Tuesday, August 28, 2012

You and I: The poetry with

A piece I had written earlier for Prathibimb in 2010.
A celebration of love for another, the heart-warming desire for another body and the discovery of the ‘I’ through the ‘you’. Sometimes love, in its ever-intriguing physical and bodily form, is the most palpable and understandable of feelings. 

I looked into your eye. I am. Just the way I am. Your eyes looking at me. You are. You are the most beautiful being I’ve seen. I see your eye sty, your blackheads, your acne, your dimple, your stubble, your ear, your eyebrows, your marks, your hair, your skin, your contours, your body. Your glance. You looking back at me, reminding me that I am. 

As I look at you, I realize my own opacity. Who am I? Who am I but in relation to you? I am me for you. As I am with you, I am not the same person I was, before I was with you. I am a mystery to myself as much as you are a mystery to me. The more I want to know you and lift your veil of mystery, the more I am aware of our distance.

Who is this life behind this body? The person behind this skin. I look at you with wonder. I experience the beauty of your body. Where are you? Where in your body are you? My arms are wrapped around your body as we sit on the couch. I feel the warmth and the touch of your body against mine. Our touch reminds me that I am on you and you are under me. Yet, where are you? Who are you?

This moment of being with you inebriates me. I feel charged by the grandeur of your body. You overwhelm me and I am blinded by you. I long to be within you and lost in you, so that we are not you and I, but we, where both, you and I, are not two entities, but one. Yet I know that it cannot be, because you are and I am. We are separated by the exterior of our skins, whose impermeability refuses to climax into the fusion of ourselves. We will be distinct, no matter how much we desire to lose ourselves with each other. We are in this moment, where time converges on the now. If only we could be this way, eternity would be a moment. Together we would be lost in the comfort and bliss of each other. 

And yet, as we are together, I sense that I am all alone. As I look into your eye, I see you are not here. The feel of your touch seems distant. Probably, you do not feel the same way as I do. Probably, you are in a moment and time so far away from now. And yet, for me, this moment is beautiful. I am thankful that my life was a prelude to this moment, where we are, just this way. You and I.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Coming Out at the Work Place

This post is meant to be read as a piece of fiction. Honestly, I have to confess that I really can’t afford to step on anyone’s toes, knowing that matters such as these are of a highly volatile nature. Any resemblance to a real incident might have only worked its way into this text at my subconscious level. After all, I’m sure you’d agree that it’s impossible to write bereft of any experience.
Those of you who work in a corporate set up would have definitely been subjected to experiences when your managers brag about their wives and children. You can’t fail to notice that twinkle in their eyes, the swell in their chests and the raised chins. Not forgetting the zillion times they make the ‘wives at home’ vis-a-vis the ‘manager in the office’ comparison during meetings and their pep talks! But if you’re a guy and you dare mention your boyfriend, immediately their faces contort into grotesque sneers. Often, over training sessions new entrants at my work place inevitably inquire whether I'm married and I reveal that I'm not, but would definitely like to get married to my boyfriend sooner or later (though, I must admit, I still haven't broached this topic with my boyfriend yet nor do I know how he'd react.)

On a lighter note, going out with some chums for a sutta break or chai can be a lot of fun! There are those guys who can’t resist telling you how ‘ripe’ and breathtakingly ravishing a particular woman in the office is. Apparently, the woman’s scent or her gait almost makes them wet, sorry, melt in their pants. I often wondered how they could possibly feel that way, until I happened to point out to them a guy who had sturdy thighs and a delicious chest chair! 
Knowing my temperament, I usually like to have a book beside me at all times. There are times when I have to wait for ten long minutes or more for my computer to reboot and I have a paroxysm of guilt that I’m wasting time, doing nothing. These guilt trips concerning time wastage only heightened after watching Andrew Niccol’s In Time, where the protagonist’s mother died only because she fell short by a few seconds of time, which meant life in her case. One day, it so happened that the book on my desk caught somebody’s attention. Little did I realize that a title such as Undoing Gender would ruffle anyone’s feathers. So I was discreetly advised not to get a book which had a title (like the word “gender”) that makes a political statement. I was somehow given to understand that if I sported the book with a contentious title, I was advocating gender ambiguity. And ironically, it seemed perfectly alright when the same person had a gender related discussion with someone of the other gender. So much for undoing gender! These little exchanges might seem rather trivial and mundane. But they also reflect how constricting our language and interactions are on a daily basis. Anything that upsets this forced internalized normalcy is often met with violence or is subtly ostracized if not penalized.

