random boy came out of the room and awkwardly left? I remember the angry question on your face that you never asked. And the answer is ‘Yes’! I WAS fucking him on your bed all afternoon. And he is probably the only person I want to be around right now and none of your emotional melodrama is going to make it any better!”
I should have probably said that. That was my window. But she hadn’t asked the question out of concern. The tears weren’t for me. I could see it in her eyes. The disgust. The shame. It was a question asked with an answer that was very evidently expected. If I came out then I could have probably explained everything. But at that point I just didn’t have the emotional strength to deal with what later on I would learn was ‘Homophobia’. My stint with that hatred that stung like a bitch for the first time.
I spent the next couple of extremely tormenting hours trying to convince her that I was not in love with Rohan. This was the first time I told her about how much I was hating Kolkata and how miserable I was. And that, I was missing Rohan because I had no friends at all. Then she went off on her own tirade over how she is not liking Kolkata either, how she had nothing to do here and how dad had become distanced and ego-maniacal. Next year, I would get bang in the middle of what was going on between my parents. But at this very moment, I was like ‘Sure, your fucked up marriage that you just can’t grow a pair of balls to get out of trumps everything else.’ I wish I had said that.
Honestly, what happened in the rest of the year I don’t even remember clearly. That whole year is a blank to me now. It’s like a surreal collage of random visual memories that are just put together and you’re supposed to see the whole composition in one go. Probably I had numbed myself out and stopped engaging with anything. It feels like an absolute daze or a high where you remember your eyes being open but you don’t remember any context whatsoever. Every daze breaks when you wake up from it. When some context catches your attention and you tell your brain to come out of its standby mode and process what’s going on. My wake-up moment came a year after we moved to Kolkata:
I had flunked ninth standard.