There is always a light

There is always a light
Don't be afraid if you are alone or surrounded by darkness. In some part of the world, the day has just begun. There is a always a light waiting for you to find your way to touch its radiance.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Story Telling: The Rainbow Revolution

By Malini Banerjee
Bombay, India



I had never before seen so many colors together. And, I wasn’t tripping on LSD. 
2nd July, 2009: Homosexual intercourse between consenting adults was decriminalized by the Delhi High Court, and it judged Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code to be conflicting with the fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution of India.

I was working at a media organization then. I remember walking into our Andheri office in wet clothes, and with water dripping out of my hair. Bombay was in the middle of monsoon, and I had been feeling rather gloomy that particular day. But, I had no clue I’d get to hear something so very exciting that it would brighten me up, instantly! Inside the Newsroom, a hand-phone was thrust into my hands, and, in hushed tones, I was instructed to speak to an openly-gay fashion designer. Our channel wanted him to be part of a panel discussion that would be telecast live. After 10 minutes of “oohs”, “aahs”, “sunshines”, and “darlings”, I hung up. The job was done. I turned towards the washroom; I was shivering in my damp clothes. But, they weren’t going to let me go anywhere, just yet. They, my homophobic colleagues (mostly men). They wanted to know the designer’s part of the conversation- they wanted me to imitate his way of talking, so they could laugh their guts out. I was repulsed. Ignoring my obvious annoyance, they went on to narrate an utterly shocking incident. Some time last year, a transsexual actor had come to audition for a role in one of the soaps produced by our company. The role was that of a young girl- the female lead’s best friend’s. For kicks, she was asked to take her shirt off, so they could assess her physique. On complaining that a woman cannot be asked to strip in public, she was shown the door because she was a “mentally sick” confused man masquerading as a woman.

We preach about being tolerant. Is this an instance of tolerance? Is this what our culture has taught us? Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, Judaism, Zoroastrianism- no religion, to my knowledge, advocates discrimination. We say, Hindus must be tolerant of Muslims, and vice-versa. Then why can’t we be tolerant towards fellow humans? Homosexuals are NOT abnormal. They are just differently oriented. How difficult is it to understand? I have a different theory on this. The word tolerate is not relevant any more, I feel. It’s just another way of saying, “I don’t approve of your religion/way of living/ whatever it may be, but I don’t have the balls to admit it”. It’s become a ‘safe’ option to label oneself as TOLERANT. I guess, acceptance could be a better way to go about things. So, even if you don’t understand homosexuals, just accept them.

Getting back to the colors. The same day, 2nd July, “the gays are celebrating. Woh section 377 hata diya na, isliye,” my boss told me. I was tired of rectifying him. He did not seem to understand the difference between a court judgement and the scrapping of an IPC section. Anyway, I was assigned the job of gate-crashing (!) such a party, in a pub near Opera House, on Grant Road, and doing a story. It was pouring that night, and by the time I reached the venue, I was drenched (again), and shivering like a little, wet puppy. But, I had no clue what I was in for. I was met with so much warmth that I was high and dry (no pun intended) in no time! The organizer, a middle aged, pot-bellied, amiable man, handed me over to couple of young men. One of them fetched me towel to dry myself, and another was blow drying my damp hair. While I sat there, patting myself dry, I was amazed to see the colors around me. Red, blue, green, orange, yellow. Bright clothes, bright make-up, bright accessories, bright faces. Yes, the faces shone. Even in the dim lighting. I could feel life throbbing in every one of them. These people, who’d gathered together, knew how to celebrate life. They knew how to live it up. I was amazed to see such vibrant people. Their energy was electrifying. Their vibrations, positive. That night, for the first time, I danced without any inhibitions. No lech tried to grope, no enthu-cutlet tried to act fresh, nobody stared at my butt while I tried doing a Shakira. I could be ME. The wonderful people there let me be.

I was watching Taking Woodstock, when my fiancé, casually, asked if the director, Ang Lee, was gay. After telling the story of two wonderful lovers in Brokeback Mountain, he has again made references to homosexuality in this new venture of his. And, he’s done it beautifully, to say the least. Why does one have to be gay in order to support them? My fiancé is homophobic, like most Indian men. He thinks homosexuality is unnatural. I have tried, in vain, to explain that isn’t. It’s not his fault. It’s our mentality- how our minds have been conditioned over the years. If educated, urbane people like him are not ready to accept homosexuals as a part of society, how can we expect the rest of our country to?

At the recently held Lakme Fashion Week, I met a lot of ‘queers’. And, I struck a fine rapport with one of them. He’s a make-up artiste. The first time I met him, I didn’t sense anything amiss. He was like any other regular bloke, looking for flat-mates ‘cause the rent was too high, trying to fund a trip to Paris to train under some very famous make-up guru (whose name I couldn’t quite catch- blame my I-only-understand-Indian English trip). But, something was different about him. He hadn’t been able to find a room-mate even after 8 months of frantic searching. Reason- he is gay. No guy wants to stay with him. And, his housing society won’t allow him to share his flat with girls. He was stuck. After the damp squib of a Grand Finale, we were sipping on wine, when he held my hand and said, “thank you”. I didn’t quite understand why he’d said that. On prodding, he narrated a rather sorry tale. “Growing up in Delhi was not easy for me. I got expelled from my first school, in the 9th grade, for ‘improper conduct’. I had held another boy’s hand, and asked him out on a pizza date. He complained to the school authorities that I had molested him. In high school, I had a boyfriend. One night I slept over at his place. Next morning, news had spread that I was practicing sodomy. I was expelled again. I couldn’t write my HSC exams. My parents disassociated themselves from me. I was left to fend for myself. I came to Bombay, only to get kicked about the whole place like a piece of turd. I was ravaged by hungry souls, plundered by sick men, used and abused by frustrated but powerful women. But, all of this made me a stronger person. I am not ashamed of who I am. I don’t want a lot from life. But, acceptance would feel good. I’d like to complete my education, get back with my parents, do things that ‘normal’ people do. I request people to live and let live. Isn’t that like the greatest human principle? You are a reporter. You communicate with people. Put forward my request to them, will you? Please?” I hugged him, and ran out.

I am doing the same, here. Putting forward a simple request. I hope you all won’t let him down. After all, don’t we all love the rainbow?

6 comments:

  1. Really touched. Love the way it is written. Great job Malini. Keep posting more of your writings please.

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  2. Brilliant...just simply brilliant

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  3. One of the most sensitive issues beautifully portrayed. Good work, Malini. And Congrats to Ananya for this initiative.

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  4. Love this one. Undoubtedly inspiring.

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  5. Very mature treatment. Truly impressive

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