I am Antara and this is my story. The reason you are reading this is not because I see myself as a victim or that I wish for you to see me a certain way. It’s so that those of you who do identify even a little bit with it, are reminded that it all gets better with time, and just a little courage.
It was simple until I lost my mother when I was 8 years old. Life has been throwing curveballs at me ever since. I dropped out of school in the 9th grade because we couldn’t afford the fees. Between the ages of 12 and 18, my life was all about surviving poverty and doing everything I could to support my family. I made my first buck by teaching a kid how to skate and with that money, I brought home a kilo of mangoes because we hadn’t had much to eat that summer. We survived months on end without any electricity and just soaked puffed rice with a pinch of sugar for taste, to eat. My father, whom we lost 8 months ago, was the sole source of strength.
I passed out of open school and since then, I haven’t looked back. While most of my friends were pursuing their higher education from top-notch institutes, I was busy keeping odd jobs to take care of myself and my needs. During this time, I battled loneliness, depression, and thoughts of suicide. I found escape and happiness in music and motorcycling. I chased the passion so hard that with absolutely no formal training, I became one of the youngest DJs in the city, so young that I couldn’t be permitted to perform in ‘night clubs’ and instead, did a lot of private events during the day! I never gave up that dream.
At this time, I was also fighting one of the greatest battles of my life – coming to terms with my sexuality and orientation. I felt a lot of shame in accepting who I was because I had never even heard the term ‘homosexual’ until then, let alone met someone who identified as one. I was constantly being told that I was merely a ‘tomboy’ and just hadn’t met the right man who could fuck the queerness out of me (dramatic eye roll)! As for me, it’s not like I had met the right woman either, who could make me feel comfortable in my skin, and not just think of me as a man trapped in a woman’s body and treat me as her dirty, little secret.
My coming out is a two-part story.
I was 14 years old the first time I came out. I was scared and dreading the fact that my then partner’s parents were going to ‘out’ me to my father. I came home prepared to end my life and wrote a letter to my father explaining how I had kissed a girl and her parents had made me feel fear for feeling what I felt! But, the way I felt for her was so natural to me! My father’s exact words were – “are you a lesbian?” – and I remember howling and crying in pain for I had NO UNDERSTANDING of this word! It felt like an insult! Like it was something disgusting! It was such a sad day. I had never met another queer person and had no idea how to process whatever the hell it was back then.
I was 21 the second time I came out to him and I was confident about my sexuality and identity by then. I remember him asking me about the way I dress and why I was so androgynous. I decided it was time to come out – with pride and without shame. My life was more important to me than what my family would think of me. “Dad, I am a lesbian and I have always been. I am sorry I can’t be the ideal straight daughter you thought I’d end up being. Please forgive me and if you can, accept me for who I am without shame. It would mean the world to me.” It took him around a minute to understand and about 2 years to accept me with respect. We didn’t see eye to eye but he didn’t think it was ‘wrong’. He, in fact, told me that it would be safer and better to live abroad and that he didn’t have the strength to stand by my side and fight the entire society. Well, at least the battle at home was won. I decided to take on society by myself. Haha!
What helped, you ask? I came across a tiny community in Hyderabad that consisted of a handful of people in 2008. They helped me come to terms with my identity & sexuality. I was also very blessed to have an amazing, nurturing and accepting circle of friends, who taught me to love myself.
Today, I represent the LGBTQIA+ community as one of the only two out-and-proud lesbian DJs in the country, performing at some of the country’s biggest clubs. It still doesn’t change the everyday battle of ignorance but we got to do what we got to do, right? Haha!
I also chased the big motorcycling dream and bagged a place in the Limca Book Of Records for conquering Khardung-la pass on a 110cc scooter!
I couldn’t have done it without learning how to love myself, learning from the bad times, and having the support of the best kind of friends. Though my corporate career had started to take flight by now, there was a lot of homophobia I had to face and a lot of good work opportunities I had to turn down because of discrimination.
Today, I am so happy to be at a workplace that doesn’t discriminate and gives everyone the equal opportunity of employment. Through all these battles, I am blessed and grateful for a roof over my head, 3 square meals on my plate, a loving partner, genuinely amazing friends, a very supportive family and most importantly, all the lessons learned. If there was a skill I could add to my resume, it would be the skill of surviving.
Our brain is a boon and a bane. All that’s there to do is acknowledge the past, take the hard lessons and turn them into our greatest skills or strengths.