(Dada: Elder brother, in Marathi)
1999 | Dombivli
I came home from school. The two of us were watching TV. He asked me to pass the remote. I said, “No, I won’t give you! I want to watch this TV serial!” It was a sappy family drama. Irritated, Dada said, “Yuck! You are such a girl! Boys in our society were saying exactly that to me yesterday!”
2002 | Dombivli
“What is this?”, he said, pointing at an email. I was dumbstruck.
“He… he is a school friend.”, I fumbled.
“Do you think I am a fool? Do I look like I don’t understand?”, Dada growled at me.
I went pale.
I read that email from the corner of my eye. The first sentence of the email was, “Dear Sajesh, I would like to meet you.”
2003 | Dombivli
I was talking on the phone in a low voice when Dada entered our room. I disconnected the call abruptly.
“Who was it?”
“Sriharsha!” Sriharsha was the first name I remembered. He was my only friend from school anyway.
“Then why did you hang up? Show me your phone!”
“No, I won’t! Why should I?”, I shot back.
“Then, don’t you dare lie to me!”, Dada’s eyes were red with anger.
2007 | Dombivli
“Why did you share our pictures on yahoo chat?”, Dada asked.
I had become friends with a nice guy on the internet. He was gay. Like me.
We had shown each other pictures of our families. I hadn’t even thought that I was doing anything wrong. Why was Dada scolding me then?
Dada and I had almost stopped talking to each other. We wouldn’t say a word even if we were in the same room. I was meeting gay men via the internet. I was on my way to accept my sexual orientation. I had started to come out to friends at college, mostly girls.
2011 | Dombivli
I was living in Powai then. Dada and Neha were getting engaged that day. I stood behind them with the rest of the family on the stage. They exchanged rings and the hall burst into an applause. I had a tear in my eye. “I’d probably never experience this”, I thought to myself and I felt shattered. I left the engagement ceremony mid-way, took an auto and came to Powai. Aai (Mom) kept wondering what had happened – until 2012.
2012 January | Pune
I was working in Pune then, and Dada-Neha lived in the next building as me. I would get friends (who were gay) home for dinner and hangouts. One day, I was entering the building with a friend – who is very fabulous. Dada saw us. I was slightly taken aback. Dada walked up to the two of us and greeted me. “He’s my friend, Manoj”, I introduced Manoj to him. “Hey, hi”, Dada said, shook hands with Manoj, and walked away. Neha saw us from her balcony in the next building, and waved at me. Manoj was unsure if he should wave as well.
2012 May | Pune
“Aai, Baba …me gay aahe” (Mom, Dad…..I am gay), my voice broke as I said the three golden words I was dying to say to my parents.
They were visiting me in Pune for about a week – and I had made up my mind to come out to them this time.
The hall of my small apartment fell silent.
“Aai, say something please”, I said. Aai sat on a chair, her hand covering her face. Just the way she was sitting when my uncle had died a couple of years ago.
“Baba, at least you say something please”, I pleaded to my father sitting next to her.
Baba was visibly confused. “All this, is new to us. I knew there are some people like this, but I never thought we would have someone like that in our own family. Had you told us earlier, we could have done something”, Baba’s voice tapered. “What do you think”, he asked Dada who was sitting at the dining table, with Neha.
“Baba, I think we should support him. This is natural, and definitely not anybody’s fault”, Dada said firmly. Neha looked at me with a serene smile on her face. She silently messaged me on whatsapp, “Don’t break down seeing your brother say nice things about you!”
2012 June | Pune
Pune has a LGBTQ support group called ‘Prayatna’. They had organized a family meet where they were interviewing parents and family members of LGBTQ people in a hall in Pune. Two groups were interviewed. The third group was Neha, Dada and me.
We took our seats on the stage and the interview started.
Dada said, “Around 2002, I saw some emails in Aditya’s email account. And then, some Arjun Rampal pictures in his folder. My curiosity grew with tie. I searched the internet history of the computer we shared, and found some gay websites. I was shocked. I did not understand much. That was when I talked to Neha, who was my girlfriend then. She wasn’t very aware of all this either. As time passed, the references grew, and Neha and I grew up as well. We started realizing that it was okay to be gay. Neha and I created a profile on this website called guys4men, and chatted with Aditya once to understand what he was doing on these websites (The audience gasped, at the revelation. I almost shat my pants.). But then, we realized that he knew what he was up to. We remotely saw him become more confident of himself, and then deleted the profile. We kept waiting that Aditya would come out to us one day.”
“When we were kids, I scolded you, teased you, made fun of you. I am sorry” I could see Dada struggling to hold the mic, when he said this last thing. Neha had a serene smile on her face, like the day when I came out to my parents in their presence.
That night, Neha, Dada and I went to ‘Purepur Kolhapur’, an amazing Maharashtrian thali restaurant in Pune.