March 2008

It is one of those beautiful warm winter nights, when you can stroll on new york streets to your hearts content.. I would have been at chelsea on a night like this, but instead i was sitting at an dinner table in an upper east side italian restaurant. it is my friend that i am visiting, who suggested i accompany him to this dinner gathering.. recently i have seen a lot of photographs of such gatherings in new york in my orkut updates.. the merry photographs.. either someone’s birthday or a festival party or probably just to pass time..

today was a pass time gathering and i was more than willing to make new acquaintances. so i sat there next to my friend, on a table being served for eight. we were waiting for the eighth guy to come.. it was a very cozy restaurant, with mostly waitresses except for one hot waiter and a cute young kid at the coat checkin.  it wasn’t until later that some nice mexicans came to the table for serving. every now and then i would steal a look at the hot waiter who was now at the bar waiting for new customers to come in..

after the initial niceties and introductions, i found myself drawing back and becoming an observer.. i wasn’t listening to what they were talking, but just watching their expressions.. and i went around the table…

starting with my friend on my left.. he was looking at his drink (may be a vodka) with cranberry juice, cute, intellectual, a movie buff and an analytical person..single.., next to him was this guy who is in an open relationship… or was it long distance relationship.. anyways.. i know that his boy friend is back in mumbai.. he was almost done with his cranberry drink..

and next to him was a guy, who was answering questions about how his new boy friend couldn’t come tonight.. etc., and not sure how but the conversation now seemed to move towards cosmetic stuff that his boy friend had..

the one next to him responded to that saying, ‘i don’t have any cosmetics, except for a shampoo’.. hmm at that point i was looking at him  and if what he said was true, then he has the most naturally beautiful skin and hair.. hmmm.. he is handsomely tall too, trendy t-shirt.. little talkative.. and also busy on the phone.. texting..

next to this ‘all-natural’ guy, were two guys who came in together.. i assumed they were in a relationship.. but later i was told that they were just friends.. they paid little attention to the talks on this side of the table, but they had their own conversation going of them was ‘silent’, only responding once in a while.. mostly nodding.. while the other — visibly femme was doing much of their private conversation…

except for that ‘all natural’ guy, i have met the ‘open-relationship’, ‘newly-dating’, ‘silent’ and ‘femme’ on some previous occasions..

after all it wasn’t really that much of a stranger gathering..

“are you from bangalore?”

i was brought back to present with that question. and what followed was the usual exchange of names of friends that we might know in common.. and after that i was really no stranger to the table. that seemed to have made a connection.. and it got further established when i found that one of the guys lived in boston and knows most of my friends from there too..

it is amazing how connected we are, across professions and across places. oh well.. may be not so well connected.. i wish there was some way to find a connection to that waiter who was now explaining the specials in an italian accent.. i had no clue to what he was saying.. and all i could see was his lips moving and i was staring into his eyes.. ended up ordering the only special that sounded vegetarian..

“is he part of the family?” someone asked as he left with our orders and everyone said yes.. and one went on to imitate the way he was using his hands..everyone bursted into a laughter.. and we established the fact that we were the only loud table in the room.. rest of the tables were mostly occupied by couples or atmost three.. people.

by now the eighth guy had arrived and was the focus of discussion.. he was just stepping into the queerdom, there was pressure at home to get married, has an fling with an girl at work.. and has crush on his straight colleagues.. (or straight until found out..). that was the topic everyone can relate with and he was being bombarded with suggestions and stories..

it wasn’t until we almost finished our main course, someone brought up the topic of gay hang outs in bangalore.. and which turned our attention to the recent raids in a mumbai gay party. there were several stories floating around and the one that was told tonight was….

a bunch of under age guys purchased a lot of booz from a bar.. and this came to the attention of a cop who just happened to be there.. and he followed them to another store where he found them buying a ‘loads’ of condoms.. and then cop, now cops, followed these guys to to an remote farm house.. where they caught hold of 15 to 20 guys.. indulging in an orgy..

now is an orgy illegal, even though everyone involved has consented to it?

