Yawning as I wake up to the soft rumble of thunder, I instantly notice how cool the air is. Every tree and washing-line is alive outside, fluttering in the refreshing rain. ‘No need to water the plants today’, I congratulate myself groggily, ‘and more time to relax in bed with a cup of tea’.
Even as I begin the exhilarating task of tea-making like a 90-year old, the horny me turns on Grindr with the other hand. Time to find some ‘trade’, honey. Maybe it will start raining men.
Of course, I’m sorely disappointed. I’ve forgotten that my ‘Kushboo’ account on Instagram is linked to the Grindr profile.
This, of course, is a result of my own on-going social experiment to push boundaries on dating apps. The reactions often range from hilarious to encouraging to outright confusing. But that’s a story for another time.
I’ll tell you this though; some men on dating apps tend to be really obsessed with masculinity. ‘No femmes’ is a sad but common disclaimer on many profiles. In joyful rebellion, my profile serves a full-course of boobs, snarls and fiery glares. So even if some feel adventurous to say ‘hey’, they quickly decide I’m either angry or bat-shit crazy based on my intense-looking photos. And then they run towards the less complicated meat in the mutton-market.
Some of the brasher guys leave feedback as well. The more heart-warming specimens include ‘What are you?’, ‘Why do you do this to yourself?’ and ‘Are you real?’
So here I am, on a romantic evening, with my eggs drying up, attempting an answer.
What am I?
The best way of defining this, I find, is to avoid definition. Someone told me this was ‘a lazy answer’, but I have a very good reason.
In my 27 years of existence, I’ve embodied various personas and roles. Even today, I behave slightly differently in the office, around parents, at a party and when I’m alone in my room. In the mornings I’m often a lawyer, whereas during evenings I become an artist. My dear friend Arpita recently explained that this was even more evident when I got in drag. She said she knows Ikshaku very well indeed but is still getting to know Kushboo.
So there is certainly a level of transformation involved in drag. In my regular tee-shirt and jeans, I’m often soft-spoken, thoughtful and prefer speaking to a maximum of two people at a time. Once I put on paint and nails though, I become firm, colourful and extroverted.
Clearly, therefore, ‘what I am’ is better defined by omission. I know I am not uni-dimensional, unambitious or heartless. Isn’t that enough?
The rest is up to your experience of me, in whichever avatar. Maybe I’m happy one day, angry the next, beautiful on stage or upset in your arms. As they say, we’re all born naked and the rest is drag.
Why do I do this to myself?
Just as most art forms are based on creating something beautiful out of something routine, drag lets me provide an output which is meaningful and aesthetic. The body is my canvas, and makeup, heels, wigs my materials. The most common aesthete is femininity. However, drag lets you be whatever you desire.
When I was younger, I used to spend hours waving make-shift magic wands, playing out my Harry Potter fantasies, transforming grumpy aunties into croaking toads. Today, as an adult, I actually get to transform myself into a glamorous aunty with just a little bit of paint and physics.
I do drag because it lets me create magic.
The magic is internal as well. Adult colouring is popular today because the concentrated, precise, rhythmic motions are therapeutic. Drag brings peace to a troubled mind in much the same fashion. I have often begun an evening irritated and unhappy about something or other. Yet, the process of painting your face slowly and carefully dressing up has always calmed my waters. In the space of a few hours, I go from moody and pensive to ecstatic and resolved.
Drag lets me achieve my best state of mind.
Am I real?
Honestly, this is a question I pose to the world in sheer incredulity. Is homophobia that real? Is the level of environmental degradation real? Is Trump for real??
When there are massive problems begging attention the world over, I think Kushboo’s ‘realness’ is not a matter of her breast size but rather the message of her art. Self-love, liberty, community, and kindness are her watch-words.
So yes she is a real woman…or whore…or witch… or monster… or whatever you like. What you see says more about you than her. At times she is glamorous and strong. At times, risqué and flirtatious. She can also be really emotional and shy … and really fierce in equal measure.
So what you see…isn’t always the truth.
It suffices to say that Ikshaku aka Kush aka Kushboo is just a person trying to express herself, with dollops of self-love and the discipline of careful attention.
Those Grindr men should be fighting for her.
About the author
This article was originally published in Gaysi.