Personal Stories

The Search

I didn't know what I was feeling but I knew the 'how' of it. I knew that I was more drawn towards men and not the women in the movies we watched. How I was not having love-affairs, crushes or those butterflies of lore when I came across a good-looking girl in school? What I wanted to know was the 'why' behind it all?

Have you ever been afraid of a Google search?

I am not talking about the excitement disguised as embarrassment that comes with a rather risque finding. I mean the feeling of unadulterated, pure fear.

That day I felt it because I had just typed in ‘am I gay?’ in that cylindrical search bar, all confused and hopeful.

I didn’t know what I was feeling but I knew the ‘how’ of it. I knew that I was more drawn towards men and not the women in the movies we watched. How I was not having love-affairs, crushes or those butterflies of lore when I came across a good-looking girl in school? What I wanted to know was the ‘why’ behind it all?

It was like my insides were tightly wrapped in the form of a big question-mark, a mystery waiting to be solved. So, when I typed those words into the search bar, I was expecting a lot and what appeared did not feel enough. All of it was foreign – the experience of a gay teenager in America was not relatable to me, an awkward teen living in New Delhi. After scrolling for a while, I came upon a BuzzFeed quiz asking me to fill in a rather bizarre form to tell me if & how gay I am.

I remember, funnily, a question that asked if ‘I was ever attracted to people of the same gender.’ Of course I was! And what kinda quiz directly asks you what it has offered to help you figure out? It was like asking a bird if it had wings in a bid to let the creature know that it is built to fly. Anyhow, once I hit submit, amidst bursts of confetti & a big ‘hurrah’, it was dramatically revealed to me that I was indeed gay and that was enough, at least for a while.

As the years went by, I grew into my sexuality a bit and finally began to feel the throes of its pubescence that I was hoping for and it was time for another Google search. It occurred on my phone, in front of one of those massive bungalows on SP Road. We were parked beneath a tree at night, my mum, I and my Dad. I don’t remember why we were there but my parents had both stepped out, maybe we were going through something monumental as a family. I don’t recall and I couldn’t care less. I typed in: how to come out to your desi parents, specifically adding the word ‘desi’, having learnt from my BuzzFeed saga.

What came up was a rather helpful and comedically written article telling young queers how to come out to their parents in an Indian setting. It asked me to assess how liberal my parents were about sex, lust and all things human. Tick, they were pretty liberal. Were they financially well-off? Yeah, they were doing alright. We were after all in an air-conditioned car, about to go to our fairly luxurious home. Another green tick.

Was I financially dependent on them? Yes, I was, which teenager isn’t? The article concluded on how there is a chance that the two people who I had always looked up to, the mother who smothered me with kisses every time she felt waves of emotions and the father whose laughs were easy and heart pure, might suddenly change and become hostile.

The fear came back. Will those kisses stop? Will the laughs turn into sneers and abuses? I couldn’t comprehend what would happen if I walked up to my parents one day and told them all about my gayness. Will I be thrown out? Will I have to fend for myself? All sorts of grim scenarios swirled within me. Is my sexuality worth starving on the road? Will anyone even give an 11th grade student a job?

With these thoughts in my mind. I decided against it. I knew my parents weren’t harsh, weren’t cruel but the ‘what-if’ stood in front of the closet I was so eager to come out of.

Well, I never came out. A series of events involving my silly elder sibling nudged me out of the closet and what I found was nowhere near what the stupid article had described.

The world out of the closet was strange, and still is, every single day. I made new friends out of the closet. My bestie was not some random kid from school anymore, but empowerment. It held my hand while I explained to my parents my feelings towards other men. It was the strongest when I uttered the words- ‘Mom, I’m gay’ for the first time and then burst into tears.

I still remember what my mother did. She kissed me and said ‘toh kya hua, ro kyun raha hai (translates to: so what, why are you crying?’) I knew she was scared but scared for me and not of me & that is all that mattered.

My father, whose heart was large and smiles wider, made me sit down that evening and asked me all about it. Asked me about what I felt, how I felt and if I was sure. I was damn sure. What I remember the most was that the wide smile faltered, but returned over the years. That day it surfaced in the form of a peck on the forehead.

The journey has been up and down ever since. There are dark days, but the world still amazes me, and it has become easier. It’s like I was stuck in quicksand all those years and I am finally out of it, able to use my legs again, standing, stumbling, but walking ahead nonetheless.

This is not another coming-out story; well it is, but it is also a story of how we tend to cook up things in our heads and sometimes need a friend to get a clear perspective. Queer people in the 21st century luckily have the internet.

And to think that it all began with a Google search! Who says that technology can’t change our lives? It certainly changed mine.

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Akul Baiju is a journalist from New Delhi, who treats writing like a toxic ex and returns to it only when he is sad or anxious. You can often find him dreaming about his next meal or being buried in a pile of books. Say 'Hi!' to him at akulbaiju@gmail.com
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