Image taken: Times of India
At least at the workplace, after being out to my colleagues, I assumed that things would be rather smooth! Yet, I was sadly mistaken. Of late, I’ve had to share my cab with a particular homophobe. {Perhaps he isn’t a homophobe, but he merely dislikes my straight hair.} And to make things worse, he’s got a certain designation which has not only put me on the not so sunny side of things but has also earned me a cab full of others who share the same feeling as the Daddy Bully Homophobe. {I hope I’m not pushing it too far in painting myself as a victim of sexual discrimination.} Initially I took it in my stride that I cannot expect everyone to like me. I tried to overlook their not wanting me to sit beside them and their smirks. However, now I’m honestly beginning to feel scared. I am uncomfortable that they know the place where I live. Their cumulative acts of arrogance and bravado behind a facade of normality unsettle me. This has upset me so much that at present I have five ulcers in my mouth, something that happens only when I’m agitated (and I have never had more than two). Perhaps, I’m worrying too much and compounding my own fears. I know at this point in time, I have to put an end to this. And I will have to stand up for myself. My first step is to admit that it’s happened to me and it’s real. That’s why I have written this post as well. And I know what I have to do next. Speak out to them (and as simple as it might sound, I pray that when the moment arrives I would be able to.)

I have to make sense of this; I know this is certainly not right. That these acts of intolerance might only increase in frequency, if I don’t find a healthy way to survive this ordeal. Yet, I’m also sure I would get passed this. Perhaps I have to find newer ways of relating to these people. I refuse to admit defeat in this little battle of misunderstanding and ignorance. I believe that under the veneer of toughness, there’s also kindness that we all share. And that’s one thing which gives me a lot of hope. 

(I hope you did not let your emotions get carried away; this is certainly not a cry for sympathy nor is it an attempt to assassinate anyone’s character, living or dead. As I said in the disclaimer, you have to read this as a piece of fiction.)

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Opening up: A Jesuit and his Mentor

From: Renita*

Date: Thu, Aug 2, 2012

Subject: Letter

To: Andy Silveira

Dear Andy,

I thought about you today, a lot. Quite apart from the fact that I've been meaning to get in touch and ask how you were. And now I'm about to bore you to tears, so is might be a good time to stop reading what may turn out to be a pretty long message.

A couple of weeks ago, one of my students came to talk to me. He's a novice sent here to do his science undergrad. We got to talking, and for the first time I saw among my students a Jesuit who wasn't afraid to ask questions, who reads and thinks for himself. You get the picture. So I did what we do in the English department here with people who want to talk. I took him out for coffee.

He talked. A lot. About growing up, becoming a Jesuit, falling in love and not being certain about being a Jesuit. A lot. Mailed me after to tell me it was the first time in two years here that he could talk to someone. So I told him anytime he needs someone to talk to he should feel free. Which he did. So feminism happened at some point, and race, and sexuality. Which is when he asked me, over an email, if I was gay.

I met him today, a couple of hours ago. Wasn't sure whether to tell him or not and then he brought it up again. And somehow I felt I wasn't comfortable with the dishonesty of not telling him, though I couldn't see what difference it would make. So I told him.

