Melusina stood, let her eyes drift defiantly over her classmates and her teachers and wondered if in all that din anyone would actually hear her. ‘I am,’ she started in her usually warm, now slightly shaky voice, ‘a painter, an excellent cook…’ No, she thought to herself, I can actually say it and no one will hear. Then I would have said it and so I can stop feeling dishonest, but nothing will happen, nothing will change. ‘I am,’ she went on cautiously, ‘a lesbian.’ Silence struck the hour. Melusina went numb. ‘Logarithm, she said,’ someone whispered at the back of the class. ‘No, it was Lenin,’ another tentative voice tried. ‘Lesbian, she said “lesbian”,’ a horrified voice (was it the teacher’s) was heard and the guy sitting right next to her suddenly popped up and fell between benches. But, Melusina thought to herself in resignation, I just said I was a lesbian. You needn’t worry any more.
There are hushed conversations on the corridors when she passes by. Hushed conversations between worried parents and her class teachers. What if… our children get corrupted, she seduces them, what if… Hushed conversations between teachers… what shall we do? Counseling, maybe. It is all hushed.
It is not surprising that the moment one is faced with the prospect of talking about one’s sexuality, the first instinct is to take refuge in fiction. The subjective experience, recorded in the first person—in acknowledgment of the conventions of the autobiographical—rings false; one is suspicious of interpretations of one’s past, however well-intentioned, however temporary. The most ‘truthful’ experiences remain the ones projected into fiction, acknowledging the fact that ever since they happened, while they were happening, even, they’ve been in a continuous process of being written.
September 2004 marked, without quite realizing it, the event of the rupture and redoubling. The girl who walked into the principal’s office that day had panic and confidence coursing through her veins alternately. She’d been preceded into the room by her fiance and was already beginning to lose patience with his habit of answering her questions for her. The principal, a smiling, bearded man wrapped in amber light from the window behind him invited her to sit and convince him. Her fiance all but forgotten, she told the man behind the desk where she came from and why she was there—literature was her passion and she wanted the space, the freedom to think, away from well-meaning people trying to steer her life towards the straight and narrow path. Why would a random Indian city, not famous by any means as a centre of learning, be the place she chose for that? Any place thousands of miles away, too expensive for people to come visiting would have done. She didn’t say that out loud and the next day she was in class.
She was, to all purposes, a typical nineteen-year-old, more intelligent than most and perfectly aware of it, in love with interpretation and random forms of thought, but otherwise inclined to dream in cliches. She had her work cut out for her: she’d study and be the best in everything she cared about, but beyond everything else, she’d make the best wife when the time came, sacrificing everything for her hardworking husband and three brilliant children. In the meanwhile, she was looking after the flat and spending a lot of energy not admitting to herself that even a live-in relationship was rather too taxing and too removed from the freedom she’d come in search of. Such admissions are rather difficult without a room of one’s own. And until such a space was built, her only refuge were her mornings spent in college.