The motivation to write this article is mostly due to the comments generated in Atthai [Link], m-zee’s post [Link] and partly because I would like to recount the semi-biographical story of a cute TamBram kid – me (Believe me I was cute then)! Thanks Shri et al for kindling the fire. While reading the story, the details around Atthai’s life presented a very familiar picture. From kaapi ragam to madisar maamis to marukelara, I could visualize it all. And when the story hits the climax (Naughty minds, not that one!), though heart-wrenching it was, I felt a sense of vindication for my own queerness.
See, My parents were awesome and like every other middle class TamBram family told me to cram and encoraged me to be the geeky kid in my class. It was not weird by any means because from Aarti to Mythili to Ramanujam to Venkataraghavan, every kid wore glasses by 2nd grade and looked totally geeky.
[If you did not know, the TamBram families in my parents generation had a fascination for multisyllable names – the more the merrier and the more blessings we could invoke in just one name. For funsies try these, sriramachandramoorthy, thirupurasundari and abithagujambal. I pitied the teachers for they would be out of breath by the time they were done with the rollcall. Another observation is, we for sure do not name “Happy Iyer” and “Bunty Iyengar“. Its an adultery because the numerology aspect of the name would be in distress and mostly out of fear that the Gods will become crazy.]
My parents made it clear from first grade that anything but first rank will not fetch me a good college and ofcourse God’s Grace. That was another source of confusion for me. If God really has thought out everything for me, then why insult His intelligence? I could rather take it easy, right? Anyways I did not have the guts to ask this ever to my parents. And believe me, this thought is by no way original and it did not come to me until later. Because I was not the smartest kid and I could not reach numero uno, the arrival of marksheets were a constant source of Physical Training – for me and my mom.. I would run around the house and my mom would chase me with a broomstick. (Amy Chua, I do pity your kids[Link, Link].)
They put the thought in me that without education I was doomed. It did have a positive effect on me, although a little later in life. I found myself in the “Wall of Shame” when the JEE and Class 12 exam results were published. I found that I had failed to secure a seat into the only 2 permissible institutions for TamBrams– IIT and BITS-Pilani. I still managed to salvage some pride by graduating college and convince a University in the US to take me in for grad school. I do think of it as a Cinderella story. To protect the honor of the University, I will refrain from talking about it.
See, I grew up in a liberal-leaning conservative household. I was surrounded by people who told me how awesome it was to be a TamBram. They also told me that our families were very broad-minded. I did not know in what context but I was lucky enough to take that with a grain of salt. I was brainwashed to a certain degree and with my innocence I believed that was true. I spent more time solving differential calculus than I thought about anything else until of course I hit adolescence. So when I realised my Queerness was not going anywhere, I was shocked, ashamed and confused. It was intense because I was also ashamed of being a TamBram. I had not heard of a single soul like me. Long story short, it took me a whole decade to understand that being Queer and being TamBram can mutually exist. And it is for this same reason that I am writing this post.
Queer folks everywhere – be proud of who you are. You can take pride in your upbringing, heritage, nationality and what not and yet be proud and comfortable being Queer. Would you rather be an interesting, adventurous person or a mundane, normal, yet-another-kid-in-the-block person? Just remember, there is nothing called Normal in this world. Everyone is eccentric, everyone has their idiosyncrasy and everyone is weird. We, Queers just like to make it look a little more flamboyant. We “live” our lives. So live a gay Queer life.
And if you are wondering, yes! I love my filter kaapi (coffee) and the quintessential curd rice with aavakaai(mango) pickle. If Punjabis can drool over Butter chicken why shouldn’t we? 😀
PostScript: If this post is helpful to even one person, please contact me immediately. I have decided to pursue “motivational” speaking as a fulltime career. Deepak, Watch out! I am coming!!
Any existing Chopras in the (Gaysi) household, please support me, even if Deepak is related to you. I implore you to talk it out with me and we will strike a deal.