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For a gay Indian woman who has lived most of her coming out years abroad, coming back to India can be pretty daunting – I have done that once. The only thing more challenging is coming back to India after having come out to your parents – I am doing that now. For one, there are no more of those “best friend” stay over nights. Indeed your bedroom doors are pretty much closed to your actual female best friends. And if dare you bring a woman over, your zealous, enthusiastic cousins – the ones that really want to support you – will have a seven course meal ready just for high tea. Endearing as it may be, you can only hope that they don’t already include them on your family group on whatsapp.
And while you wade through this enigma called the Great Indian Family – which by the way includes not only three generations plus of your seven aunt – uncle-ed blood relations, but also all those employed by your family and the family doctor and the family beautician who are all too keen to associate everything from your short hair to your slip disc and your jet lag to your gayness (Its amazing how your life seizes to be anything but gay) – you are still negotiating the quantum break down of the space-time paradigm.
Both space and time as you understand it, as well as explained through most complex physics, disappear when you land in India. For one, you have time travelled to 1865 and it only took you 20 hours in a tin box with flat beds and unlimited single malt whiskey. Don’t be fooled by the smart phone and whatsapp capacities in the street urchin – this is not 2014 and nor is it the 1930s which the election of the current fascist government might lead you to believe. Yet on the other hand – and here in lies the mind boggling paradox – the absolute lack of punctuality makes one feel that the British never colonized this country.
You might reach work at 10:30 am, navigating miles of parking lot – which the Mumbai roads resemble, be assured that you will be waiting till noon when somebody finally shows up. For a meeting at noon, your boss might show up at 2.30pm if he feels like it or if his animals permit him to. And if you are late someday, do not apologize – that is difficult to comprehend by the argumentative Indian who might feel upset at having lost an opportunity to, well, argue. Eventually you will learn to not look at your watch. A better approach is to move the hands of your watch to the time that a said event was meant to take place when it actually does take place. This flexibility of your watch and a certain amount of self imposed appearance of dumbness will save you a lot of inner angst.
As far as space is concerned, I am not quite sure if anyone in Mumbai really understands space to mean anything more than the long key on your keyboard or the black thing from where the aliens come, if at all. And for some reason personal space – physically, mentally, emotionally – does not exist in India, period. This is true more so if you are a single gay woman with a lot of female queer friends who are in relationships. They become pseudo parents –actually worse than your parents, and take it upon themselves to make sure you don’t remain single, a little too enthusiastically – true story and a very recent one. In fact a little too recent to be shared. And now I need to see my therapist. Ciao