Queering Bombay : The Rain Time Set Up Conundrum

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So it is raining in Bombay, which is meant to be a good thing – the poetic sky, the music of the pouring water dripping on the virgin soil, the earth oozing with the most beautiful raw fragrances. Nope, not if you are in Bombay. If you are in Bombay the dull greyness transports you back to England and trust me apart from 377, the weather is the worst thing that England can offer. Along with the greyness, there is the inescapable flooded streets and stinky overdose of smoke and sewage. The only way that you can truly enjoy rains in Bombay is if you are locked in your apartment with only your better or worse half, sipping on copious amount of tea or wine and eating finger foods – neither of which you have had to cook, watching a romantic film (or action – Emily Blunt remember?), holding someone beautiful in your arms and gradually waiting for things to graduate into something less innocent.

Of course, if you are a law abiding queer citizen of India, this is only frustrating and not enjoyable, because past the sipping of tea, the only thing you can legally do is watch the movie. And of course, as always, things only get worse for a single gay woman. Recently, I was set up on another blind date in rainy Bombay, this time by well meaning straight folks. Yes the series of set ups continue to be the bane of my life – I find it quite astonishing how much it has become the predominant culture of Bombay life. Honestly, when I was thinking of moving back to India, my biggest fear as a gay woman was that I would never find a woman to date, what with not wanting to have a criminal record and all that, or at the very least being closeted about my criminal activities.

Only a week in Bombay was enough to make me really reconsider my parameters of fear. You see the newest social trend in Bombay is to set up gay people on dates, mainly blind ones. And it is not just your female gay friends who want to set you up with any and every other single gay woman they find. You’d be surprised at a number of straight folks who have taken up gay match making as a hobby. Be assured that ten minutes into any conversation where you reveal your sexuality, you will be informed of a perfect gay woman you must meet. I kid you not when I say that every person right from your former housemate to the owner of a restaurant you frequently visit or a former classmate you haven’t seen in ten years – everybody has a gay best friend or a gay colleague or their sister’s colleague’s best friend’s brother’s girl friend’s classmate who they feel should hook up with you.

Of course all of this might lead you to believe that you are the most eligible single gay woman in the country. Trust me, you shall fall flat on your face, if you so much as entertain that thought. You see, endearing as the efforts of your well-wishers may be, it does not emerge out of your eligibility but the Indian tradition of arrange marriages where we have to, have to hook two single people. And it is worse than the regular arrange marriage set up where at least you get to see a bio data and a picture and you can prepare a series of questions to ask. For instance what are your views on the real slim shady? Or who let the dogs out? Alternately you can always talk about Emily Blunt in the Edge of Tomorrow, because lets face it, there was nothing else to talk about in that movie. I mean, come on, Paris is being attacked by aliens which clearly means that they have lost their GPS and landed in Europe rather than Manhattan, destroying the Louvre mistaking it for Statue of liberty because of the French connection, which clearly means their Wikipedia isn’t working either and they are too dumb to realize this, in spite of which Tom Cruise needs 2 hours and multiple life times to kill them. He was really blunt! Meanwhile, I am sure US is already filing a law suit against the aliens for the breach of first right to refusal contract.

Anyway, I digress. So I was set up on a blind date with yet another woman in rainy Bombay. Navigating torrential downpour, which put Sandy to shame, I reached the venue and the first thing that happened was that I told her “ I am wet!” The second thing was that I realized what a mistake that was for something in her eyes told me that I was either going to be slapped or dragged in to the bathroom. Fearing that she may be an undercover cop and I would at least like to pretend to be a law-abiding citizen, I quietly put my cheek forward for her to slap. Once again, a bad mistake which I realized a second too late. Assuming that I was making a physical move as a follow up to my previous verbal comment, she did slap me. I was left alone, still wet, sipping on a Hot Toddy, lest I get pneumonia. And whether she was an undercover cop or recently come out woman, she knew how to use her fingers – my cheek can testify on that one. Lesson learnt – bring the ugly coyote on every set up to carry placards of extra information such as ‘this is a joke’ or ‘this is sarcasm’ or ‘no pun intended’.

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Abha Talesara is a writer, director and producer with experience in three countries – UK, US and India. After producing her first feature in New York, she recently moved back to Bombay where she set up her own company – Breakthrough Productions. When she is not working, she spends her time in search of fine whiskey and good beer and of course, failing at making sense of the contemporary Indian culture.
Abha Talesara

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