Maaz: A Longing

Maaz knew that the society he lived in, the value system that he existed within, had no place for gay people.

The first time he had felt attracted to a boy was when he was just eight years old. Maaz was playing football with his school friends when a young boy approached them with a big, friendly smile on his face. He had just moved into the neighbourhood and wanted to play with them. Maaz was immediately taken by the boy’s beautiful smile and big bright eyes. They had soon become best friends and spent all their free time together. The other boys noticed how close the two friends were and would sometimes tease them by calling them lovers and making kissing noises at them. Maaz and Faaris, Faaris and Maaz, the inseparable duo. To be fair, neither of them really minded the teasing. They knew they had a special friendship and they were happy just to have each other.

But life is unpredictable and the best friends were soon separated when Faris’s father, who had a transferable job, was once again transferred to another city. The two 14-year-olds embraced and cried desperately on their last day together. They promised to find each other and get together again sometime soon in the future. Even though he was too young to really act on his feelings, Maaz knew even then that he was in love with Faaris. But his mouth could never form the words to express that love and he never dared to cross over the boundaries of platonic love into something more. So that first love remained unexpressed and unrequited. A bundle of frustration that, ever since then, always weighed heavy in his heart.

As he grew older, in Maaz’s mind, the real Faaris transformed into a figure of idealised male beauty. Faaris had been taller than him, more athletic with a sturdy build. Faaris had been an excellent football player and the two of them had often played together, this shared interest drawing them nearer. Now that Faaris was gone, Maaz often had little crushes on similarly sporty boys as he watched them play football or kabaddi. Their lithe bodies, the dirt on their legs as they kicked the dust, the sheen of sweat covering their bodies, the flecks of grass on their faces and limbs, all seemed to excite Maaz into a secret passion.

Yet, Maaz never dared to express this passion in any way. No one ever came to know of his homosexuality. The people around him related homosexuality to extravagantly feminine behaviour or looks in a boy. But Maaz did not fit into that stereotype. He was sporty himself, one of the best footballers in his locality. Everyone wanted him on their team and no one who subscribed to these stereotypes would ever guess that he was gay. 

Maaz knew that the society he lived in, the value system that he existed within, had no place for gay people. Any homosexual expression would be immediately condemned as a sin. It would be seen as something so shameful and disgusting, so abhorrent and disruptive that most definitely his own parents would kill him and throw his body to the dogs. There would be no funeral, no tears. He would be simply exterminated, all traces removed, as if he was a pest, a cockroach. All this Maaz knew with absolute certainty and so he hid his true self from everyone around him.

Then, one night, when he had just turned eighteen, his parents announced that they had found a suitable girl from a well-off family for him and that an agreement had been reached between the two families. The engagement and wedding would take place within the next month. Maaz was still in school and had been in the process of applying to various colleges. He hadn’t given marriage a single thought. All he had thought of was applying to the farthest college and leaving home. He wanted a life, a job far away from the small town where he grew up. He wanted to spread his wings, live more freely and find his own way to a better place. But now he was expected to get married and join the family cement and stonework business. That night he fought bitterly with his parents but he was told that there was no alternative. A deal had been made; the family’s word given. The match promised to be a great business alliance as well. Maaz was told that it would not be honourable or feasible to go back on the given word.

That very same night he met the boy in the well. He hadn’t been able to sleep at night. The air seemed stale and he felt suffocated inside. So, he rushed out to the veranda to weep into the cold night. His sat on the edge of the family well and cried, bemoaning his fate to the starry sky. But when he turned his face down to the deep waters of the well, through the tears that blurred his eyes, it seemed to him he saw a young man stare bemusedly back at him. What should have been his reflection did not really seem so to him. To begin with, the boy didn’t seem to be crying. His face was contorted by the ripples in the water but didn’t he seem to be laughing at him?

Maaz was angry and berated the boy, “Hey you, stop smiling. What is so funny? Can’t you see I am in distress?” The boy replied, “My beautiful one, forgive me if I seem to be laughing at you. I am not. I am admiring you from down here. It is so rare to see a face as lovely as yours that my heart is happy to behold you. My pretty one, what ails you?” Charmed by the boy’s words, Maaz relayed all his pain to him. Every day, at the same time at night, Maaz would meet the boy in the well and converse for a couple of hours with him. It always seemed to make his heart feel lighter to do so.

Soon, though, words were not enough. Maaz wanted more, so did the boy. They confessed to each other their love and longing. But the boy expressed his inability to leave the well. And Maaz could not possibly think of a way to go down to him. And so, the affair continued with ardour unabated, unquenched.

The pressure was building, the engagement happened, the wedding was due soon. Maaz’s head was boiling. It felt to him that a leash had been put on him and like a dog he was being led down a path in life he had never planned to take. He felt lonely, trapped and depression set in. His only solace came at night when he got to see that beautiful face, like the white moon reflected in dark waters. Hounded by a sense of despair, one night, Maaz left his bed and came to the well. The boy called to him softly, lovingly, “I want you, my dear, I am alone in the well. I long to hold you.” And Maaz replied, as if in a dream, “I am happiest with you. I want to be happy always.” After saying this, Maaz turned his back to the world and jumped into the well.

Not the way we want a love story to end, but unless things change for the better, tragedies on a similar scale will keep occurring, in several silent and lost corners of India.

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Neha Singh holds an MPhil in English and has taught English literature and language at various colleges across India. She loves to read, write and travel. Her academic writings, feature writings, short stories and poems have been published in various online magazines and journals. She lives in Bangalore, India.
Neha Singh

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