Out! Stories From the New Queer India is an anthology of stories about being gay and lesbian in India.
Edited by Minal Hajratwala (author of Leaving India: My Family's Journey From Five Villages to Five Continents), the book is full of original tales by members of the homosexual community from across the country, offering a glimpse into their lives.
Here we bring you an excerpt from The Pawn by Tappy Tippy.
"Nina, why is the fifteenth of the month such an important day for your store? You don't even touch me two days before that. Isn't stock-taking at the end of the month?"
She fiddled with her fork. "We follow a different cycle. It's a new a business for me. I have to prove to my parents that I am capable."
"Don't your parents wonder where you are when we're together? Don't they pressurize you to get married? Don't they suspect you are gay? Why do you live in a separate apartment and not with them?"
"My mom's had a brain tumour and is recovering now. Dad knows I need my space...So they are easing off me."
Nina answered all my questions with the ease of a practiced player, and I let the incomplete answers go. The loopholes were just as numerous as the no-go areas, which included her ambitions, her career, and her string of ex-girlfriends.
Pillow talk aside, I began to realize we had little in common. Perhaps therein lay the charm. She loved the outdoors; I loved books. She loved drives and early mornings; I loved late nights. We had in common our undying love for Julia Roberts, Italian food, and Alice in Wonderland. I spent hours reading Lewis Carroll's masterpiece to her as she lay in my lap (a la Notting Hill), beating eggs just the way she liked them (Runaway Bride), and French-kissing (straight out of Pretty Woman). Small gestures -- her "I love you's", post-it notes, and attentiveness as she held my hand when we crossed the road -- made me fall in love with her faster than I could even say "Lindsay Lohan."
I was soon high on a cocktail of wordplay mingled with foreplay, sex, and multiple orgasms. The world was now a haze. For a girl who had always found the physical coupling with men weird and almost considered herself frigid, the concept of being a bunny in bed suddenly made sense. I had orgasmed in every part of Nina's house -- the kitchen, the bedroom wall, the shower.
Colleagues were amused at my failed attempts to disguise my love bites. My coochie-coo phone conversations during breaks, the ring on my finger, and the sexy kurtas were making everybody tease me constantly. I couldn't care less.
And while the sex and the noises that accompanied it were high-pitched, the deeper questions still refused to go away.
"Why do you have picture of all these women in your apartment, Nina? Isn't it creepy to have your ex-girlfriends around like this?" I asked one early morning.
Nina raised her eyebrows. "They are still a part of my life. I am not removing any! I am here with you. How do the pictures matter?"
She walked into the shower, leaving me still holding the jealous question that I really wanted to ask: "What about Shivangi's picture in your wallet? Shouldn't it be replaced by mine?"
I did, however, ask more mundane questions. "Why do I have to spend another evening waiting for you? Why can't I come to your store?" I was met with stony silence and a look that brooked no response. I persisted, "Nina, why the hell can't I come to your store. I will only help!"
"I don't want you coming to the store like Shivangi did."
I decided to take matters in my own hand. I made myself a new Facebook profile that was queer. Through it, I found out about a lesbian book reading and went without telling Nina. It was intimidating to say the least, to be in a room of about forty lesbian women, out and proud of their identity. I held back as drinks, camaraderie and laughter amongst the group buzzed through the room. But I realized I wasn't alone as I bumped into another set of droopy shoulders.
"Oops, sorry!" I exclaimed as I almost spilled a glass of Diet Coke on the woman's T-shirt. "Let me wipe this." As soon as I took a napkin to wipe off the dripping soda, she flinched and took a step back -- as if I was going to punish her.
As I looked at her face, I realized it was familiar. It was Shivangi. But her gaunt face and haunted eyes contrasted with the happy, smiling picture I had studied enviously in Nina's wallet.
"You are Shivangi, right? I'm Nandini." I paused, wondering how to explain my presence in her ex-girlfriend's current life.
"How do you know my name?" she asked, looking around strangely, almost as if searching for someone.
"I am dating Nina," I said.
She stiffened. "I have to go," she said, wiping her shirt and making a beeline for the door.
I walked quickly after her. "Shivangi, aren't you married? Isn't that why you dumped Nina?" I held the door open for her. "Shivangi! What's wrong?"
She started sobbing, pushed past me, and jumped into a passing rickshaw.
About the author:
Tappy Tippy found the truth of her own sexuality and personal choice late in life.
"Truth is stranger than fiction," Tappy was told as she struggled to write this story.
True to her word, this story comes from much truth and part fiction.
Tappy struggled with this truth, making many good decisions and many foolhardy ones. Some closets she opened slowly, some with much prodding, and some with a lot of pain and denial.
The adventures of making those choices make he who she is: someone who is very aware of the present, in love with the strength of a woman, and appreciative of the desi subtext and femininity in and around her.
Words have been a constant anchor in the finding of this truth. She has always found refuge in a blank paper and pen, especially as the world swirls in chaos.
Excerpted with the publishers' permission from Out! Stories From the New Queer India (Rs 350), edited by Meenal Harjatwala, published by Queer Ink.
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