“What’s wrong with you? You’re 33 years old! It’s about time you find a nice girl and finally settle down.”
“At your age I was married with one child, a second already on the way.” “Stop being a disgrace to this family and do as we say, it’s for your own good.”
I clench my fists in the pockets of my sherwani and remind myself to just breathe. Family events are always like this, I should be used to it by now. Don’t get me wrong, I love my family dearly. It’s just that at every single gathering, obscure relatives I might have met ONCE as a child walk up to me and think that they can give me unsolicited life advice. We usually call such relatives Sharma Aunties :)
Today is my cousin Shekhar’s wedding day. A joyous air seems to have settled on the whole family; the elders are practically glowing! His parents are grinning from ear to ear as they greet the guests and even my normally grumpy ajoba has a little pep in his step as he walks the room, his regular scowl replaced by a fraction of a smile. My own parents are ecstatic, a look of pure pride on each of their faces. And why shouldn’t they be proud? Shekhar has an engineering degree, just like every other man in the Deshmukh clan. Well, every man except me. I guess you could call me the black sheep of the family; the screw up, the one that nobody really wants around. Me - I’m a playwright.
If they were to find out my secret, I wouldn’t be the family’s black sheep anymore. I’d be out of the family.
WAIT! Before you ask, no, I haven't killed anyone.…yet. Most of you probably wouldn’t even consider it a big deal. I like men. There, I said it. That’s all that it is. And honestly, it’s really not a big deal; to most people. But when you belong to a traditional Maharashtrian family, it’s a different story.
When I told baba I wanted to study Liberal Arts, he almost threw me out of our house. It makes the thought of coming out even more nerve wrecking. What would he say? I’d be forced to give up my family name for sure. And Aai… I don’t even want to imagine what the news will do to her. My mother and I were always close as I grew up, but she was from a superstitious family herself, and I knew for sure that the news would break her. I didn’t have it in me to tell either of them the truth.
Just then, my train of thought was interrupted. I saw my dad calling out to me as he walked up to me and clapped me on the back. Next to him stood a woman who looked to be my age, dressed in a dark green nauvari saree. Oh god, I already knew what was coming next.
“This is Patil Uncle’s daughter Revati. She’s your age, with an MD in Neurology. We were thinking maybe the two of you could talk, and-”
Shit. I wasn’t thinking. Why did I cut him off?
“Did you just interrupt me? Back in my day we wouldn’t dare to do that to our parents, even as adults. What is this generation coming to? I simply don’t understand.”
His anger only escalated when he saw me standing completely still, my jaw clenched as I stared blankly at the ground. My mother and a few other relatives started gathering around us after coming to know about the scene that was unfolding. My mother took my hand and I squeezed it tightly, slowly closing my eyes.
“YOU ARE 33 YEARS OLD! Nobody is going to agree to marry you that easily anymore.”
I could feel my blood starting to boil, and before I knew what was happening I heard myself scream
“WELL MAYBE I DON’T WANT TO GET MARRIED.”
That was enough to get my mother to tear up. She let go of my hand, and turned to face me, a new tone of hurt in her voice.
“Beta, what do you mean you don’t want to get married? Was it something we said?” Soon, she was breaking down next to my father who was still shaking with not-so-silent fury. “Why are you punishing us like this?”
I clenched my jaw and braced myself. This was it. Was I really going to do this? I looked up from the ground into my dad’s livid eyes, then shifted my gaze to my mother’s teary ones, and in the bravest voice I could manage,
“Aai, I’m gay.”
Writer: Nandini Patil