It’s Independence Day. August has never been crisper. It’s cool and fresh, and smells of the holidays.
I stare closely atFourteen as he smokes his joint – he has a traveller’s face – mousy, windswept hair on a lean stubbled face. His features boast of a deep tan, and a glow that only comes with not having wasted your life at an office desk for months. Is he an analyst with a tech giant or an IT junkie? Is he a writer? Is he a travel journalist? A baker, a butcher, a candlestick-maker? What does he really do? I’ve always been an unreliable narrator. However, we have more important things to think about. Is he going to pass it? Is he not? It’s such an exciting game –
I splutter and burst out into giggles.
‘Take it all the way in, and then blow it out deep and slow.’
That line is so infested with innuendoes; we’d need an exterminator (or probably two). He grins. The smile is only slightly lopsided, but that’s not a problem when my mind is fuddled with fumes, and running on overdrive.
What am I doing here?
He passes the spliff to me.
We are at his house, a modest one-bedroom home in the depths of Andheri – any closer, and he would be a next-door neighbor, any further, and I’d never make the effort to meet him again. The house is sparse – it looks like one that lets you pack up and leave at an instant. There are bulging bookcases, but no wardrobe. He practically lives out of a suitcase unless his parents are visiting, he says. That’s when all his clothes go under the kitchen counter.
I spot William Darylmple’s City of Djinns on his book stand by the bed (single mattress, faded bedspread that smells only slightly of mothballs.) ‘It’s my favourite book,’ he tells me. I lie that I love it too. I don’t have a clue what it’s about – I’ve not really read it. But that’s the rest of his bookshelf – it’s full of books I’ll never have the patience to read, but will never tell the world. I take a closer look – there are some titles on sexuality and homoerotica.
‘Are you out to your parents?’ I ask – visiting parents would hardly glaze over a copy of Queer Science. He laughs. They found out a year ago – chanced upon his diary.
He has a diary?
Not of the conventional sort – it was a journal of his sexual encounters, in all its lurid glory. It’s my time to have a laugh now – where have we heard that before?
How did they take it?
The same way most parents do – there was some crying, some ‘where-did-we-go-wrong?’, some ‘are-you-sure?’ but in the end, it was all good. They came out stronger as a family, and he came out stronger as a gay man. It’s been a year since.
Where does he see himself a year later?
Travelling, he replies almost instantaneously.
I cough; he thinks it’s the joint. I’ve heard this one so many times; I have it tattooed into my mind from one of those cheap tattoo parlours at the mall. It’s a classic answer. A gay man lusting after the idea of travel is like gay men lusting after, well, other gay men. There’s always that one off chance that you’d find love while on vacation, something more than a vacation fling – something so remarkably beautiful that it has an airport story to it – for the quintessential homosexual, it’s the next best thing to saying that you met your future boyfriend at Starbucks.
Where then? I ask him.
He spent the last two months in the hills (and that explains the tan), searching for substance or spirit, and sometimes even both. But one thing that’s common – he’s always searching for himself. I find it all very confusing. Gay men often find themselves in the strangest of places – the hills, the beach, at the opera, a fashion show, the runway, and sometimes even in abandoned restrooms a little after midnight.
I usually head to the bookstore, and find myself in a book.
‘Sometimes I wish I could just pack up and leave.’ He’s excited about quitting his job and leaving with a suitcase and an undecided ticket. The man wants to live his dreams through his travels – scuba diving by the Andaman Islands, building bonfires in Rishikesh, attending local rave parties in Kasol. Instead, in exactly a year, he’d head on to work for a major political campaign, and then find himself at business school. But that’s all in the future. For now, his dreams and aspirations are as pure the Malana cream we are smoking.
“Have you been to Parvati Valley? I spent a month there. It was fascinating! Can you imagine sleeping under the stars and waking up to the morning sun?”
Yes, I almost say – it’s the morning after every night of drunken debauchery. Sometimes I even forget where my pants are.
‘I’d want to go back there, and never come back,’ he says wistfully. You know something else that isn’t coming back?
He takes a long drag, and blows out the fumes in concentric circles. I can hear him breathe. It’s deeply unsettling.
‘You know what I was thinking-‘
What can it be? Why is the sky blue? How do touchscreens work? Where does life come from? Am I eyeing the joint too much?
He exhales. I can be at peace. He hands it over. That’s another dose of peace.
‘What?’ I ask. If this were a B-Grade softcore thriller, now would be the point that he would pull out his machete and hack me into pieces. Instead –
‘Want to see me hula hoop?’
