Bright sun rays blinded her eyes as Aadhya shifted to move the blanket away. The curtains had been neatly tucked away at both corners, letting in the beam that fell gently at the foot of the bed. A smile perked up on her sleepy face; stretching out her legs, she let them soak in the warmth of the sun. The week between Christmas and New Year is when the perfect kind of winter settles in. Lying on the bed, her mind quickly navigated through the days she had spent with her friends and family. She let out a deep sigh, wondering about the course and events, and how close we were to welcoming another year. But before she could pull herself out to freshen up, something loomed inside her. The fleeting moments that she found blissful, were sadly, very small and fragile.
Growing up, she was pampered like any other younger member of a family. But now, Aadhya knew something was different, her home had started to feel disparate. The more pretense she emulated, the more tired she felt for having to add a coat to not disappoint their sentiments. It was the hardest form of love, the kind when a person thinks they know what is best for her. With friends, she didn’t have to avoid anything. But then again, that freedom let her question the blandness she was confined in. Identifying as the only queer person in her family and friends made Aadhya feel more lonely than happy.
It wasn’t like she had to hide everything under the veil. Her mother called her ‘too stubborn’ for how she liked to dress up, but soon trained her mind from being bothered. It was just the one thing they didn’t know and Aadhya didn’t keep any expectations from them. She enjoyed that freedom being around with her friends, but quite a while later she realized she didn’t find any part of herself in them. No one reflected her thoughts, her ideas; they were poles apart.
“Are you feeling sick?” Aadhya’s mother broke through her thoughts.
She blinked twice as she replied arbitrarily, “I was thinking about inviting my friends over for-” before she could finish, her mother’s mixer grinder interrupted with an intense whirring.
“What did you say?” her mother squinted her eyebrows without looking at her.
“Can my friends come over for New Year’s Eve?”
“Did you forget about the guests who will be coming that day?”
Aadhya knew about the guests. It was a yearly tradition to have a get-together arranged, where her mother got to spend time with her cousins and long distant relatives. She tried to look normal and let out a chuckle. “It slipped out of my mind.”
Her mother rolled her eyes.
Surely, they weren’t of much importance to her.
Aadhya admitted she was walking in between two walls – on one hand, was her family, unaware of her sexuality and on the other, her friends who threw ‘it doesn’t matter who you love’ on her face and looked chill. She needed something quite more than that, but now that she was used to it, she hardly expressed her zeal. This time when she went out with them on Christmas, she understood the importance of having friends within the queer community. Sharing perspectives that were inclusive, fresh and a hope of spending better quality time to unravel the unfamiliar. She questioned herself more and more; why this feeling of an emptiness when she was around them? Aren’t they all of the same age with the same kind of interests? What does one require to feel whole? Guess it was more than what she had. She had known them for a long time and they, frankly speaking, didn’t know much about her. And slowly she figured out validation to be an integral part. Aadhya could only nurture it within her own, but how long before it fades and she crumbled?
In Aadhya’s world, there is nothing wrong with who she is. She has unlearned the concept of fitting into boxes. Everything is normal in her own bubble. Everything makes sense. She likes women. That’s it. Yet, it doesn’t. Especially around so many people where conversations arise out of a heteronormative consciousness. She feels disassociated from her environment immediately and the worst part is, she cannot bring herself to unload her own sense of being or drop her guard to talk about her anxiousness openly. It is a strong feeling of vulnerability, to develop doubts and be skeptical about the part you have always been so sure of. She remembers reading an article that said, “It’s easier to forget about your sexuality when it’s out of sight.” She understood it word by word. Immersing into light hearted banters and talking about politics was easier. But being too comfortable to pretend that a part of her didn’t exist, scared her the most.
It is strange to experience putting up an appearance that never detects the wrong, how easily one can adjust to the dreadful conditioning going on for years and years. So deeply rooted in our system that it takes ages to not put a blind eye towards it. And so easy to mock and spread hatred when it is a tough reality a person has to deal with.
As much as holidays should be accessible to everyone, it isn’t the case with her. It always feels like a rush. And she knows there are people like her who are not able to celebrate or are forced to stay with family who perpetuate toxicity and provoke anxiety in their child. She knew her parents were conservative on certain things, but they never pushed her to do anything without her will. She loved them for that. But the lack of awareness in them hindered her attempt for a conversation starter. Although she knew they would never be prepared to have this discussion, she mentally compared if she could ever leave her family and find people more affirming and open to process emotions. If it was possible to reach out and connect with those who struggled like her.
It always sounded ironic when her family guests would make a toast for the forthcoming year to be bright, full of warmth and goodness. It might be the same for them, but not for her. It never will be. She will constantly be on the lookout for places and people to explore more of herself, to involve in matters of discussion and learn more every day. A part of her keeps a lingering hope that one day her family members will get it – and in the same way, by extension, get her. Even if they don’t, she would still understand their point of view.
Aadhya exhaled a deep breath, silently pondering over her inner conflicts that felt heavier at present. She sat back and put on her headphones. Turning up the volume she quietly listened to the lyrics of the one song that never let her down:
“So raise your glass if you are wrong
In all the right ways
All my underdogs
Will never be, never be, anything but loud
And nitty gritty, dirty little freaks
Won’t you come on and come on and raise your glass
Just come on and come on and raise your glass..”