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It took them half an hour to read out their judgements. One hour at most, maybe? My rainbow kin sat glued to TV screens, mobile phones; while some lucky few, scattered themselves…breathing uncomfortably, on the lawns in front of our highest seat of law. Obituaries were read (or so we were told) and that is why a much-awaited judgement began half-an-hour late.

Somehow, everything’s always late when it’s got to do with us.

I was born on 28 July 1986. The same year and day as Dulquer Salmaan. Yup, that gorgeous Malayali actor from Karwaan (I’d name a Malayalam film, but most of you wouldn’t care or even bother Googling it. You would eh? Fine. Ustad Hotel. Go figure!). Saikot (Churachandpur, Manipur) was an insignificant town to be born in. I was born in the year of Halley’s comet and in 2061, Halley (my bae) will again pass by on the day I was born. Fine, so I am special… or at least, I think so.

The house that I was born in, is now washed away. It was on the banks of a temperamental river that flooded at whim. My childhood was pretty insignificant. I don’t remember most of it. I actually envy people who remember what happened during their formative years. I’d like to tell you: this incident led to this and that incident led to that—but, really, nothing led to anything. I grew up just like any other child.

Oh, and I danced. Yes, I was that absolutely strange boy that liked Bharatanatyam. I guess my parents should have known, no? But hey, all male dancers aren’t gay...well, not yet. Apologies to the male dance community. I am but a gay man with wishful thoughts.

My first vivid memory is of a swimming pool. Indoor heated swimming pool, I must add…steam and the works. I’d just learnt to swim. I’d also just learnt that I had a penis that behaved very strangely in the most bizarre of situations. Every single time I’d see R (let’s just call him that, for now), my swimming trunks would tighten. Needless to say, I was embarrassed. The water in that swimming pool saved me every single time. H2O to the rescue!

Life in Kotagiri (The Nilgiris, Tamil Nadu) was idyllic. If I wasn’t imagining myself running through tea gardens like Madhoo in Roja; I could play in streams, pluck wild flowers and play hide-and-seek with cats. No, I wasn’t a lonely child. I was surrounded by people. I was just always lonely within. Something was never quite right with me. I cried the first time I was kissed, because it was a girl. I didn’t want to stop, the first time a boy kissed me. Something was definitely wrong. But really, who had the time? I grew from a thin skinny boy to a fat short teenager. ‘This face was not going to get me love for a long-long time,’ I told myself. Who needed bullying when your self-esteem was in the gutter anyway, no?

I knew I was gay when I was 15. I still remember that cold December night in Nambol (Bishenpur, Manipur). My hands found his smooth back in my sleep. I was awake. Not a blink of sleep that night. I was in love. He never knew. He never will. I still love him. Someday, he’ll know?

The next time was with ‘The Charmer’. His lips found mine and thus began a torrid affair that lasted through three whole years, several albums of A.R. Rehman and bike rides, galore! Nobody ever knew. There wasn’t an inch of each other that we hadn’t discovered and shared. All through this, I prayed. I was always told this was wrong. I knew it wasn’t. Something that felt this good, couldn’t be bad. This was what love felt like.

We split. And then I was introduced to another R. The Lord indeed has mysterious ways! Someone I disliked immensely soon became someone I couldn’t do without. He was bisexual and not too comfortable with his affection for me. My self-esteem was now spiralling towards self-destruction. Guess what? It didn’t work. You guessed it, no? That’s cause you’re a genius. Sadly, I wasn’t. Two years that I will never recover.

I met two gay boys after that. Let me not bore you with those tales of sorrow. I moved to Mumbai. Brain said, ‘great move’. Heart said, ‘you’re an idiot’. I listened to brain and for the first time in my life and I think I did something good. Mumbai taught me so much. Like ‘coffee’ meant ‘sex’ and you growing a beard meant people now wanted you to ‘punish’ them. Also, everyone was replaceable. I didn’t want to be replaced. Not now. Not when I was finally finding my footing. I ran back to Bengaluru.

Running back to Bengaluru is a natural phenomenon. Nobody judges you for doing it. The traffic sucks, there’s not much to do, your friends are always busy—but who cares? The parks, the pavements, the lakes, the streets—they make you feel at home. And there’s always filter kaapi (coffee). Filter kaapi is also my bae. He’s cool with my affair with Halley. He’s like: it’s so far away, you’ll probably die from a broken heart by then. I might. Who knows, no?

My life wasn’t easy. I’m sure YOU didn’t have an easy life too. The only difference? I lived with a shadow cast above my head. A shadow I didn’t deserve or ask for. Remember the self-esteem crashing? It wasn’t because I thought it was cool to be ‘depressed’. It was instead, a deep intense fear of being called a ‘criminal’; believing I was a ‘criminal’; and always being told my love was wrong. It still happens. From family and from random strangers on the road. Judgments by the dozen! If I ever got a kind word, it was: ‘poor thing, he can’t help himself’. Such kindness!

Well, I can, and I did. Today, I am a proud and confident openly-gay man. And guess what? The law now also thinks I am absolutely cool, just the way I am. I am queer. Yes, I like men, but I just prefer them over women. Does that mean I do not like women? Did I say that? Why are you deciding who I am and what I like or can like? Let me be me!

You can’t undo the damage done. You are not homophobic, you never feared me. You hate me. I fear YOU. At least now, try and look at me without hatred? If the law of the land can, I’m sure you can too.

(L. Romal M. Singh aka Rōmal Lāisram is a 32-year-old, out-and-proud writer; content professional; stylist; diversity and inclusion trainer; activist and journalist—from Bengaluru, who also dabbles in theatre, dance and music. When he isn’t capering around as a masked vigilante, he makes ‘consensual’ love to willing ‘adult’ boys.)

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