There are times when I find writing a largely unproductive and tiresome exercise. For much of what is intended is often lost in translation from memory to text. And then there is always the nagging fear of words being misconstrued, blocked by prejudices, lack of knowledge, and often, the language barrier itself. Unfortunately, it is the only medium through which I have learned to communicate and express myself. So I have to perfect the art of writing, more than anything.
Congratulations on your birthday. I know we haven’t spoken in years – at least not in words. Someone once told me that the most unendurably painful distance between two people who share the same flesh, love each other, see each other every day, eat at the same table, have a fondness for the same things, is when they stop sharing and start hiding things from each other. I hope with this letter I am able to bridge the divide that has separated us for the last twenty years.
Being born into an upper caste, upper middle class Hindu family, groomed by heterosexual family ideals and values, in a country where Hinduism is a dominant religion, and Hindutva – the ideology of Hindu nationalism – a popular moral force, I am in a position of extreme privilege, both economically and socially, to examine my thoughts and feelings, and write, whereas, for most religious and lower caste minorities, life is an act of constant survival – to attain and exercise free thought, free ideas, and free life choices. We are all products of this perverse social order, and all our social inheritance and endowments and other achievements are nothing but gains extracted at the cost of the social capital of the less privileged.
We also live in times where the idea of home is no longer the same. There are countries swollen with refugees, people who are regularly displaced, forced to flee their homeland to escape threat, violence, or persecution by the state; and some with immigrants who abandon their families in search of better opportunities abroad, to build a life in a foreign land with its foreign elements and foreign people. We struggle every day, sometimes more with ourselves than with other things.
In an unjust world that profits from our silence, and where the majority uses fear as a tool of manipulation, we all must dare to be our true selves. We must have the moral courage to be who we are, stand up for what we believe in. And here I want to say something that everyone knows about me, which I suspect you already know, but I will say it once and for all: I am gay. It essentially means that only a man, and not a woman, can fulfill my emotional and physical needs.
It has taken me years to come to terms with my sexuality – years fraught with confusion, denial, pain, despair, and loneliness. In the process I have not only suffered from tremendous anxiety and recurrent bouts of fever and panic attacks, but had also ruined my mental self-image by indulging in sexual promiscuity with reckless self-abandon – an outlet I indiscriminately used in my late adolescence and early adulthood to validate myself. My childhood was anything but happy. I dreaded going to school, because children made my life unbearable: the constant sniggering, unprovoked attacks, rude and mean gestures, all made me retreat into my own private solitude, within the narrow enclosures of books and crammed chambers of libraries.Subconsciously, I compensated for the shame by performing exceedingly well in academics and co-curricular activities, but from inside, I was screaming.
My fear of coming out during childhood was the same fear that everyone faces: of being rejected, abandoned, locked in one’s body and mind, denied love, and even life. It is true that our desire for validation makes us weak, but it is also true that sometimes our desires are stronger than who we are. I have reached a station in life where I no longer seek acceptance or validation from society or friends. I understand that love means unconditional acceptance; and those who truly love will always find their way back, no matter how far they stray. I also believe that the true purpose of life is not to be happy. Happiness is only a means to an end. Therefore, we must celebrate small victories, learn to live in the moment, trust against our better judgment, and love against all hope. We all have a greater purpose in life, which, like truth, is never revealed to us all at once, but in flashes, whispers, and insights.
It is true that there can be no growth in life without learning. For it is through learning that we uncover new realities and expand our mental horizons.One should take time out to read, travel, and educate oneself in different languages and disciplines.And when one has acquired sufficiently, one must give it back to those who desperately need it; everyone is a student and teacher in essence. The true spirit of being a teacher – and its greatest consolation – lies not so much in its perceived nobility as much as in the knowledge that despite the ordinariness of everyday life, in its wear and tear, its fortunes and misfortunes, the everyday struggles of the lonely and misunderstood, the frustrated and miserable, some find the power to care and better something beyond themselves, despite being, and remaining, their most ordinary selves.
The world doubles in size when we meet someone we love. We are profoundly changed, unsettled; a moment becomes a lifetime. Unfortunately, too often people mistake romance for love. Most romantic relationships end, not because two people are unable make it work anymore, but most of the time we keep pining over the initial thrill and excitement that falling in love provides; and when, after a while, things grow less intense and become increasingly quiescent, the heart, forever raging with a lust for unknown pleasures, rebels. People keep falling in and out of love all the time. Those who stick together know that loving can be hard. For love grows in countless disagreements, fights,moments of shared laughter, silences,small acts of kindness and empathy, and mostly, in absence.
Like any other institution forged on mutual love and trust, marriage is a sacred institution, but should not be held as the ideal for two people in a personal relationship to co-exist. A marriage is a social and legal contract that recognizes an intimate union between two people– two men, two women, or a man and a woman– and grants them certain exclusive rights and privileges. People in same-sex marriages (or relationships) cannot procreate with their partners, and if they desire to expand their families by having children, they either seek to adopt kids, or hire the services of a surrogate mother. More and more countries in the world are amending their laws to legally recognize same-sex relationships and surrogacy.
Meanwhile, in India, same-sex sexual activity, is a legal offence, and punishable with both fine and imprisonment of up to ten years. As a consequence, homosexuality continues to be both a taboo and a crime, forcing many gay men and women to lead their lives in shame and secrecy. Over the years, people have worked their way around to leading double lives– one in public and the other in private– but the mental, physical, emotional, and economic violence wrought by this can be devastating for some. Any country or state that punishes its people for expressing their identity and leading their lives with dignity is culpable of murder and inhuman torture of its citizens. I hope we live to see better times in India and rest of the world when homosexuality is no longer considered a criminal offence and people are free to choose their partners and lead a life of their own making.
I see that my letter has run longer than I intended it to be. If you have made it so far, I want to close by saying that some of us will have to fight all our lives; and that for many, having a partner or a family is only a distant dream. I have personally witnessed tragic accounts of many gay men and women who commit suicide at an early age, or take to alcohol and other forms of substance abuse to kill their loneliness and die a slow and painful death. The sadness of never being understood, loved, touched, and fully expressed can be overwhelming.
In the midst of where we are, globally and locally, I want to thank you for teaching me to be strong and courageous, and for showing me that money is one the most important things in life, for it can buy time, happiness, and even life. Staying away from family for long periods of time in hostile lands to ensure a privileged life for them is an act of greater love and selflessness that will never be written or talked about, for its harshness is hard to imagine and romanticise. I hope that one day I grow large enough to fill your shoes. Till then, I am nothing but a tragically young man in a tragically vast world, with only truth and honesty and sincerity to claim as his virtues. I hope that someday my life is of value to someone. I hope that someday, in a world where love is a much coveted– but more likely elusive– ideal, I find someone I love, and who loves me, and we both build a small life and a family of our own. I hope, dearly.
I wish you good luck, happiness, and a healthy life ahead.
इस लेख को हिंदी में पढ़ने के लिए यहाँ क्लिक करें।