A few years later, I moved to Toronto, Canada to study. My mother apparently dug out more information than I did. When I was packing my bags, she sat next to me and said in a very hush-hush tone so that my father wouldn’t hear, “They [Canadians] have decriminalized Marijuana. Don’t do any of that stuff. But at least there you will be accepted for who you are. I am very happy for you. Don’t know if that will ever happen here. People are very backward and narrow minded like your daddy.” I couldn’t help smiling at her cuteness. I grabbed her in a loving embrace and said “You are the most adorable mommy in the world. Did I ever tell you that?”
“Don’t forget to pack all your new underwear too.” She quickly changed the topic with the most ridiculous point one could emphasize on when packing.
Living in Canada was a dream come true. It is here that I eventually met my better half, which is a story reserved for another huge article. I survived the first winter but by the end of which I was yearning for the warmth of Mumbai. Only in the absence of it did I realize the importance of the scorching sun. The following summer, my parents decided to visit me. Their arrival coincided with their twenty-eighth wedding anniversary and my twenty-fifth birthday, which are barely a few days apart. Celebrations were to be had. Festive moods were to be set.
However, my only dilemma was to explain to them that I lived in the gay village. Wait, it gets better. I had a full time night-shift job at the front desk of the swankiest gay bathhouse. ‘Mum, I work where men come for a quick f@#$’ was not the best way to explain my work life. On their arrival, I did what is known to be a gay Indian mans best talent; I faked my way through it, pun intended. Eventually, Church Street, the gayest street in Canada, became my father’s favourite street for evening walks and my mother insisted on joining me at the gay bars to watch drag queens perform. Talk about things running in the genes!
In the middle of August, towards the end of their visit, we ended up on the Toronto Islands for a picnic. At around five in the evening my best friend David, for whom the word ‘Queen’ is an understatement, called me, “Bee-atch where are you? The fetish fair has started. I am wearing ass-less leather jock straps and boots. You are walking Church Street with me. Come fast!” He hung up. No further arguments entertained. No space or time for an excuse to be heard. So, I turned around looked at my parents and said, “There is this event on Church Street that I want to attend. It has a lot of nudity and stuff. Do you guys want to join?” They just shook their head in negation. Phew!
Once we got back home, I stepped out, went to the bathhouse where I had my own locker stacked with my leathers. I was smart; I knew my parents would get into my closet. So for the duration of their visit, I shoved all my kinks in to the closet (locker). Doesn’t that sound ironic? Well, anyway, I got dressed in my leather shorts, harness, vest and boots. Just then, my boss – the bath house manager, walked by wearing an oversized white shirt and briefs. “Nice leathers”, he complimented me. The jerk was being nice for a change. “So what are you today? A corporate jock”, I said jokingly. My phone rang. It was my mother.
“Beta, your dad is busy watching TV. Can I come too?”
Pause. For a second I was wondering what is she getting herself into? But hey this is a grown up woman that we are talking about, responsible for her own actions.
“Sure”, I said.
I waited for her down at the lobby of my apartment building. I asked David to come there too. A few minutes later, David arrived with his ass hanging out, wearing military boots and a red scarf around his neck. In no time out emerged my mother, in a lovely Punjabi suit. She took one look at me and said, “You look hot.”
Aww. I caught myself blushing like a thirteen year old school girl. “You don’t mind David’s ass hanging out, do you?” I asked before he could turn around and flash it.
“Please he’s just like a son to me. He can be a nudist for all I care”, she assured me.
We walked around witnessing various scenes: boys on their fours on a f@#$ bench getting whipped, naked men walking all about just as nature intended, lesbians marching devoid of a top, the streets adorned with little shacks selling dungeon equipment, etc. My mother began lecturing me about sadism and masochism, of Freudian analysis that plunged me into a series of yawns. Thankfully we were swarmed by a bunch of boys from the Indian sub-continent who wouldn’t stop clicking pictures of the Desi Mother-Son duo out for Fetish Fair. I introduced her to my favorite Cher impersonator, Eddie Barnett, dressed very androgynous and a few other fellow fetish-mates.
She bought a sticker for charity that was labeled ‘Mistress’, from my friend Serge who was collecting $2 per sticker for the People With AIDS Foundation. I bought one that read ‘boy’. We wore our stickers proudly marching about Church Street, bar hopping and checking out a few kinky merchandises. Her trip was a blast indeed!
A year later, I called up my mother to ask for her blessings. I said, “Mum, Glenn proposed to me tonight.” She was aware of our relationship but I couldn’t wait to share this piece of news with her. My mum and sister were thrilled. Anagha, my sister, who I fondly call Ana, was busy buying a ticket to come over to not only attend the wedding but first ‘check out’ the to-be-groom while my mother anxiously awaited the report in Mumbai. Upon approval from Ana and subsequently mum, the ladies showered us with their blessings. “But make sure you have a small Ganesh idol at the wedding place and please pray to Him before you start your ceremony.” “Yes mother.”
A few days later my sister returned to India and showed my mum the wedding pictures. The following weekend I received a call from her. Her voice was mellow and I could sense she was teary-eyed.
“I’m sorry I missed the wedding. It looked so beautiful and I’m very happy for you. I promise to be there for Pride next year. We will march together.” Her sobbing had stopped. Those were the last words I heard from my dear Mother.
Three days later, my husband sat me down on a bench at the Riverdale Park when we were walking the dogs. He held my hands and started crying. He broke the news of my mum’s accident. She was hit by a school bus in front of the house. My father ran to her aid and she took her last breath lying in his arms.
I still see her around sometimes and other times I wonder what she used to smell like, wonder if I will ever again feel the warmth when she hugged me or the sound of her singing. But all I am left with is Luther Van Dross’ words, “If I could have another chance, another walk, another dance….”
A tribute in fond remembrance of Mrs. Bhojane, from her children Ankur & Anagha; and all the members of the queer community that were touched in some way by her warmth, understanding and practicality.
[Editor’s Note : This article has been previously published in The Queer Chronicle]