It was one of the saddest things I've ever done. Suddenly, this human being, who seemed perfectly comfortable around me, turned to me with a mixture of disappointment and pity and told me 'but you can't be, you're too good to be that.' So I asked him what he meant. He meant I seemed like such a nice person, intelligent, could talk philosophy, could talk oppressive systems, and here I was, betraying it all by being gay. So I asked him why it was a betrayal, why it was a bad thing. And he replied with the view of the Catholic Church on it. Same person willing to otherwise question imposed views, same person willing to risk disobedience, now tells me that for normal people it's easy to disagree. But a Jesuit knows that the church takes these issues seriously, considers all the social implications, and therefore whatever decisions it arrives at are final and they're good enough for him.

I sat there feeling bad for him. I could see that he wanted to continue liking me, being comfortable with me, but the knowledge of my being lesbian was hanging between us, giving him a look of unadulterated misery. So I did the only thing I could do. Told him to think things through and make up his mind for himself what he thinks.

And now I reached home and I don't know what I feel. I spent an hour there trying to figure out how to make it easier for him, but what I feel is something I didn't have time for. What words do you use to describe what you feel when someone looks at you with pity, as if you are genetically deformed? I mean, my dad told me it was abominable, it was a disease, and nobody in my family had it, so I couldn't either. And that made me angry. It was easy. This makes me infinitely sad and something else. I don't know what. Like having swallowed a ball of fur and feeling it in the pit of my stomach.

Why am I telling you this? Cause I don't have the need to juggle faith and sexual identity, mine or anyone else's. It's easy, cause what I believe in is freedom and trying really hard not to hurt people. I can't begin to imagine what it's like trying to reconcile gayness with god, for someone who for twenty five years has been secure in the belief that they won't ever need to.

I'm sorry I made this so long. If you've reached this far, thank you. Hugely.

Be well,


From: Andy Silveira

Date: Fri, Aug 3, 2012

Subject: Re: Letter

To: Renita


I can only imagine what you might be feeling. However, I'm sure that the current discomfort that both of you are experiencing is a growing experience. You'd be feeling angry and hurt because the response you anticipated backfired. And he'd be feeling angry and hurt because you were exactly what he didn't want you to be. (An avatar of Beelzebub in human form!) But, I'm sure for a guy like him, what you told him was exactly what he needed. You struck the right chord by opening up yourself to him and challenging him to take his own stance.

People of faith often regard themselves as self-righteous which is bolstered through their relationship with "their" immaculate, omniscient god. And by this equation, those who do not share a similar relationship with "their" god only evoke pity or, at best, their concern.  A person who is grounded in faith may not call into question anything that threatens her belief. Questioning her faith, which she has been constantly absorbing since childhood is a process. And being ready to position herself against the echoes of her church’s teachings involves risking her comfort zone of familiarity and apparent security.

And more so, for someone like this young Jesuit, who has decided to live his entire life by the dictates of his faith. For him to reconcile your sexuality with his god, would also involve rethinking his own sexuality which he has assumed as given. And this might open unforeseen possibilities for him which, at this moment, he might not be prepared for. Also, you have challenged the horizons of the Others in his life whom he considers worthy of his recognition. This would involve making changes within his personal world. What you have shared has made him realize that there are fissures within the foundations of his own belief. I believe it will take time for him to sort this out. A week, month/s or perhaps years! However, I do hope it'd happen soon. And even if it doesn't happen, I sure that this experience would make him realize the limits of his fragile belief system.

Renita, you should be feeling shamelessly wonderful about yourself. Without this Jesuit knowing it, you have been an angel in his life. A messenger of hope and promise. You have challenged him with an invitation which he would either have to accept or deny. Irrespective of what he decides, you should consider yourself fortunate, because at some level, by making yourself vulnerable to him, you have grown stronger and, hopefully, wiser in understanding the way people act and react.

Thank you so much for sharing this experience with me. And you don’t have to be apologetic for sharing this. This is your own story, your own reality, which is infinitely more arresting than the ideal possible lives that we seek.



* Name changed in order to protect the identity of the persons involved.