Dinner is done at my sister in law's place and we are waiting for ice cream, when the cutest-niece-in-the-world (all of nine then) announces,
"I know The four-letter word."
Her mom is taking the ice cream out from the freezer, she asks, "Yeah? Which one?"
The role-model-for-my-kids-nephew (then eleven) looks uncomfortable, "She read it in the school bus, I didn't tell her!"
The cutest-niece-in-the-world: I know but I will not tell you, you have to guess!
"Okay what's the first letter?" her mom asked.
She won't tell.
Role model squirmed. He is older and fears he will be blamed for her increasing vocabulary.
My sister in law: Is the last letter 'K'?
The cutest-niece-in-the-world: NOoooo (Delightedly dimpling because nobody can win her challenge.)
My sister in law: And the first letter is not F?
The cutest-niece-in-the-world: No!! (laughing )
My sis in law: Okay we give up you tell us ...?
But she had a lot more fun before she told us which FOUR letter word she had learnt!
The cutest-niece-in-the-world: The word is 'homo'!!! It's the worst four letter word, the worst of all, the most worst ...
My sister in law: Is it a bad word? Who told you?
The cutest-niece-in-the-world: I know.
My sister in law: What does it mean?
The cutest-niece-in-the-world: Something very bad!
My sister in law: Homo is not a bad word, it is short for Homosexuals. If a boy is Homo it means he can fall in love with another boy, or a girl with another girl. We can also call them GAY.
The cutest-niece-in-the-world: How can boys love boys?
My sister in law: They can. Just like boys love girls.
That was the first time I heard the word HOMOSEXUALITY being explained.
But I forgot about it.
'Such things' only happened in 'the West'. Just like divorces and child abuse.
I never noticed that a friend was struggling with the knowledge and guilt of finding himself attracted to other men. He couldn't understand why he wasn't 'normal'.
And he could discuss this with no one. But he tried.
We were all busy with our own lives. And I remembered all these instances much later. Like the time he was helping me shop in Delhi, I had to collect saris given for fall and pekoe ... and we notice two boys rolling in the grass in a Park.
Friend: They must be gay!
IHM: What nonsense! We don't have gays in India!
Friend: Gays can be everywhere. It's the way some people are born ... (a short lecture).
IHM: - (Not bothered) Yeah maybe .... but can't imagine lol ... anyway..
Friend: If you knew someone is gay will you dislike them?
IHM: - (Now thinking...) How would it be any of my business? No, I might defend them in fact. It's their life! They are hurting nobody.
Friend: Being gay is considered a crime in India.
IHM: I don't believe in victimless crimes. (But it never occur to me that this friend was talking about himself!)
Many years later he left India and is now happily settled with a wonderful partner. Most homosexuals have the toughest time convincing their family and friends that they are normal, that they are not perverts, that they are not criminals either.
That BEING GAY IS NOT A CHOICE ANY MORE THAN BEING BORN A GIRL OR A BOY IS A CHOICE. You are born that way.
'Honeymoon Travels Pvt Ltd' shows just how traumatic it can be. And how our prejudices force gay men to marry women and then there are two unhappy people, and a society satisfied that everyone is happily 'married' and settled.
I am sure it must be much worse for lesbians.
Yesterday when I agreed in a comment that Muthalik is gay ... a commenter said I was prejudiced ... this post is to say, I am not prejudiced.
Most Indians even today, are as ignorant as I was, and as this class-five-dropout Muthalik probably is. He is against girls and boys being seen together, but he is not as we joked, supporting the gays and lesbians who may wish to celebrate yet another four latter word, LOVE - on Valentine's Day.
I guess, as far as he is concerned they do not even exist.
But I am sure all the rest of us can see that our fellow citizens' sexual orientation is no business of ours.
Let's support the Consortium of Pubgoing Loose and Forward Women's Pink Chaddi Campaign for all equal citizens of India.
Edited to add: Today's news, Chennai gets first Lesbian helpline.
And another brilliant post by Amit of Mashed Musings.