He heads inside, and comes out with hula rings and a pair of clackers. Soon, the speakers are playing EDM on loop, the strobe lights are on and we are at the toys like kids on a mad sugar rush – we might as well as be the music video for the next M83 song – it’s that trippy. The hula-hoop lies unnoticed. ‘I know just the thing that will help,’ he quips and darts back inside.
Ten minutes (or forty) pass, and he’s been inside the kitchen for too long. My paranoia could be the third wheel on this date. Maybe he does have a machete. If I end up sleeping with the fish tonight, I won’t be surprised. I’ve a good life, seen great loves, understood joy –
He comes out right one cue. There’s no gleaming knife; only a pack of chips and some salsa dip. As the English say, a good spliff deserves some good food. I’d even eat an old shoe right about now. Thirty minutes and two packets of chips later, we are satiated. Well, almost.
‘So what do we do now?’ he asks, expectantly. We fade to black.
‘Let me know if you ever want to come over again?’ he asks, as I prepare to leave half hour later. I smile, but hesitate at the same time. It’s a now-or-never situation.
‘I will, but I had a question. Where do you buy your stuff from?’ I ask, tying my shoelaces. I don’t give away my eagerness. He gives me a peck on my cheek.
He has a supplier who stays close – she’s a twenty-minute phone call away – any closer, and she could be my mother. I take down her number, and accidentally delete his.
The Date-o-meter: 6.5/10
Does this have a sequel? : Yes.
If this date were a song, it would be: ‘Paradise Circus‘ By Massive Attack.
What:The Salvation Starlets Soiree – the third edition of the famous Salvation Starlets is back with its exclusive LGBT and LGBT Friendly Women’s ONLY party! After all, why should boys have all the fun?
Where: Cafe Nemo, Worli Village, Mumbai –
When: 9 Pm onwards, Friday, 18th December, 2015.
Why: Because you know, like Cyndi Lauper says, sometimes Girls Just Wanna Have Fun!
What:The Mumbai Film And Comic Con 2015 – The convention this year brings in the best in popular culture from India & the world. Come meet your favorite writers, artists & creators, shop your heart out on their immense show floor and check out one of the biggest cosplay contests in the country – that’s like Game of Thrones married Sherlock and had a child.
Where: Bombay Convention and Exhibition Centre, Goregaon East, Mumbai -400063
When: 19-20th December, 2015.
Why: Because, face it, we all have that inner fanboy who’s going to be tripping like no one’s business.
PS: and also, we grew up on comic books while the rest of the country grew up on cricket. Reason enough to go? Buy your tickets here.
What:The Eat India Company Festival : The food festival for Mumbai is here! Spread over two days, the Eat India Company Fest will be an eating extravaganza like no other. With pop-up restaurants, live kitchens, cooking workshops, a food souk, live entertainment and specially curated activities for all ages, there is so much to explore at the festival. What they promise is a perfect day out with your family, with lip-smacking food.
Where: Mahalaxmi Racecourse, Mumbai – 400034.
When: December 12 and 13, noon to 11:00 PM.
Why: Because the best way to a man’s stomach (or mine) is through his stomach, and weekends spent eating are the best weekends in the world.
Now about all the wine we must have for brunch…
Interested in this culinary adventure? Find your way to all the food by buying tickets here.
Q. I’ve been trying to find friends on Tinder, but everyone I talk to seems to think that I only want to sleep with them. Help me out?
– K. Das
A. Most people like to think of Tinder as the supermarket for singles. You go up and down aisles, picking up the ones you look and swiping off the ones you don’t. Assume you are going to the market to buy avocadoes – you’d buy some, but then you would also end up buying cilantro. And maybe, even some jalapeños. (Side note: hey, maybe you are making some guacamole. In that case, call me over for dinner?) At the same time, some people come to only buy jalapenos. Or Oranges. Or Apples. Or even toilet paper (well, you get the gist.) Finding a friend is like buying jalapenos when you want to buy avocadoes at the supermarket – you don’t decide to, it just happens – unless you end up buying half the hypothetical supermarket, in which case you might need a therapist or just a break from Tinder. Different people want different things, and there’s always a high chance you’d find someone who wants to buy the same thing you do (to make guacamole). All this supermarket analogy aside, here are a couple of questions you have to ask yourself.
Do you have a half-naked picture of yourself up as your display picture?
Are you flexing your biceps in said picture?
Have you ever asked anyone to come over for some ‘Netflix and chill’ without even knowing what Netflix (and chill) is?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, chances are finding a friend on Tinder is going to be more difficult than trying to read the news without having a snippet about Kim Kardashian in it. You just can’t help it. Continue reading Love And Other Drugs: Volume II→