SHAME ON US
Two days back there was a gay party, held in a village in Lonavala by a person, who generally arranges the gay parties in Pune.
I was going to the Lonavala party for the first time and had taken along three close friends with me. Two of them are out and also act in my play OFFBEAT. One of them, a muslim guy is in the process of outing himself due to marriage pressure at home. Then there was my date, a chat friend from a remote village in Rajasthan, who shifted to Pune, just last month, again due to marraige pressure at home. I was glad that he was atleast clear about not getting married and I had kind of also motivated him by describing to him the queer movement in India in general. He was thrilled to know about the gay parties in Mumbai and Pune. So I had promised him to take to the said Lonavala Party.
My Muslim friend had got one more friend along, he was coming to this party for the first time too. He is a south indian and is not out to his family too.
Out of the way we also picked one more friend from Nigdi, who acted in my short film, but had requested me to not screen his real name in the film titles.
On the way we had our fun of having drinks, wada-pav and singing "gay" songs like "Hum tum dono jab mil jayen'gay' ", etc. When we finally reached the spot at 12.30, we realized, we were falling short of some money. Since we had got so many friends with us, the organizer didnt mind it, he still let us in.
Inside there was loud music in perfect mild light and lots of good (hee hee!) guys dancing. I joined in with my date and started enjoying the music too. Since I and two of my friends were drunk, we had some good share of funny moments too.
At around 1.30 three policemen stormed in the bunglow and asked us to stop the music. They came inside and checked the whole bungalow, looked for alcohol bottles and stared at our "queer" presence.
We all were obviously scared to death. The policemen went in the corridor of the bungalow and started interrogating the organizer and the DJs who apparently were localites.
I forgot my fear as soon as the organizer came to me asking for help. So I went out to the cops, gave them all details about myself, told them I am a German Teacher in the University of Pune, I voluntarily also work for HIV-Awareness etc. I didnt want to say "Gay" because I didnt want them to have ideas if they already hadnt realized it yet. But no, they knew it. The cops immediately asked me, why were we partying with "reverse" people here. It didnt take much time for me to understand that "reverse" was their word for gay. The cop asked me to stop convincing him and ordered me to get all the people out and to give thier names and addresses.
I went inside and for the first time I saw faces, because now there was light. Most of them were scared, silent and staring at me with hope and fear. Two of my actor friends asked me what happened. I told them that the cops want us to come out of the bungalow and give our details. Immediately people started panicking. But I and my friends were convinced that this is the time to come out and say the truth. I had shown the film "Milk" to them recently and we were obviously on a high and thought it to be appropriate to go in custody and start the movement in Pune.
But the majority of people had other plans. They rejected our idea there and then. They wanted to pay bribe to the cops and have the thing settled as soon as possible. I personaly very well understand how difficult it is to come out and especialy the way I and my friends were wishing it. So I again went to the cops, persuaded them, asked them what amount they wish to have.
The cop told me that he would take one thousand rupees from each of us. I said, it was obviously impossible for all of us to pay you a thousand each, simply also because we didnt have that much money with us. He was reluctant, didnt want to hear any arguments and reminded me that he knew there are "reverse" people in the party. I was annoyed by then, I told him that being "reverse" is not a crime. We agree we had drinks, played loud music so late, but just for being "reverse" you cannot charge us thousand rupees each.
He got angry with me, said the typical, "Dont teach me the law, I will show you the law, I will take all of you in custody and you will be in the newspapers tomorrow." I knew my two friends would be happy to hear it, thats what we wished. But unfortunately there were other people there to persuade the cops, they didnt like the way I was conversing with the cops and were shit scared by that declaration of the cops. So they all requested me to shut my mouth and took me inside.
I went inside and saw the scared faces again. There were many stories hidden behind these faces. One of them asked me whether he could pay them his thousand rupees and go. There was one who was from Mumbai and was irritated by the bad organizing skills of Puneites. There were some transgenders who were the only ones who were ready to go for my plan. They said, "Just let us speak with the cops, we will do such "Hijadpan" (acts) that they will immediately leave us." And I knew they were saying the truth. I have seen it myself many a time, the policemen generally leave transgenders and Hijras. One of my transgender friend says, the policemen leave them because they cant take the ugly. For them we are the ugliest part of the society, already meaningless, hopeless creatures and hence they expect no returns from us, so they leave us. But here I was trying out the political, intellectual way, in vain of course. My heart went out for those transgender friends
and I bursted out crying because my socalled "gay", upwardly mobile "queens" were not ready to come out. I had seen them doing the unimaginable in the dark, but now they were not even ready to be themselves.
One of them said, he recently got married and was ready to give away his wedding ring. He said, he didnt want his parents and wife to know that he was gay. There were some who managed to run away. One of them was the friend from Nigdi, whom we had picked up out of the way. He asked the newbie, south indian friends of ours to come along. But he told him, he cannot leave alone, without us, his friends.
Finally the people collected whatever money they had and it was hard for me to believe, they actually paid the policemen a total amount of 22,000 rupees with a wedding ring. With that the police left.
Angrily I took my friends, took the "reverse" gear and came back home. Reached home early morning, was thinking all the while, with my head rested on the chest of my date. My date by the way was also very scared, but he stood with us, whenever I went inside the bungalow with updates about the police, he held my hands and said, he is very scared. I always consoled him saying, "Dont worry, everything will be alright."
we all went to sleep in my one BHK. I slept hugging my date and was blessed with intimate sex with him in the morning. I had already decided to write about this. But was waiting for different perspectives. All friends shared their stories. Some of them remembered that the DJS and the organizers had maintained their cool, which left us wondering, that it could be a set up by them. If it was, then it is all the more sad.
But what leaves me sad and ashamed is the chance we all missed, to come out, to take a stand, to be authentic and honest to our own identity. I remembered the scenes in the film "Milk". The first scene of the film shows cops taking away homosexuals from clubs in jail. I also rememberd a dialogue of Milk commenting on "Anita something", who was against homosexuals. He says' "Anita is born to bring us homosexuals together. I am glad she is being herself." I thought, had the cops been a bit honest and did their duty, they could have got us together.
The next day I saw a sms on my mobile phone. The friend from Nigdi, who had escaped the police had sent it. He says: "Sorry, I was very scared and didnt know what to do. Hope you will forgive me, your coward friend."
I didnt answer it. I have no answer...
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