Why you need to learn to say No!

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Picture from yesterday’s event at IIT Delhi in collaboration with Gaylaxy magazine. It was good to meet some very accepting group of people and spreading some Rainbow Love. ❤

 

 

I have been trying to get this out of my system for long now, but let’s just say it has been pretty difficult. In fact to put it in simple words, I’ve been scared to even talk about it, simply because it involves someone so influential and someone who I truly admired and we unfortunately don’t live in a world where we talk as much about men being sexually abused or touched inappropriately. I have read and heard so much about it from friends and my acquaintances that the possibility of it happening to me seemed next to impossible, since I tend to think a lot before making any decision in my life. We’re never taught to tackle such situations in our lives, and many a times we don’t even realize or understand that it has already happened to us. A couple of days back, a friend of mine mentioned how he was in an abusive relationship for long, never realizing that he himself was in one. He said, “Imagine me? A Yale and Harvard graduate and even I didn’t have the sensibility to understand I was being abused!”

Since I won Mr. Gay World India in January this year, I have been working on my campaign ‘Fitting Out’, and very actively meeting influential and inspiring people from the LGBTIQ community. While it it has been a very fulfilling and enriching experience for me, needless to say, I also very often get approached by men to spend a night with them, which I can only politely refuse to. Only days after I won the title, I very well understood how difficult it is to carry the responsibility of winning a crown and the hard work and constant dedication that goes into living up to your role as the reigning Mr. Gay World India, which is all the more tough since I’m still in college. Every time I meet someone officially, I prefer talking to them at their office with people around or at a busy coffee shop or a market place. A few days back, I went to meet one of these many officials to discuss a possible collaboration and an awareness campaign with respect to the LGBTIQ community. Let’s call this official Mr. X. Mr. X happens to be an influential and wealthy figure in the community, and like I mentioned, happened to be someone I truly admired. I received a text asking me to meet him at his hotel room late at night for a longer conversation. I had met Mr. X prior to this one very briefly, and I was very happy with the idea of a possible collaboration. With sheer respect for him and his time, I agreed to meet him at his mentioned time, which I honestly would’ve never agreed to had it been anyone else. And while all this happened, not even once did it ever strike me that he could ever have any other intentions other than just an official meet. Another reason why it also never struck me was because Mr. X happens to be married and is older than my father (which on a second thought shouldn’t have stopped me from thinking otherwise). He had also mentioned that he was going to reach the city late and therefore had asked me to visit him at that time. So I went up to meet him, where we exchanged ideas related to our respective campaigns. I went to wash my hands and we were still talking while I was in the washroom when I felt his hands fondling my hair and touching me at the back of my neck. I was instantly uncomfortable. Moments later I find his arms around me, with him trying to kiss my ears. I was shocked, so grossed out by his behavior, and honestly so scared that I didn’t even know how I could’ve pushed him away.  A series of questions ran through my mind, “What is he trying to do to me?”,“How can he even think of doing this to me?”, “How can I raise my voice?”, “But he’s simply too powerful!” I finally gathered the courage and said, “I have to leave!” and rushed out of the room. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know who to talk to. I called an Uber and went back home. I couldn’t get his smell off of me. I kept blaming myself for what had happened. How could have I been so naïve? How could someone of his stature do this to me? How can I speak out being a man? I was appalled by his behavior and with time realized how lucky I was to have walked out of it safe and sound. I’m also very grateful for the friends, my family and my mentors who have supported me through this.

