The recent attack on Pulse, a gay bar in Orlando has been immensely shocking and devastating and has been a huge jolt to the LGBTIQA community from the entire world. Enough speculations have been made on how the attacker was a closeted homosexual and had been a regular at Pulse himself. But the attack is a reminder of how we are falling short in making the world aware of our presence and why we too deserve a life of respect, dignity and above all a safer environment.
Almost everyday as I woke up in the last couple of days, I’d come across the story of an innocent gay man or a wonderful couple who lost their lives in this deadly massacre- the worst the US has ever seen. But what breaks my heart even more is how all of this is the result of a single ignorant man who was probably unable to come to terms with his own sexuality or his shallow pride and took to guns to bring an end to his own turmoil. It’s a shame we have to deal with such issues in 2016, almost forty years since Harvey Milk stood up for our rights and eventually died fighting for them. I really am not sure if we can in any possible way change the thought-processes of millions of stubborn minds out there. Sometimes it is futile for us to think that they could get some sense into their lives and you really can’t do much about it because well, people are rigid! When you’ve lived half or more than half of your life believing in something so strongly and then suddenly someone comes up to you and tells you, “Well you know what? You’ve been wrong all along!”, there simply is no way for them to give in! For example, no matter how much I could try and talk to my parents, they’d never be okay with pre-marital sex. My mum went berserk when she saw 7 condoms from Love My Condom gifted to me by Bernie- Mr. Gay New Zealand and then went all the more crazy when she saw a post I’d shared on Facebook with a picture of those condoms. I might have given my 200% to change their mindsets but if you yourself are not willing to, then there’s really nothing that I or you could do about it. But there’s a solution. We can make sure that our future generation doesn’t have to suffer. We can teach our kids at school that there is so much more to gender than just the existence of a man and a woman and that is okay to blur that line between the two, that it is okay for a guy to dress up in skirt and wear heels, that it is okay for a woman to not want to wear a bra and ride a bike, that it is okay for you to not want to be a man or a woman. I’m extremely happy to see the rise of feminism in the world. The rise of the concept of how men and women must be treated equally and given equal opportunities to learn and prosper in their respective lives. We do have a long way to go, especially in India where a substantial chunk of the female population knows nothing of what feminism is or stands for, but there’s hope and I choose to be optimistic.
But I’m here to talk about the people who don’t exactly fit into these two distinct categories of men and women. And there’s a lot of them. Enough for us to know and understand who they really are and why we need to talk about them. It’s sorta funny when I sit back and think about this issue. Mankind has existed for 200,000 years and the human civilization as we know it has been there for 6000 years yet we have failed miserably to understand our very own-self. Just think over it. 6000 years of civilization and we’re still fighting for equal rights for women, half of my country still doesn’t know what homosexuality is and a major chunk of the ones who know haven’t been able to grow out of their pea-sized brains to accept us for who we are, and let’s not even get to the stigma and the trauma that trans-individuals go through every f*cking day of their lives! The fact that it is so difficult for me to reach out to schools and persuade them to let me speak on sexuality and understand gender beyond the concept of a man and a woman is enough to prove the plight of every LGBTIQ individual in the world. We have manged to create the most ridiculous myths and stories around what God wants us to do, but have failed to understand the very foundation of God’s existence- love, care and acceptance. I wish there was a thing that would enable us to swap our lives for a day. I’m not even asking for more, just that one single day! And we’ll see what they’ll have to say then. All that you need to be happy is an open mind, a book and loads of hope. But look at how we’ve complicated our lives! I only wish for us to be humanists. Equal rights and opportunities for all of us human beings irrespective of our gender identity or sexual orientation. Let us all be humanists.
I very clearly remember this one time my father, my sister and I were watching ‘Gladrags Supermodel Hunt’ on television way back in 2003-04 or probably before that and they had a swimwear round. So they had all the men and women parading down the ramp in thongs and under-wears and there was suddenly a strange awkwardness in the room. My sister and I looked at each other and my father quickly changed the channel. And I guarantee you this is the story of every middle-class Indian’s household. We never spoke about sex. In fact till the time I was fourteen I still thought sex was a bad word and should be never brought up in a conversation. So now you know I grew up real slow!
