So, today morning I got a SMS : “Meet noted filmmaker Onir at the release of ‘Hostel Room 131’ by R.Raj Roa at 7pm.”
It was raining all day which switched me off to a silent mode and I was quite lazy to test the sturdiness of those wet broken streets. Mumbai is not the safe place to do any jay walking, the minute I venture out alone; I have to recite some strong prayers hoping that I don’t tumble down too close to the ground over pot-holes or trip over chipped interlocking tiles. I can easily spend a carefree day trekking on the outskirts of the city or even take a comfortable walk on the steep hills of Europe, but Mumbai streets don’t qualify for such pleasures. More on that some other time, but for now, I looked at the skies. By 6pm the clouds had cleared and I was brave enough to go out to the book launch.
As soon as I reached the bookstore I saw two transsexual men at the entrance. They were dressed in tee and jeans and had gaudy make-up. I couldn’t help staring at them. It was early, so I decided to browse over some magazine racks. I had no idea what the new book was all about but I noticed that there were more men than women attendees.
The launch started with introduction about the writer who is the professor in the department of English at ‘University of Pune’, two of his books, ‘BomGay’ and ‘The Boyfriend’ is regarded as cult classic. His other books include ‘One Day I Locked My Flat in Soul City’ (short stories), slide show (poems), ‘The Wisest Fool on the earth’ and other plays. He seemed to be quite a popular writer (although I had not heard about him) but the bookstore was jam-packed.
When Raj started to read the excerpts it dawned upon me that this was a queer literature, that ‘Hostel Room 131’ is being marketed as Gay novel, that it is a story of two boys in the hostel madly in love with each other, struggling with society values and parental reservations. At one instance, I saw one man on my right stretch over and fondly ruffle the head of the man who was sitting next to me. I found that very odd. Now I have never been in the company of gay men, and have never seen group of men so happy in each other’s company unless they are sharing a drink or a cigarette puff.
Here I was, surrounded by men who were looking at each other, exchanging raised eyebrows and some of them holding hands.
(And for the first time, nobody was staring at me.) hahaaha!!
It was when the discussions and feedback started, that I realized that this was no laughing matter.
It was sad to hear about their struggle in the mainstream, about being different. How does it feel to be rejected by the society? Dirty, used, humiliating, worthless, crushing, devastating, useless … all these normal emotions I read between their lines. I have seen mentally challenged children at school but they are the happier lot because they don’t understand the society’s indifference. The blind people are happy too because they cannot see the cruel expression of the presumed-sane world. Deaf and dumb are lucky too.
But being born different and intelligent can be quite challenging sometimes.
Surprisingly, society wants perfection on all counts or else they cannot stop judging you. They find it very difficult to accept the people as they are or respect their way of being who they are. The discussions were quite thought provoking, sometimes black humor and sometimes pathetic.
At one point I was highly amused when one of them said that gay person is likely to get aroused by seeing the butt of the men who are shitting on the railway tracks during early morning train journeys.
But most of the time I was uncomfortable. I could not explain my own behavior, maybe because we are conditioned thus or maybe because this was my first encounter with them. We don’t normally see them differently in the usual crowd because they don’t get chance to show their real self but here they were, their actions loud and clear.
As soon as the discussions were done, I rushed back home. I did not wait in queue of hundred men to get my autographed copy.
When I came back home I was highly disturbed and wanted to speak to somebody who would understand me. I spoke to my online friend, who understands me the most and she encouraged me to blog about it.
I told her that I was afraid to hurt the sentiments of their kind and wouldn’t know the proper words to use. But she reassured me, confirming the fact that we are so used to the idea of heterosexual and that is what that seems normal to everyone. She told me to befriend at least one of them and they won’t bite and the truth is that they have been here for ages and the acceptance has just started and then added “Don’t worry, write, it wont hurt them”
I told her that it was very difficult for me to understand my own rude behavior and she laughed out loud, ‘lol’ing “You behave thus because it is your first encounter with them but soon you will see gays taking over the world” she said.