Airport interrogation of passengers from long haul flights should be banned. Imagine being singled out, cornered in your most vulnerable state, when you just cant think straight, and bombarded with questions you’d rather not think about and for reasons which make you believe that you were being spied on by CIA or something similar, while you merrily went about indulging in excesses which some people might consider immoral or illegal. All you really want to do is get to the closest bed available, especially if you have been through10hrs of a flying experience on kingfisher - no tv working, no water in the toilet, bad food, bad alcohol - and you are contemplating signing up for acrophobia and claustrophobia. Instead you find yourself mumbling answers at gunpoint.
No I was not caught trying to smuggle imported goods or dope - it was worse. Interrogation by my parents!!!! I reached Bombay, saw my parents and after all the pleasantries, which took less than two minutes, my father dropped the bomb on me - he asked me the one question to which the answer could only be either honest or pleasant. No it was not “Are you Gay?”, it was “Do you smoke?”
This is how it went:
Dad: You smoke in London?
Me: No Dad
Dad: You definitely smoke, your lips have become all black
Me: (completely jet lagged, brain not working)...Well, i dont know...must be because of the cold
Dad: Swear on me you don’t smoke
(a seconds delay on my part)
Dad: see you cant even swear, this means you smoke.
Me: Well, i have smoked occasionally with friends, not regularly.
He interpreted this as 5-7cigs a day which in his dictionary makes me a chain smoker. I thought about explaining to him that I smoked only rollies - a cheaper, healthier option but my better sense prevailed (yes even in that jet lagged state) and i did not indulge in an ideological debate on my smoking preferences.
The alternate scene that followed was an awkward silence broken only by my even more awkward questions about extended family members, who in all honesty, I am not concerned about in general, but at that moment seemed all that I could care about. Trust me, as a London returned nothing can be worse than driving through traffic from one corner of the city to another, with your parents in awkward silence while the honking outside seems to go on in a state of perpetual crescendo.
I managed to save the day by jumping from one cousin’s house to another guiltily indulging in rollies (shame on me!). Next day saw me face to face with my maternal uncle who some months back had threatened to go on fast unto death if he ever caught his children smoke or drink. I was scared my father may have spill the beans and he was here for a bollywood moment. But I was quite surprised that instead he came with an invite for me to go for dinner at the Taj with a girl I had never met before =D
So one of the first things that I did in Mission Queer Bombay was to check out a girl for marriage. Yes she was pretty but No, my family is not arranging a gay marriage for me and no I have not come out yet. It was for my straight male cousin. Initially it felt awkward and I really had to remind myself that I was not there to “check her out” and I should stop flirting. On the other hand people can be so “naive” (read obsessively refuting the existence of same sex relationships, especially between women) in India that they saw this as some one trying to make another woman comfortable. Most Indians cannot imagine anything sexual or non platonic happening between two women.
Like for example recently when I went for a massage at a health club in Bombay, I was expected to lie down stark naked in probably just my underpants as a woman rubbed my body including my private parts, without any towel or anything to cover me. The room was absolutely dark with no candles or any of those relaxing stuff that happens in a regular spa. I decided to protest and complain about this as exposing my assets to an unknown woman is not something I would be comfortable with. But the next instant I figured that voicing out such a scenario would only have them laugh at me or consider me a capitalist snob! I have often heard women say things like “we are all women, all our assets are the same (though on some they seem like liabilities). How can a woman molest another woman etc.” So I decided to quell the queer voice in my Indian throat, (only until I get an English throat or come out to my parents) and do without a massage.
Anyway, I digress. So at the hotel all went fine and I may have made an impression but only on a barbie doll capitalist straight girl (she was covered in diamonds and Louis Vitton for Christ sake) who is a potential sister in law. While I have no potential incestuous desires, I thought it might be a good learning exercise for future dating scenes if I could go on these various “checking-out-a-girl-for-my-cousin” things and train myself in the art of dating and flirting (something that I really need to work on if ever I want to have something other than a mother in a woman). On the plus side no body would ever suspect, but on the flip side I would only learn platonic flirtations with straight women (something I already excel at).
Well I really did not have much choice to debate on this as my cousin decided to stop checking out girls as he is moving to LA. Damn him!
Anyway, the airport scene has made me question if Queering Bombay will find success. But it would take a few more faux pas on my side and interrogations and ultimatums from my parents before I lose my determination!!!