When I came out to my parents before my nineteenth birthday, I remember my father smiling at me. But it was his usual nervous smile. He didn’t know how to react. My mother on the other hand was very vocal about her disbelief in her son’s sexuality, condemning it at once and went all berserk saying, “This is all the result of those English films you watch all the time. It’s the Western culture getting into your system.” Then followed those months of crying and cribbing over how God had been so unkind to her and unjust with her and no willingness to accept any logical explanation to her crazy list of questions. Their denial was the toughest part. It was frustrating and I couldn’t believe the fact that it was happening to me? An openly gay guy at his college who’s never let anyone bully him and has strongly asserted his sexuality with pride? But interestingly for the first time in years, my father wanted to talk about sex with me. We had a very long conversation where he brought up topics I would’ve never in my wildest dreams thought of him to be talking about with me. It was insane! We spoke about sex, sexuality, attraction, masturbation to pornography. And I’m so glad he did! But he wished for only one thing from me- to never write about my sexuality openly on a social networking platform, which was impossible for me to do but I totally appreciated the fact that he was only being a protective father. But I also got a very genuine advice from a teacher who asked me to never give up on my parents no matter how politically incorrect their arguments were.
I really wouldn’t have ever expected how wonderfully my father stood beside me every time I was in a fix during the entire phase of me preparing for Mr. Gay World. He held my hand and walked me through the toughest times, gave me a hug when I needed it the most, helped me emotionally and financially without even questioning me twice. Neither of my parents ever questioned me when they saw my pictures in a swimwear, which honestly is a big deal given how we grew up. Coming Out is difficult anywhere in the world and more so for our parents who have grown up in a hetero-normative society. Be real patient with your parents, respect them for who they are because the only people who will stand beside you when you’re in a fix are your parents with their undying support and belief in you. Words fail to express how grateful I am to my parents. They truly are the real support-system in my life and I’m so very blessed to have them.
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.
The last couple of days have been extremely over-whelming with all the attention, love (mostly) and support I’ve received from the people around me and I will always be very grateful for every bit of it. This is going to be a completely self-introspective post and therefore parts of it might seem completely out of the blue, but I really feel like this is necessary and because it is something I’ve been wanting to share for some time now. I don’t think I ever grew up believing in the importance of self-worth, but over the years I’ve come to learn the importance of the same and I’m glad I did. But something that still bothers me is the way we define beauty standards for ourselves. The way we define beauty for ourselves is sometimes also the way we learn to value ourselves. But the definition is so limited and perhaps sometimes so wrong, especially because of how we are made to perceive beauty in terms of what we watch on our television sets or our social networking feeds or the books that we read, that it needs to change. I’ve mostly grown up with people telling me how dark-skinned I am or how my hair is never perfect or that my demeanor isn’t exactly the way it should be, which for that matter has never bothered me and hopefully never will. But I’m also aware of how it does affect a lot of people out there and that this very fact also needs to change.
Black hair, white skin, abs and long legs aren’t what ‘the perfect beauty’ stands for and never will. That perfect selfie you’ve been drooling over on Instagram is perhaps the best picture out of the hundred pictures that person took from that perfect angle with that perfect filter. Come out of your little shell and let yourself be a part of the world of possibilities. Value yourself with the number of great books you’ve read over your Whatsapp texts, or the number of lives you could change for the better over the number of guys/girls you slept with (do it because you want to, not because you want to tell the world how cool your life is over theirs). You are perfect the way God made you and you don’t have to compare yourself with others (even though we’re all guilty of it).
Firstly, a very Happy New Year to you guys! This is officially my first post of the year, so yay! Anyway my first post this year is another Fitting Out story that I’ve been eagerly waiting to share. And here it goes:
” When I realised I was asexual I had hit puberty and my classmates were getting increasingly sexual. I, on the other hand, remained the same. The apparent change in sexuality was more pronounced when I shifted to a new school. I was still the same person. I knew all the jargon but felt none of the hormonal urges. I read up a lot about what I was missing out on. I didn’t, however, read anything on asexuality because I did not know that such a term existed. So I hid behind a mask of knowledge and double meaning jokes. I faked it till I could convince everyone that yes, I wanted to make out with that cute boy. But I never believed it. Once I entered eleventh grade, any ounce of sexuality I may have had (highly unlikely) was further pushed in the background till it merged with the obscure blankness of the unknown. This was the time when I didn’t care about the fact that I had friends or not. I became secluded (not related to asexuality but to the fact that I started reading novels and studying). My friends were the boys in my group with whom I discussed problems and novel storylines (they read too, much to my surprise). I made a few strong friends here, some of whom I still talk to. Anyway, I digress. So, still asexual. I first heard the term while reading about LGBT. I wanted to know what was happening to me (I thought maybe I was a lesbian). No one knew much about it at that time but the definition of asexuality clicked with me. I knew that I was an asexual. I never told anyone about it though.
