Thursday, January 1, 2015

Wishing for 2015 !!!!

Let the world flourish with peace, love and not hatred,
Let the marginalized be understood and empathized !!!
For those who fight, For those who can't,
For those far and those near,
Let 2015 be a Happy New Year !!!!
PS: Copied from last year, as its still valid .

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Who's to blame? - Story of a gay guy trapped in a straight marriage.

Now they say I am a coward, a cheater and insane.
Those like me, those unlike me, all say the same.

I wanted to be myself and lead a happy life,
But the society said, I am not man enough with out a wife.

I told to my parents that I am different, which only led to a fight.
They were convinced that marriage to a girl will make me alright.

I knew no one to talk to, except my sleeping partners.
All were either married or going to be. you can guess their answers.

I grew up seeing guys, sleeping out of homes, now and then.
And their women kept quite as if its normal for men.

I searched for examples of happily unmarried but could find none.
when I failed to prove to the family of another possibility, I had to give in.

I tried to be monogamous to my wife, but went mad in months.
I couldn't eat, talk or work, until I started sleeping with hunks.

Soon taking the blame, the lady wept silently in front of the mirror
Immense guilt and pain were only turning my life to horror.

On a mechanical day, we could conceive a baby,
Thanking God that we have a reason to be happy.

Only to realize we got trapped in a deeper shit,
Neither could we mate nor could we separate.

Society that can't accept a difference, Parents seeking conformance  
Nosy relatives or the Spineless me? Who's to blame, who's to blame?

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Cushions of Life

When I was in my 11th standard, I used to study far away from home in Vijayawada and unlike my school days, neither my elder brother nor any of my cousins would travel with me to the hostel after each term holidays. Probably that was the time when my knowledge of the world (lokagnanam as my dad calls it) was shaping without the intervention from my family. I started becoming independent. But my dad didn't trust me. He was afraid of giving me the college fee and personal expenses. He believed I might lose the money bag on the way in the train or someone might cheat me and take away the money. Those were the days without any online transfer. And the bank was in a town so far off from my village that no one would use its services. So he had no choice but to give a big amount to me in cash. It was then when he came up with this idea that I should carry the money by splitting it, part of it in my trousers, part in the luggage bag and part in my wallet. His point was that, even if I lost some, rest would act as a cushion temporarily.

Cushion. It is such a nice word. I feel so comfortable on hearing this word. May be there are better words to explain this concept, such as support, back-up, help etc., But none of them would make me feel as comfortable as Cushion. Now when I look back, I always had cushions, in one form or the other. Probably I was fortunate, unlike many others.

When I start to think about it more, I can see that my parents were one of the biggest cushions of my life till I grew up. My dad had always told me, ‘Son, never worry about failing an exam, never look at it as a prestige issue to fail a class and discontinue studies. Worst case, I will make sure you have some or the other work in our village to lead a life”. These words were so powerful that I never ever had exam fears. Probably that was one of the reasons I always topped every exam. Had my dad not showed that support, had he not been that cushion of my life, things might have turned out different. I studied well, crossed mile stones one by one and got into engineering in one of the well known colleges.

Those were the days of my final year of engineering at Madras. Being a Telugu student, it was expected by everyone that I should go to US. That was the minimum expectation from an engineering student from the parents, family and society, in those times. Personally I had no clue whether I wanted to study further, whether I wanted to settle in US or India. All I knew was, I may not be able to show my face back in my town if I didn't go to US. So I had two projects in my final year. Project A, the technical project to be completed for the degree and Project B, was to go to USA after Bachelor studies, for what ever reasons.

I worked hard for both these projects. I did whatever I could. I got the best grade in Project A, but I failed in Project B. How come? Reason was Osama Bin Laden. What? Really? Yes, I am not kidding. Post 2001 attacks, US Government’s funding for all US universities reduced so much that many of us didn't get scholarships. Many of my friends went ahead to US without a scholarship, in the hope of finding a part time job to pay the university fees. Some struggled and survived there. Some couldn't and came back after losing money. I didn't go. Because I needed a cushion to take that risk and I didn't have one. My father wasn't rich enough to support me if I didn't get a job there. So I chose to stay back.

I don’t regret not going to US. Life had offered me much more than what I had imagined I would get if I had gone there. No, I don’t mean ‘money’ by ‘much more’. I had taken up a job in Bangalore. I started learning to face the society with a smile, for breaking their social norm of going to USA.  Yes, I did answer in every function I attended, every chat that I had with friends, every time I faced my relatives, why is it OK for me to be in India. It was tough but I had to do it.