at that point, as if the ‘silent’ guy finally found his voice (may be he did from the drinks), started to passionately and loudly describe the indian sodomy law.. how any kind of anal sex is illegal.. and right at that moment.. the waiter was approaching the table to take orders for the desert….

he decided to come back later..

everyone nodded to the sodomy law.. but it was more of an accepted fact and it was like someone else’s war.. now that no one made a comment, the topic was set aside.. and someone quickly pointed what had just happened behind his back.. another round of laughs.. and we were ready for the deserts..

as we enjoyed the delicious chocolate and cheese cakes.. and while others were checking out the photos of the straight colleagues of the new guy on iphone, i was again back in my thoughts.. is sodomy law really someone else’s war? we seem to have so much to talk about the coming out or relationship crisis…. is sodomy law just like other laws.. which are only discussed when faced with an charge?

There was a long silence between us, while our hands were busy. I was playing with the hot and sour soup, and he was picking on the fried spicy ground nuts. We both were staring at bubbling foam tripping off his beer glass.

This was not how I played it in my mind. I was looking forward to meet the guy with enormous energy and constant smile apart from other things that make me moan within… But today, Sunny had nothing lively about him.

Sunny and I were never big on keeping in touch. But every time we met which usually  happened once every six months between his traveling to Mumbai and Mangalore, we would be able to pick up from where we left off.  And then I left for US without any good byes and expectation of meeting again. I always wanted our moments to remain the way they were. Naming it with anything, I thought would just ruin what we had.

We finally got in touch again a couple of years later through email and it was just like old times. As we were about to end the call he said, “What is going on between us?” He wanted to give our relationship a name. Love he called it.

Love is a mysterious word and it is worse when it can’t accept anything less than Love in return. Love I imagined was an commitment to stay together for the rest of the life together. But with Sunny, I never pictured it like that? What kind of sacrifices do I have to make if I did say I love him? And so it was a battle of Love and Wisdom and as it is said.. You can’t love and be wise at the same time. I choose not to respond with the L word. He was a special person and thats how I wanted to keep it.

For the next year, it was as if we went our separate paths.  And then one day I get a call from him to make a choice. If I don’t respond, he is going to get married to a girl. Marry a Girl?

‘It is my parents’, he said. ‘They want me to get married and I can’t put it off any further. I love you and I want to be with you. Say yes and I am going to tell my parents’.  He pleaded..

‘It is your decision’, I said. Some part of me ached that day. But I was doing the right thing. It is not up to me to help him decide his sexuality. Can a guy be Gay only if he has a boyfriend? Does a Gay need a boy friend to not marry a Girl?

That was the last I heard from him, until I called him just a week before I landed in Bangalore.

“Are you married?” I asked.

“Yes”. He said.

“How is it going?” I hesitated, but I did ask him.

“I don’t know”, he said. “I married to make my parents happy.”

“Are you both happy?”

“Hmmm.. we are living in the same house but we don’t talk much..”

I hated myself for bringing up the topic. As I hung up the phone that night we decided to meet when I was in Bangalore.

Here we were meeting for lunch in Koramangla.

“Do you want to talk about it?” I asked.

“I don’t know what to talk and I don’t have anyone to tell”. He said. “I am just going to take it as it comes..”

We sat their quietly for the next few minutes, before we started retelling the stories of us from the past. The places we have seen, the things we have done..

As we parted, I started to wonder if my saying “yes” would have changed anything? But then Sunny is just another case in Bangalore. Marry a Girl, for reasons like ‘parent pressure’ or just for the sake of getting a companion. It is a path that is well established. Marry a girl, have a kid of two and if the urge to have sex with guy remains look for  discretionary encounters. It all sounds too familiar, just the way it was four years  ago when I left Bangalore.

Of course, I did meet hear about guys in relationships but wonder if they are not just emotional flings or convenience setups to satisfy the gay sexual and emotional urges. And then there was this another group of Gay guys single and pursuing personal interests in travel, art and social work..

But hey we are queer and it is all about doing whatever rocks you. isn’t it?