When I told my family about being an asexual I completed my school without any event and entered college. It was a fun transition for me, one that I enjoyed a lot. I got to start over with a completely new and random set of people. I cut my hair short, changed my wardrobe (mom helped with that), and slept off the exhaustion of the last two years. But I still was an asexual. I saw how the females reacted in the presence of attractive males and my reaction wouldn’t be the same. They noticed this and I was mockingly termed half-male, half-female. I had no issues with that and I went along with this label. They didn’t mean any harm. After my first year, I made amazing friends. I met two brave individuals (Anwesh and a boy from my school) who are homosexuals and who are supported by their family and friends. I saw the love they got and thought of telling my family. This asexuality posed a problem for any possibility of marriage since my parents want me to have an arranged marriage. In an arranged marriage, the poor unsuspecting husband wouldn’t know that his wife is an asexual and doesn’t want to have sex. He would expect sex and would feel cheated. So, I had ruled out marriage a long time ago (since the time I realised that I was an asexual) unless I fall in love with a man who understands what he’s getting into and still wants me. I sat my parents down and told them that I wouldn’t get married, definitely not an arranged marriage. They reacted with shock. I put forward my reasons (asexuality being the brightest point). My parents said that this was a good thing and that I would grow out of it once I got married. I said that I wouldn’t. This was permanent. It wouldn’t change. They refused to listen, to understand. So I let it pass resolving to tell them this again. My sibling reacted much better and was genuinely happy for me. Fast forward one year. I decided to tell my parents once again, this time separately. So, father first. Same response, “it’ll pass, it’s good that you don’t feel this right now” and nervous giggling. My mother, too, reacted the same way. My only option was to make them read articles on asexuality. They both support the LGBT campaign. They would support this too once they realised that I won’t just ‘get over it’. And I did just that. Third time’s the charm I guess because my parents finally understood what I was talking about and supported me. I still have not told my friends and other members of my family but over time, I will. Till then, I shall remain anonymous.”
I did this picture with Savi for her college magazine. So much fun every time we do pictures together. :’)
2015 has by far been the most fulfilling and secure year of my life. I happily walked out of a relationship where I wasn’t an equal with my head held high, became fully aware of how I can’t make everyone happy in the world, met complete strangers in life who brightened my day up at once, made friends almost instantly who went on to become my closest set of friends and finally realized how sometimes in life some things can mean so much to you that you’re literally ready to give it all that you have. Here’s a roundup of the twelve lessons I learned in 2015 about life:
I had a lot of fun, and it isn’t fun.
You can be the sweetest peach in the world, but there’s still going to be someone who doesn’t like peaches.
Grow up, never become an adult. Adults are boring. If you are always trying way too hard to be normal you’ll never know how amazing you can be.
There’s always going to be someone a lot better than you, someone a lot more talented than you are, and someone who has been working a lot harder than you have. And that’s exactly why one should never stop pushing oneself to get better.
Allow me to quote Paulo Coelho here, “And, when you want something, the entire universe conspires in helping you achieve it”. ‘nuf said!
Don’t wait for life to be perfect. What you have right now is perfection. If you don’t value what you have today, you’ll never learn to value it tomorrow. Don’t wait for your life to get back on track. Make the best of what you have right now. There’s always something wonderful today, that you might not have tomorrow. The glass is never half empty. It is always full-half with water and the other half with air.
Life is service. Service is joy. We’re all here to make a difference. You don’t necessarily have to change the world, but you can always do your bit and the universe will take care of itself.
Experiment! Not everything in life has to lead to something. Don’t be scared to take risks in life. Remember, if someone has done it, you can do it too. If someone hasn’t done it yet, then you should definitely do it. Take a chance, follow your instincts. You’re going to walk out of it stronger and wiser than ever.
You’re not going to be always right. Don’t let your pride over-shine you. Make your mistakes, and more importantly accept them. That’s the only way you’ll learn to correct them.
Never stop learning. Like ever!
You deserve all the happiness on earth. Work hard, be good, and let yourself be a good student, your life will be a great teacher.
Life is magic. And don’t you dare stop believing in magic!
Like I had mentioned in my previous posts, I had taken my campaign #FittingOut to the Annual Delhi Pride Parade this year and had asked people to share their Fittingout stories. They were all so beautiful and moving and I’m so glad to be finally putting all of them together for you guys to read. So *drum rolls* and here it goes:
“Like most of the introvert kids in my school, I tried fitting into groups that led to me being a kind of individual I wasn’t. And I resented that a lot! Not bothering yourself with the negative things that people have to say about you only leads to a positive discovery of oneself.”
“I was a little tomboyish at school and I never liked wearing skirts and all the other stuff that women are supposed to wear. I’m usually very friendly with people and that was also why I was so popular at school. So yeah, I’m happy fitting out and I think if you fit out you make an identity for yourself.”