But I also started to think from these experiences what it means to not have financial cushions in life. How can we expect an unprivileged child to leave his/her work and join school when there is no cushion for hunger of their family? How can we expect rural people to compete in studies and get into high paying professions, when there is no cushion for their daily living? I thought and thought but didn't know what to do. I was a small guy in a big system. What could I do alone? All I could do to satisfy myself was to sponsor some technical education and accommodation fees to couple of my school and other childhood friends, so that there were able to get jobs here and abroad and could repay my money back. Probably I wouldn't have felt that satisfaction in anything else but being the financial cushion for them.

In the meanwhile, Bangalore treated me very well for first few years of my career. I got good roommates, good friends, nice job, good company, all was well. But I didn't know that there were many more things to face in life. I knew, I was “different” from my childhood; but there was something that hit me very hard when I was 26, the fact that “I will remain different”. Yes, I am gay, I was gay and I will remain gay, no matter how much I act straight, no matter how many conversion therapies I undergo, no matter which yoga, meditation or ayurvedic medicine I take, no matter how many poojas that I do, no matter how much I lie to myself, I was gonna be gay, remain gay. From the core of my heart, I could only, only and only like men and never ever women. I could fake love, I could fake sex, I could fake being a good husband, I could fake being a good son but I could never ever be truthful, neither to myself nor to others, It would only be fake. It hit me very hard, really really hard. I cried. I cried and I cried for days. I had many sleepless nights. I wept in office rest rooms. I wept during the bike rides. I wept everywhere, every time I got reminded that the time has come for me to choose between a fake but stable life versus a truthful one but one full of thorns.

Unfortunately I didn't have cushions to fall back to. There was no family support to handle this. There were no friends. I didn't know of other people like me. For the first time in life, I was unprepared. There was no one to understand me and advise me. But I had to do something. I had to step out of my comfort zone and do something about it. I needed help badly. And I decided to seek help. If I didn't seek help then, I would have probably not been writing this article now. Like many whom I know now, I would have either taken away my life, without the world knowing why I died, or would have chosen a life in which I would continue to live a double life and weep every night out of guilt and helplessness. Fortunately I didn't do either. I grabbed the cushions that I got in the form of counselling and support groups. I survived. Yes I survived. Not only that I survived, I realized there are many more people out there who badly need cushions of life and I started to become one for many of them.

Well, the story doesn't end there. Although now that I chose a truthful life over a fake one, my natural instinct of being risk averse didn't allow me to be peaceful. I got into a relationship but within a few years, life gave another hard shock: dreams turned around, things changed, the bonding of love ceased to exist, the meaning of a relationship seemed out of context, I had to walk out of it. I became alone, all alone, once again. Fortunately I had the shoulders of my friends to quickly fall back to, as cushions.

But I thought to myself, how would it be different if I were straight, married and gone through a divorce? How would it be different, if I had lost my wife? How would it be different, if I would have been abandoned by my children at old age? How would it be different, if I were a straight woman, who lost her husband leaving behind a couple of kids and society raising eyebrows on the talk of a re-marriage? How would be it be different if I were a woman with a useless drunkard husband? How would it be different in all such cases? What are the cushions available to all such people? Where would they fall back to? May be society is the cushion for them. May be their siblings are cushions for them. May be they would remain so strong that they would themselves be cushions for them. May be a professional counselling becomes a cushion for them. Or simply they die without having any cushions, struggling with life again and again, scolding their fate, angry with the God they believe in, portraying themselves to be victims of life and others to be villains. Does that really help? Don’t know. To each their own.

So at the end of the day, it might just be a choice whether to recognize that we need a cushion, look for it, grab it and fall back, or whether to curse oneself, one’s past, fate, God or others and continue to live a life without actually having any fulfillment.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Let there be tolerance, this new year !!

Let the world flourish with peace, love and not hatred,
Let the deviant be understood and tolerated !!!
For those who fight, For those who can't, 
For those far and those near,
Let 2014 be a Happy New Year !!!!

Friday, December 20, 2013

What would you choose, our love or their hate?

(This poem was also published in Orinam website in 2014)

They called us homos,
men with pussy,
They called us chakkas,
gandu and sissy!!

They bullied us,
calling name after name,
Now they've made us criminals,
Isn't it shame?

They banned our love,
saying we can't procreate !!
Is that a reason to ban?
Will they conceive, every time they mate?

They said it's a sin,
We would be punished, God will judge,
But, if its between the sinner and God,
Why do they bother and hold a grudge?

They said its from west,
Not our culture, Not our dharma !!
Shouldn't they visit Khajuraho, read Kamsutra
and leave us to our karma ?

