My Father’s Son

[Editor’s Note : Worldwide 11th October is observed as National Coming Out Day (NCOD). An annual civil awareness day to recognise members of the Queer community.]

“I used to joke that I had one leg in the closet, and one outside. All my close friends knew but no-one at home knew. Though my father and I are extremely close and I knew my parents would accept me eventually, I didn’t want to hurt them. I cannot talk about my childhood without talking about my father’s struggles. We used to live in a chawl near Khar, and now he manages his own company. He is the quintessential self-made man but also the perfect father. When I turned 18, my father told me of the angst he suffered when my mother would not live in the chawl with him. She would stay with her parents, and we only visited my father at weekends. He felt that he had been deprived of me during my childhood years. Nobody knew of the hurt he carried with himself. I keep telling him that it did not matter how many days he’s been with me, the fact is my whole nature has been modeled on him, and in that way his love had won over everything else.

“Realizing my sexuality was a long process. People used homophobic cuss-words that would make me cringe. For a while I harbored a lot of guilt. I always questioned myself, what would my parents think? I knew that my sexuality was completely normal and that it was no use fighting my instincts but for a long time I lived two lives. The incident that turned my life upside-down took place last month.

“My sister discovered phone messages that I had written to my lover. I spoke to her, she seemed understanding and I thought the matter was settled, but later she told my father. It was my closest friend that my father spoke to first, on the condition of secrecy. He didn’t want me to know that he knew while he was ascertaining the facts of the matter. Of course, my friend told me. I couldn’t imagine what my father was going through. I know that he could be completely open-minded, as also extremely orthodox. I knew that he would go through tremendous pain only because he loved me. I was afraid he would over-react in some way. One of my gay friends had his parents hire a detective to spy on him, and they even filed a police case against his boyfriend. I wondered if my father would do the same. I soon realized that my father was processing the situation in a very dignified manner. The first week was difficult because I had to behave as if everything was normal. His jokes had disappeared, our breakfast conversations had a certain tension. He started questioning me when I went out. I curtailed my outings, because I didn’t want him to wonder about what I did, and conjure up mental images that he couldn’t deal with.

“By the second week I noticed a change in his demeanor. I knew he was doing a lot of reading, because he told my friend that he had read homosexuality was normal, but those articles were written by gay people. I was amused. He kept trying to pair me with a female friend of mine. He was making light of the situation, but I was loving my father all over again for not confronting me, for not throwing me out. He again brought up his angst about not having me with him as a child. I told him, “You don’t know how many times you have saved me. In my teenage years, when I was confused, when I was down in the dumps, there are things you’ve said that have bought me back.” Recently when I did something silly due to a lapse of judgement, he told me, “You have always been such a sensible boy, how can you act so stupidly?” And I knew then, his faith in me had been restored, and a line as mundane as that signified that much.

“When my father and I are together, it’s like ‘The Misadventures of Father and Son.’ Something has to go wrong. We get lost in our conversations, we miss a turn on a highway and then have to take a long U-turn, we miss flights. No matter how old I grow, I will always be a boy to him and I love being that boy. Now the closeness that was lost was back. This has happened without any direct confrontation—the tension was always subliminal, an undercurrent. I had to give him time. I think my father’s love for me has not changed, but now he truly loves me for who I am. We didn’t need to discuss it because we are two pieces of the same puzzle. We fit together.”

As told to Vikram Phukan.

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