Couple : Manish & Rajeev, Bangalore.
Thanks Mahesh Natarajan, Bangalore for connecting us with the couple
Where and how did you two meet?
Manish & Rajeev: At Good As You (GAY), Bangalore. It is a social group that meets every Thursday here in Bangalore.
Was it love at first sight?
Manish & Rajeev: Not exactly, but we did like each other from the beginning.
Who was the first to ask for a date? How did it happen? Tell us!
Manish: Though we both saw each other at Good As You meetings, we never talked. Rajeev was invisible for the first few meetings. When he started voicing his opinions in the discussions, I started to notice him. I passed my business card through a friend. When no calls/emails came, I decided to make a move and asked him out for a coffee.
Rajeev: Manish was very active in Good As You, I did notice him from the very first day, but I never spoke to him. When he asked me out, it was very unexpected for me. I was not able to handle the surprise and I turned him down.
Manish: I didn’t and managed to arrange a meeting the very next day.
Rajeev: Ha ha! He did. We went on a date on 26-Sep 2004. The tradition of coffee dates continues as we write.
Is this the first relationship for the both of you or have you guys have dated or been in relationships before?
Rajeev: This is my first!
Manish: I have been married and divorced. Though I have had homosexual experiences before, the failure of my marriage in my early years (25) gave me an insight into my sexuality. I have dated few guys before Rajeev.
How long have you guys been together? Relationships are lot of work, aren’t they?
Manish & Rajeev: Its is almost 8 years now. Unlike traditional straight relationships, where there are bindings through families, society and the law, the strength of a Gay relationship depends on the love between the two individuals. The need to be together is an emotional state of mind and can only be sustained by love, trust & caring for each other.
Are you guys out to your families? Do they know about your relationship? How did you tell them and what was their reaction?
Manish: Yes. Both the families are very well aware of our orientation. When my marriage failed, I had to come out to myself and my family in order to set my life and my sexual priorities. I was gay, divorced and felt like a new born human being. From that point, I have been very vocal about my sexuality and I have made it a point to share my divorce experience with others, so they would not make the same mistake. I have been able to counsel many who came to Good As You, and help them overcome the social pressures to marry a woman.
Rajeev: I had no plans to come out to anyone. My involvement in Good As You helped me clear the myths I had about homosexuality. My profession (in Public Relations) helped me realize that not every marriage is successful and it is not impossible to be single and happy. My relationship with Manish, also helped me understand and accept my sexuality. Our relationship strengthened by the day and I got comfortable being in a same-sex relationship. When my family started marriage talks, I knew that if I agreed to marry, I have to portray a false identity to the girl. All these factors, convinced me to come out of the closet. I came out and found myself explaining my parents what homosexuality is, all in a regional language! Manish’s family is very much clued on to our relationship. His family is very welcoming. I am part of all their get togethers, family festivals & occasions.
Manish: On the other hand, Rajeev’s folks never asked about our relationship explicitly. They do understand how important I am for Rajeev and they value it. I am part of all the activities that happen in his family. They have accepted our relationship in their own terms.
Do you guys live together?
Manish & Rajeev: No we don’t. We live with our respective families. This is by design as we feel we are responsible to support our parents. However, we make it a point to meet every day.
How do your friends, extend relatives react? Do they know?
Rajeev: Friends have always been wonderful. None of them had any negative reactions, ever. In fact many have become much closer to us after we came out and they treat us on par with other straight couples in the group. My relatives aren’t aware of my sexuality. They only keep bumping into Manish at all my family occasions.
Are you guys out at work? How do your colleagues react when they come to know about sexuality and/or relationship?
Manish & Rajeev: Not to everyone, but some of our coworkers know about us.
Unfortunately Gay relationships are mostly short lived, what is the secret behind your success?
Manish & Rajeev: Relationships are all about communication. We don’t leave things for the other person to guess. We speak our minds and don’t prolong an argument beyond a certain point. We have set our priorities of our professions, parents and life. Both of us understand and appreciate the other person’s view point. We also have great friends, mix of straight & gay, who make our life nicer.
From your experience, do you have any tips for other Gay couples?
Manish & Rajeev: Simplicity, clarity & communication is all that is required. All relationships demand compromises in some way. You loose some and you gain some. There is no issue that can’t be resolved if the two in the relationship want it to be resolved, so it is totally up to the couple to make it work.
Many gay couples are often worried about being discriminated by the mainstream society and remain closeted. How do you guys do it?
Manish & Rajeev: Traditionally, coming out to the ones you love the most is a dreadful experience. It’s is not about your sexuality, but the fear of losing that individual that makes ‘coming out’ a fearful experience. Once that barrier is cleared, one stops worrying about the opinions of others who really don’t matter to you.
Do you guys believe in marriage? Would you ever want to get married?
Manish & Rajeev: No. We don’t see a need for marriage. No relationship requires a third party’s testimony. The consent of the two is more important and we seem to have it.
Do you think in our lifetime India will allow Gay marriages?
Manish & Rajeev: Yes, may be in the larger interest we should. Marriage brings in a lot of status in the society. Marriage also has a lot of legal implications that many would want for themselves. So, we hope it happens in India.
Would you like to have kids?
Manish & Rajeev: Maybe. Children come with a lot of responsibilities. Unless, one of us is completely dedicated, we don’t want to jump into being parents.
Have you experienced first hand homophobia?
Manish: Yes. I had a colleague at work who was homophobic. He outed me to many at work. To his surprise many of my coworkers didn’t really care. He finally talked to me about my sexuality and told me it has been bothering him for a while. We talked and he was open to hear my point of view and was able to make himself comfortable with the term ‘GAY’.
If you could magically become a straight couple, would you do it? Why or why not?
Manish: No. I strongly believe my sexuality is not my complete identity. So it doesn’t matter who I like. With my current identity, I am still valued for what I can bring to the table not for what I do in my bedroom.
Pet name for your partner- Rajeev: *smiley face* Manish: Raj
Things you like most about your partner- Rajeev: Love and patientce. Manish: He stands by all my stupidities!
Things you like least about your partner- Rajeev: His work Manish: Sometimes,I find it difficult when he is drunk.
Your prefect Bollywood Gay pair would be- Rajeev: Hrithik and John Manish: Abishek and Ritesh.
Your favorite Queer movie- Rajeev: Dostana Manish: Queer as folk.