They named our unions impure,
claim that we break social order,
Having lost barriers of religion and caste,
Is gender their next sacred border?

We are here and we are queer,
they want to punish us and discriminate,
now what would you choose,
Our love or their hate???

Saturday, January 26, 2013

How I explored Religion & Sexuality

(A translated version of this was published in Prajavani Kannada Newspaper in June 2014

Really? What a weird combination? Why would anyone want to speak about religion and sexuality together? Yeah it's a bit weird. But I still want to speak about it - may be because I explored both of them together, one with me being on the side of majority and the other with me on the side of minority.

I was born in an upper caste vegetarian Hindu family in a remote village that was a part of a region ruled by Muslim rulers for centuries. When I was ten, I knew only two religions. I believed that Hindus were those who speak Telugu, and Muslims were those who speak Arabic/Urdu. The only time the word 'Muslim' was used in my house was when I made a mess while eating food; my granny used to say, "If you do that, you will be born as a 'Muslim' in next birth". I wouldn't say she was at fault, because her opinions merely reflected those of the community elders of her age, at that time.

I also knew there were many castes in Hindus. I could categorize them into three. Those who could eat with us in our home, those who couldn't eat with us but could enter our home, and finally those who couldn't even enter our home. My granny never allowed us to bring friends home. One day my brother protested. He brought home his friends. The very next day, my granny made sure the whole house was cleaned with tulasi water and the bed sheets they slept on were donated. Then my dad told us that we couldn't afford to keep re-buying the bed sheets. Although my mom and dad were moderate, they couldn't say anything against my granny and other elders of the community. I and my brother understood what not to do again.

My father was a primary school teacher, in the only school in our village which offered education till 5th class. But interestingly, although our names were present in that school, we never went there. I, my brother, my sister and some more kids were taught by a tutor at our home. That's how we studied. Partly because my dad knew that except him and a few other teachers, most of other teachers who were supposed to come from the town every day to teach, came only once a month. And partly because my granny did not want us to study along with Muslims and lower caste children.

Since my dad was the most educated person in our village, having passed his metric (10th class), he knew the value of education. He sent me and my brother to a Catholic Telugu medium boarding school, post lower primary school. He could not afford an English medium one though. We were happy because being boys, we were allowed to at least continue education. All our cousin sisters of our age had to stop their studies because one of our elder sisters in the extended family had fallen in love with a lower caste boy in her college. My sister was the only one who continued education because of my father's determination to get her educated by sending her to a relative's place in a bigger town.

The Catholic boarding school that we were sent to charged some fee for Hindu boys, but it was completely free for Catholics. It was there that I first met Michael. Michael was such a cute boy. The first question I asked him was, "Do you know Telugu?" I assumed that just like Muslims spoke Urdu, Catholics must be speaking some other language. We soon became best buddies. I didn't know whether I had a crush on him or whether I just liked him as a friend. There was something in him that attracted me at the age of 11. He told me a lot about his poor family, how he was working in fields along with his parents, before they converted to Christianity and then he was sent to this boarding school. I said to myself, "How selfish was Michael's family? They changed their religion for some petty benefits?"

The first term holidays came. My dad came to pick me up. Michael's dad didn't. I asked him why. He said, "I do not wish to go home. I get idli, broken wheat upma, boiled egg and so much more at hostel. If I go home, I don't get all that and moreover, I have to go to the fields to work with my dad. So I wrote a letter to my dad telling him that I didn't wish to come home for holidays". I was stunned. I thought for a second that it was probably the right thing for them to get converted to Christianity. But I wasn't completely convinced. After all, leaving Ramayana, Mahabharata, Puranas, and above all Bhagavat Geeta, just for some idli and broken wheat upma?. I stuck to my opinion of Michael's family being selfish.

I told my dad that they didn't teach us shlokas and padyas which I used to love being taught at home. I asked him to send me to a Hindu school instead. He said that the only Hindu school, 'Saraswati Shishumandir' run by RSS, was in a far off town and was in high demand. He could not afford it and so he preferred a cheaper Catholic Telugu medium school instead. "Wait a sec!?!?", I said to myself, "If Michael's dad was selfish, then what about my dad? Wasn't he being selfish too? No. None of them were. After all, religion cannot be more important than food or education!"

I slowly started getting adjusted to the Catholic school. I had all the attention of teachers as I was the topper of the class. Being a Catholic school, all Catholic kids were supposed to attend the prayer at the church every morning for an hour, and during that time, the Hindu kids were supposed to study, which we hated. One day, I bunked the study hour and went to the church with the Catholic boys. I did not like the church. There was no Aarti. There were candles instead of Agarbattis. Instead of Sanskrit Shlokas and Mangala Aarti songs, they sang some Telugu songs. I was confused. How could anyone pray god without an Aarti or shlokasWhich was the right way to pray to God? Or who was the right god? Is their god right or my god right? Won't my god punish me for entering into their god's space? I had so many questions.

