Pooja is a good friend of mine who lives in Mumbai. Having worked for me for over a year at an American Bank, she choose to be on her own and has been reasonably successful at that, with her fledgling entrepreneurial venture, her staffing consultancy.
Pooja was on chat with me the other day and said that her neighbor got married. I don’t know who her neighbor was, but wondered what was wrong with her! She went on and said, got married to a lady! I knew for a fact that Pooja had lost it! Wondering whether it was the effect of some weekend partying or the stress of being on her new venture that was getting to her, I kept getting on with work shaking my head in disbelief wondering if Pooja was mad before I hurriedly typed in a few notes to her before running off for a meeting.
I returned after a couple of hours and Pooja had left a series of messages for me. I read through and realized that her neighbor was actually a SHE and she had gotten married to another SHE! Her neighbor was also the HE in the marriage!
Being a very gracious person, she obviously went on to greet her neighbor and also had a chance to see pictures of the wedding. I don’t know if she got invited to the wedding or not, but what she had to say of the pictures she was very reminiscent of any other Indian women. Shaking her head in utter disbelief and wondering what the world was going to, she is a today a worried lady.
Chatting on, I asked her what was so “scary” about the whole thing. She said her little daughter; all of 3 odd years old was that neighbor’s favorite kid in the apartment complex. That put it in perspective for me. To make matters worse for her, her daughter happens to be in that stage of life where kids are all over us with questions! Questions that sometimes put us in a spot as we don’t know what to say when we get asked those questions! The little kid obviously heard that the aunty next door got married and was looking all over her house for the uncle!! No one told the poor kid that the aunty was actually the uncle in the wedding!
The news obviously spreads! In a society that is still waking up to the realities of homosexuality amid law makers around the world who are confused on whether to let this pass or otherwise, Pooja’s maid is one of those who is yet to recover from this shock. Coming from probably the lowest social strata of Mumbai, the maid apparently spent 3 hours in Pooja’s house holding her head in disbelief and wondering whether she needs to continue working for the neighbor, that she’s worked for nearly 3 years now. An educated Pooja and the worried mom that she is, is equally baffled and doesn’t know how to react.
I’m not out to pass a judgment on what is right or wrong! I just spare a thought for a good friend who’s been hit by a reality, a reality that you would typically hear / read of happening in California or somewhere else in Europe, but this time literally at her next door.
I once happened to stray off into the SOHO area of London on my last trip there, a short walk from the Oxford Street shopping area. It was one of those days when I just went wandering aimlessly, (certainly not looking for anything) when I quickly realized that I was on a street very popular for the gay men on London. Young boys were howling and screaming, expressing their love for each other on the streets. Waking alone, I felt my heart palpitating and the fear of being at risk, the risk of being physically assaulted maybe! Something that I’d never ever dreamt off ever. The ensuing 5 minutes were probably the scariest 5 minutes of my life.
More recently, we had an overseas visitor whom we were hosting. As a courtesy, my boss had to take him to dinner one of the days. My boss called me and asked me to join in. It was kind of last minute for me and I asked him why me? He explained that he was gay and my being along made him feel more comfortable! It was a hurried affair and both of us used the first available option to get back home early.
Being able to relate with what Pooja is going through as a result of my 5 minute trauma, I wonder how we are going to start accepting this new world reality. A recent Hindi movie, Dostana had my wife and me in splits. Being a very silent person, I’ve never ever seen my wife laugh so much ever! While the fun part of the movie has us in splits, we need to quickly understand that the changing preferences are probably a new world order. With laws likely to come in around this, we need to understand that people are people at the end of it and we need to respect individual choices. It’s probably a lot like someone smoking or drinking!
Incidentally, Pooja ensures that her doors are firmly bolted at all times and talks about this to all her friends. Amused at what we hear and enjoying a good laugh, we rag her saying “Pooja’s neighbor is gay!”. The trouble however is that the changing world can throw up one such neighbor for you anytime!
Image Credit: TNT Blonde
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