“I’ve always supported LGBTQI rights and I think it’s absolutely normal. But my parents and my acquaintances have always asked me to not put forth my views out in the public. But I do that anyways.”
“I had no particular group that I belonged to in school. In fact I was that one girl who was mostly punished during classes. I have curly hair and people would often want me to have them straightened.
I think love is love. The queer community is so misunderstood and people aren’t exactly aware of their struggles and the challenges they face. People are always so quick to judge them which I think needs to change.”
“I’ve come out only recently to myself as bisexual and this is my second pride, however the first after coming out to myself. Though my office colleagues very actively support the queer community, I haven’t come out to them yet.”
“I used to play the female characters in school plays and most of my guy friends were cool with it. In fact I was in an all boys’ school, so the guys had to play the female parts and while all other boys would run away, I’d happily volunteer. My parents weren’t aware of my trans-fluidity until a year ago, in fact my dad still doesn’t know but my mum supports me a lot and has given me the freedom to be who I want to be.”
Back in 2011, I chose to be a part of a dance routine at my school’s Annual day that turned out to be the beginning of a new me. It was a semi classical dance routine and had ninety girls with me being the only guy.
One of the girls came up to me and condescendingly asked me, “Are you too a part of the group?” I said yes. She gave me a look and walked off. That upset me and this particular episode stayed with me for a while and I kept thinking of how difficult it was for me to fit in. Then Steven Retchless in his high heels happened to me and I realised how I did not have to be sorry for being who I am.
I didn’t have to fit in anymore. I’d rather be #FittingOut. Because you’re original and you were meant to stand out. I was also there at the Annual Delhi Pride Parade with my campaign and I’ll be sharing all the interesting Fitting Out stories I came across in the future posts.
And now for the bigger news I had been waiting to share with all you guys. I made it through the first round for Mr Gay World India 2016 and I am also done shooting the pictures for the same. I have been working very hard for the competition and it has been a dream since 2012. I am currently waiting for the results for the next set of rounds. MGW would be a huge platform for me to voice my opinion and belief and do my bit in bringing a positive change in the world. Let’s hope for the best and #Fingerscrossed.
It also makes me super happy to finally share the #FittingOut campaign video. This would not have been possible without Rahul from Artists at Work Productions backing this video since the beginning. This man is the boss. I can’t thank all my friends enough for being a constant support. Let’s make this world a place where being queer isn’t looked down upon. We all deserve to live a life filled with happiness and respect. Let’s all put a little of our efforts into making that dream come true.
This year Chennai, the capital city of Tamil Nadu in India has been crippled by torrential rains leaving the entire city submerged in water. All sources of communication have come to a halt with people in parts of the city in dire need of your help. You can also do your bit by donating an amount you are comfortable with and picking an artwork in exchange. This is the link to all the artworks submitted by artists from around the world.
You can read all about the initiative by clicking here.
I have also made a submission of the following artwork.
Nothing beats the happiness of a semester that has just ended. No really, it’s been a tough semester and I know I’ve grown stronger with the end of this one. It is no less than a war fighting assignments, projects and the one and half hour long lectures every semester. Engineering is no funny business. I’ve cried for hours struggling with the academics, I have tried hard at every lab exam I had to attend, noting down values I wouldn’t understand, practicing math equations I would hardly follow, but I tried. I’ve learned a lot from my eighteen year old self in the first semester who did not have much to look forward to but still clinged on to the little hope he had and religiously did his academics, studied till late at night and woke up at 6:30 in the morning to catch an hour and a half long metro to college and gave a dreadful exam where he was asked to implement a clock on Verilog he had no idea of and then went on to implement fancy muxes on a breadboard and made it through his final lab exam. I have no idea how I did it, may be the fact that I was done with one of my eight semesters made me happy. But I know it’ll continue to empower me. And I always pray to God to give me enough strength to fight all such wars in the future and never stop learning. Because learning is the only way we’re going to get better.
So while I had paid for a single seater this semester, I have been provided one with a little mouse running around eating my almonds. I used to try real hard getting him out of my room. Onions, deodorants (I don’t know why I used that), and every possible home remedy you name and I have tried. But that is one hell of a resilient (or stubborn?) mouse that simply wouldn’t go. And now I’ve just gotten so accustomed to him being around that I just cannot get a mice poison from the market to kill him. He’s sorta cute. Anyway I haven’t been able to make illustrations for almost a month now owing to my busy schedule due to my multiple projects, final assignments, photoshoots (I’ll let you know why I have been working on them) and exams. But I will be back to business. So let the December begin.
Sneak peek into the pictures I did with Savi for her college magazine.