One day I asked my favorite Telugu-pundit teacher all my questions. I still remember his words. Even today they echo in my ears. "Srinu, There is only one God, they call Him with some name and we call with some other. Whatever language you talk, whatever way you pray, He would still listen to you". That‟s it. My religion was 'One-God concept' then on. Since then, no one was able to convince me, with any other concept.

Two years passed by. I was in my eighth class. One day, a classmate of mine, Ramesh, came and told me that, people laughed at me behind my back. They mock me. They mock the way I talk, the way I walk and so on. He said that they were afraid to say or do anything in front of me, because I was the teacher's pet and I might complain to the teachers. I wasn't upset to hear that, instead I was happy that he thought of telling it to me. I liked him. We soon became good friends.

Ramesh was probably one of the few kids who came from an urban area. He knew Hindi and English better than many of us. He used tooth brush, tooth paste, shampoo and Lux soap, whereas rest of us used tooth powder, detergent bar for washing hair, and Lifebuoy soap for bathing. He was the only one who used to get phone calls to the only BSNL phone available in the school.

Ramesh started teaching me Hindi. I didn't know Hindi because I always thought Hindi and Urdu were the same and were spoken by Muslims in my village, and so I was not supposed to learn it. I topped all subjects except Hindi until he taught me. I taught him Maths and other subjects in return. We used to spend so much time together. He told me the stories of what all happened in hostel at night. How some hostel wardens took boys to their rooms, how seniors used to ask junior boys to come to them at night. I never knew all that was happening. No one molested me at least. Probably because I was a topper or probably because they knew I had support of Ramesh. He used to fight for me if people mock or bully me. Soon I fell in love with him.I used to make sure I was present in his team during all evening games. I used to wash his clothes, do his homework, help him pass exams, and what not. I never had sex with him, probably because the kisses and hugs that we exchanged were enough. Everyone started calling us husband and wife. I used to enjoy that! But it all just lasted for a year and a half, till our sections got changed the following year.

It was in my 10th class when I came home for holidays that I met Ismail, a Muslim boy of my age from my village. I don't recall whether I got introduced to him by a common friend or I met him directly while playing. He took me along for swimming at an agricultural well with his friends. He tied a dried empty pumpkin to me so that I could float and tried teaching me swimming. I couldn't learn it, but I appreciated him for trying to teach me. He then taught me cycle. This time we were successful. I liked him a lot. I wanted to take him to my home for watching TV. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention - my dad bought the first color TV of the village during the same time. There used to be only one channel Door-Darshan at that time. Around 50-60 people used to come to my home to watch 'Rutu Ragalu’, a daily Telugu serial. But my granny didn't allow Ismail to come - after all he was a Muslim.

It was exactly during that time that my father fell severely ill. He had a very high fever. We had only two 'doctors' in our village. They were actually not educated doctors. They worked as medical shop salesmen in town, and then later became doctors in my village. One was an upper caste doctor uncle, who used to treat the chosen few like us. The other was a relative of Ismail, who used to treat Muslims and lower caste Hindus. When my dad fell ill, our doctor uncle was out of station. My family was very worried about my dad. Finally they had no choice but to call the Muslim doctor, who entered my house for the first time, and treated my father. It was only after that incident that Ismail was allowed to watch color TV in our house. Here once again I saw that 'Religion is no more important than one's life". I then started bringing Ismail frequently to my home, even to the Bhajans and Geeta Parayana at nights. No one opposed. Probably they understood the importance of human relationships compared to caste or religion or probably they just did not want to upset me. The time had come for me to go back to the hostel after holidays. I soon forgot Ismail.

Had I not met Michael or Ismail, my understanding of the religion would have been different. Had I not fallen in love with Ramesh and instead got bullied or molested by someone in the hostel, my understanding of the sexuality would have been different. Had people close to me not seen me and Ramesh in love, their understanding of existence of alternative sexuality would have been different.

Ultimately, its experiences that make our beliefs much more than arguments.

*Names of my friends changed to protect their privacy.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Should a single gay man postpone his happiness?

