What it’s like to be gay in modern India

Sandip Roy in The Telegraph:

Sandiproybook1_3174850f“Just come back any time with madam to approve the kitchen design,” the beaming modular kitchen consultant told me. I explained patiently, again, that there was no madam around. I would be approving my own modular kitchen, cabinet colours and all. He smiled indulgently and said, “But we can wait few days if needed for madam.” When it finally dawned on him that there was no madam at all, he was aghast. I don’t know what shocked him more – that a man might approve a kitchen design, or that I lived alone, or that a man who lived alone wanted a kitchen.

When I first moved to the United States as a graduate student I could not wait to live by myself. The idea of a town where no one knew your name was just exhilarating.When I was moving back to India after 20 years in the US, many friends were aghast. How will you manage, they wondered uneasily. Twenty years of San Francisco can change you. How would I adjust to life back in a city without non-GMO Swiss chard, late-night carnitas quesadillas and gay bars? “Do they have gay bars in India?” well-meaning American friends asked me. Kolkata actually had the first Rainbow Pride parade in India back in 1999. But no, there were no gay bars here, though there were several men-only bars, no Leather Weekend street fairs with paddling stations, no same-sex marriages officiated by the city’s mayor. I knew and I understood that certain things I took for granted in a San Francisco lifestyle would just not work in India. Neighbours in San Francisco minded their own business. Neighbours in India minded your business. While the gay movement in the US was focused on marriage equality, in India it had its hands full trying to overturn a Victorian era anti-sodomy law that had hung around after the British had packed up and left. India had changed dramatically in the last decade when it came to visibility of gay issues in the media but there was still a fog of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell around issues of sexuality.

More here.