It is only when it happens to you that you understand the trauma and dejection you feel when you undergo such situations in life. I can only imagine the hardships that individuals who’ve been sexually abused for years (by the most unexpected people) go through.  I shared my story with a couple of my friends and realized I wasn’t alone. A friend of mine mentioned how her tuition teacher would try touching her breasts every time she went to his class, another mentioned how this guy she was kissing once, suddenly started forcing himself on her and wouldn’t let her go when she refused. But something else was common to all our stories. We did not know how to refuse. We didn’t know how we could’ve stopped what was happening to us. We, especially the men are never taught to deal with such situations. Perhaps, one of the ways we could stop it is by speaking out? Go to someone who you believe. Be strong and courageous and don’t let anyone else touch you without your consent. While reading more stories online, I came across this incredible quote by a writer named Miri:

“Just like you wouldn’t touch a bag or a purse that belongs to someone else, don’t touch a body that belongs to someone else–which, by definition, is every body except your own.”

 

Peace out.

Better than *Me*

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My favorite picture of the lot today. Had the honor of being shot by Ara Alexander. Wonder woman at its best!

A little excerpt from what I’d written back in December while I was preparing for Mr Gay World India, and I’d asked myself “What if it doesn’t work that way?” and this came out of that:

“The biggest problem with us is that we don’t let ourselves accept the fact that it can also happen the other way; that there is a possibility of things clicking. This can’t happen to me because I’m too poor, I’m too under confident, I’m too fat or too thin, I did not grow up in that part of the world, I did not grow up in that era, I can’t think that way because I’m not a writer or that I’m too young or too old. What you heard that other person say is that other person’s story and his/her circumstances. You don’t have to wait for your life to imitate every aspect of that person’s life. What you have to yourself right now is the only thing that matters. And try and achieve your goal a little every day of your life. Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant. Don’t wait for the perfect moment to hit you. This very moment you’re reading this could be the perfect moment for you to start something new and exciting. I have a goal because I let myself dream and not even once let myself tell me how it might not happen. Another thing that initially stopped me from giving things a try was my fear of failure. And in the process I realized how failure is in fact  failing to try. If you try and keep fighting all odds, you’re already a winner. Once you start trying there’s another fear you have to tackle-the fear of the unknown. I’m trying and I don’t know if it’s going to lead me that way. But what if it does? And there is a possibility that it doesn’t work that way. But you need to remind yourself constantly that it is still okay for it to not work the way you wanted it to be. Maybe you have something better in store for you?”

One of the reasons why I wanted to be a part of Mr Gay World was so that I could meet more people in life, get to know more varied perspectives and learn and evolve as an individual through the entire process. And while things have worked out pretty well for me, one of the things I’d never expected was how mind bogglingly my relationship with my parents has strengthened through the entire course of Mr Gay World India and beyond. My father and I don’t speak very often, and every time we spoke, we’d end up discussing our extreme opinions with respect to my career choices. I am a dreamer at heart, and I really do want to experiment madly with my life and push myself as much as I can, while my father would insist on me being a little more practical.  Bruce Springsteen had once said, “More than rich, more than famous, more than be happy, I just want to be great!”, and I would totally want to believe him!

So it was the morning of 25th of January when I wake myself up, get dressed thanks to my partner in crime Ashwini and take an auto to somewhere in Bandra where Darshan, my co-contestant picks me up and we head towards Sky Café near Church gate after me having puked in his cab and then forgetting to throw the paper bag out. Almost four hours later I was Mr. Gay World India 2016 and I was absolutely numb. I wanted to be ecstatic, but I was so numb and more importantly so anxious of what the future had in store for me. The week after was all the more over-whelming with me giving interviews everyday and not having enough time to talk to myself and make myself believe that a little dream of mine had actually come true. And I was back in Mumbai a little more than a week after for the Mumbai Pride and it couldn’t have been better. I was made to feel so special, meeting all the people I had someday dreamt of meeting and it was all happening in front of me. Wow! But a part of me still felt pretty empty. And I realized why as I sat down to finally talk to myself after cleaning my ever-so-messy room. The only person I have to compete with is myself! I would’ve never grown as an individual had I been sitting with my phone swiping through pictures of the ever-so-perfect people I follow on Instagram. I only had to be better than what I was. And that’s exactly what I’m planning to take with me to Malta- the best of Anwesh.

Peace out.