“Monogamous relationship is the only way of life. Either have a committed monogamous partner or die if you can’t handle your desires. Who will take care of you in old age other than your partner? God would have created someone for you, go find that someone fast and be committed. I hate people who change their boyfriends every month. What’s the difference between humans and animals, if we sleep with anyone and everyone around? Oh, God, when will I find my Mr. Right? I am sure this year, my Mr. Right will come and pick me up on his white horse. Marrying a straight girl is better than being single throughout life.”

This was precisely the kind of thinking I had a few years back. I was desperately looking to fall in love with the Mr. Right. I was so confident of my down-to-earth and adjusting nature that I thought I could make any relationship successful.  And I was not completely wrong. I did the same and made a successful relationship for as long as two-and-a-half years, only to finally realize that “Success doesn’t mean long lasting, success means being happy”.

It’s been almost a year now since my ex moved out of my house, leaving me with memories of agony, abuse, lies and cheating. I started to think, and fail to understand, why my Mr. Right was never right for me and why  I could not become his reason for living. I was confused whether to blame him because he did so or whether to blame myself because I was so blind and desperately waiting to fall in love and had made an utterly wrong choice. I did not forgive him, and cursed him for months, thinking that I was punishing him - only to realize that I was punishing myself. Usual phases of losing trust in love, followed with friends reminding me not to let him rule my life and change my opinions of love just because of one incident that happened.

Now when I started re-building my life as a single gay man out of a bad relationship, when I started talking to different kinds of people and heard their issues, I realized that my problems are not so big. At least not as big as,

“Problems of a closeted gay man who is entangled in a hetero-sexual marriage, unable to cope up with the pressure of being monogamous to someone whom he doesn’t get attracted to,

Problems of a gay man whose parents keep making him sit on yagnas to remove his gay evil,

Problems of a gay man who is unable to overcome the fears of HIV even after multiple tests which always showed negative, years after the partner whom he slept with reported positive,

Problems of a straight wife to a gay man, who struggled years of her life going to beauty-parlors to make the husband show some interest in her,

Problems of a closeted gay man, who comes to know that his sister’s fiancĂ© is someone whom he slept with,

Problems of an open gay man, who is unable to accept the fact that his US-settled-brother was ok with his white friends being gay but not his own brother,

Problems of a married gay man, who comes to know of his HIV positive status only through his wife’s pregnancy test during their second child’s birth,

Problems of a gay boy who has no one to come out to because of his separated parents and  their respective not-so-friendly spouses,

Problems of a man, who is unable to define his sexuality in the whole queer spectrum because he gets sexually attracted to only men, but romantically attracted to only women,

Problems of a gay man who curses his highly educated professor parents, for not having understood and accepted him, unlike his close friend’s less literate parents”.

True. My problems are not as big as theirs. My problem of not finding my Mr. Right is nothing compared to the horrifying stories that I hear from many. But the problem is not small as well.
Then comes this thought. Whether or not there exists Mr. Right, whether or not I believe I can have my love life, why should I link my happiness to Mr. Right? Why should I postpone my happiness to only after finding a Mr. Right? Why can’t I have a stable, happy life, without Mr. Right involved in it?

Being a natural lover for mathematics, I thought what is the probability of other bonds being stable than just the romantic partner bond. Aren't those bonds equally stable if not more compared to a bond with a Mr. Right? No, I am not ruling out the possibility of finding Mr. Right, nor do I completely believe that only romantic relationship is the way to go. I am just trying to live a happy stable life, without waiting for Mr. Right to come and make me happy.

I find happiness and stability in the bonds that I emotionally invested in last one year. The gay sister, the gay mother, the gay friends, the gay judwa brother and a big whole family of people who trust me and whom I trust, who confide in me and whom I confide in, who help me and whom I help, who take turns to stay with me in the hospital when I am ill, who look forward to me whenever they are in trouble.

Yes, I am coming to your point of what if they leave me. Well, Anything can happen, and I am ok and prepared for it. After all, I am a fool if I still don't realize that there is nothing called 'forever' and it is 'change' that is constant. And even if I find my Mr. Right, obviously he will be a part of my family too and I will be a part of his family, if it exists.

So instead of choosing to wait, wait and wait to find my Mr. Right, postponing my happiness forever, here I choose to invest in those bonds which make my life memorable.

He is straight and I am gay !!!!

He would pay for my drinks and take me for rides on the bike.
But wouldn't meet my friends and hate all the things that I like.
He would fuck me in the night, but wouldn't hug me in the day,
And thinks he is big straight while I am bloody girly gay!!!

PS: 'me' is the poem is not me, just a passing thought from what I have seen :)

Why is the Rainbow black and white?

Why is the rainbow black & white?
With out you, why can't I see any light?
Miss you baby, all the time, day or night,
I wanna come to you and hug you tight.